How do you Take the Risk out of Senior Management Appointments? by Sarah FitzMorris – CEO & Co-Founder

How do you Take the Risk out of Senior Management Appointments? by Sarah FitzMorris – CEO & Co-Founder

Now, more than any time, Companies need to make sure they are getting Senior Management appointments ‘Right First Time’ and often within a set time period in order to achieve strategic goals.

Companies are moving forward in a new world, often with new hybrid ways of working and a tighter focus on getting ROI on every position within the company. Decisions to appoint are not made lightly and when they are, then often there is no time to waste. No one wants to have to re-start the process because candidates weren’t good enough first-time round and the cost of having to re-hire if a bad decision is made is even more onerous.

So how do you take the risk your of Senior Management Appointments?

Invest time up front to plan properly and to ensure that all the key stakeholders in the hiring decision are aligned.

Using a multi-step and multi-dimensional hiring process that includes a number of well-structured interviews, each with a different focus, personality or knowledge testing, and written case studies or presentations, is critical to giving you a good all-round understanding of capabilities which will lead to you hiring the right individual.

You will need to create and stick to a timeline, potentially teach your team to learn to use new technology and embrace new interview techniques. Communication throughout the decision-making process and sharing of feedback will be essential. By having a robust and well-defined process, incorporating multiple elements, and gathering facts and feedback in a methodical way throughout the process, you will be able to support the right decision at the end to minimise the risk.

Here’s our guide on how to ensure you run a multi-dimensional recruitment process which will give you the confidence to hire.

1. Anchor your Purpose to Connect with the Right Business Leaders

‘Purpose’ is absolutely transformational and it’s time you started using it to your advantage in your hiring process. It is the ‘Why’ behind your organisation, the reason for your existence as a business and what will keep your leadership team and entire workforce engaged and therefore productive especially during challenging times.

Most people need to feel they are working towards a greater goal when they come to work. This particularly applies to Millennials who likely make up at least 50% of the workforce in 2020 and, more and more, are starting to be part of Senior Management Teams. They want to do a job that matters to them, and they need to understand how their role contributes to something they believe in.

To give you a competitive edge when hiring, especially remotely, your Purpose needs to be the new starting point for you to hire the right leader.

Candidates don’t put themselves through the discomfort of changing jobs, particularly in these uncertain times, based on a list of responsibilities or even the challenge of a start-up or a really interesting, change-focused opportunity. This is not always enough for them to make that final leap of faith. What will motivate people to move is a strong connection to your Purpose.

Your Purpose is not your Vision or your Mission – these articulate what you want to achieve or become. In essence, Purpose describes the reason for an organisation’s existence entirely, and the journey it is taking. It is your fundamental ‘reason for being here’. Many companies have not yet articulated their Purpose as it is a relatively new way of thinking. But to do so will give you competitive advantage.

What is your Purpose as an organisation?

This is our Purpose as an organisation.

Individuals will either connect with this or they won’t, depending on if it aligns with their own personal ‘Why’. If a candidate connects to that statement, we have their attention. We have a candidate who is listening and interested to find out more. We have an individual who is sufficiently motivated to put themselves through a rigorous process which will require them to invest time and effort to establish if they are the right person to deliver what you need.

Use your Purpose to secure the candidate’s attention, interest and commitment.

2. Plan your Interviews

Invest time up front to plan the interview process properly and to ensure that all the key stakeholders in the hiring decision are aligned. This might be a challenge when senior managers are under pressure, but the critical input is to get your key stakeholders to agree the 4-5 most important behaviours and technical skills which will deliver 80% of the success in this role. This is easier said than done. It takes time to reflect and get it right.

What does good actually ‘look like’?

What would you ‘see and hear’ this person doing 2-3 months into the role to make you delighted that you had hired the right person?

Next you need to allocate 2 or 3 of these areas to each interview in order to ensure the interviewer goes into enough depth to assess capability of each. Decide who is best to assess each of the key important behaviours and technical areas. Allocate a technical person to assess specific technical knowledge that is essential and design some challenging scenario-based questions. Allocate your Founder or CEO to assess strategic thinking and concurrently test stakeholder management.

Once you have agreed who your interviewers will be, check their capability around deep dive competency style interviewing. Remember, they are business leaders not professional interviewers, and they are likely very busy at the moment, but you can get them 80% up to speed with a bit of planning. Consider getting your HR team to do a crash course on Competency-Based Interviewing techniques with your key stakeholders.

Plan each interview to include around 15 minutes to cover broad ‘settling’ questions, then 20 minutes per area to be assessed and a final 10-15 minutes at the end for other broad areas and questions. Make sure each interviewer knows to anchor to your ‘Purpose’ by talking about why they joined the company and ensure they know to use the clear wording which has been agreed.
This is critical for consistency of messaging to your candidate as well as keeping them connected to why they are talking to you.

Finally, give each a pre-designed structure for each competency and devise a basic marking guide. Plan to be able to make a data-driven hiring decision rather than anything based on gut feel. Build in a pre-booked slot straight after the interview for them to complete their notes and observations if they are not able to do it in real time.

3. Incorporate Psychometric and Cognitive Testing

These can be hugely informative but also need to be managed carefully to add value to your process and used at the right time. It is important not to allow your data-driven business leaders to place a disproportionate amount of weighting on these tests.

There are a wide variety of testing options and you should choose carefully and be mindful of the restrictions of each. Ideally, use them BEFORE the interviews in order to identify areas of possible concern which can then be further explored and tested at interview.

Behavioural testing will provide you with a deeper understanding of a candidate’s natural behaviours. Often these are classified broadly into drive/collaboration, extroversion / analytical thinker, fast-paced / steady and finally their attitude towards risk / rule following. These need to be considered in relation to the requirements for success in the role.

Ideally, the test will show the relationship of dominance between these various behaviours and this can be one of the most useful insights if you understand how to use them. For example, the relationship between drive towards a goal and attitude towards risk.

In certain roles, such as a Finance leader you may want a less risky personality, someone who will ensure governance and attention to detail and not rush decisions because they are more focused on achieving the goal. However, your Sales leader would probably require someone who is more focused on the goal and won’t be ‘paralysed’ in their decision making and in moving forwards by the fear of getting something wrong.

The note of caution is to recognise that people can flex out of their natural behaviours. Just because a profile shows an individual to be more of an introvert (analytical thinker) than an extrovert, does not mean they can’t present to investors, for example. It will just take them outside of their comfort zone and they will likely need to incorporate techniques such as practicing their presentation in order to deliver.

Conversely a natural extrovert is more likely to ‘wing it’ and therefore prepare less, so there are pitfalls to both. They key is to understand what personality type you have and their level of awareness when considering the needs of the role.

Finally, on behavioural testing, consider the impact this will have on your natural first impressions of a candidate at interview and prepare your interviewers accordingly. A natural extrovert can easily pull the wool over your eyes with their charm and natural warmth which could mask lack of capability and depth. Equally, be prepared to spend more time with a more introverted personality to set them at ease at the beginning of an interview in order to understand their full capabilities rather than making a snap decision.

4. Case Studies and Presentations

Traditional interviews are worthwhile in determining relevant experience, behaviours and communication skills. However, incorporating the Case Study Interview as part of the final stages of a virtual multi-interview process gives you an excellent and practical insight into a candidate’s actual work product, interactions (through the in-person presentation of the deliverable) and thought processes.

Case Study Interviews are now being used everywhere from tech companies to NGOs and form a great addition to the interview process, especially when delivered predominantly on a virtual platform. Based on a real business situation, you can assess how a candidate studies the problem, performs analysis, and comes up with recommendations. They might even identify options you had not previously thought of as a business which you can use immediately giving you an additional instant win.

These Case Study Interviews are particularly well suited when presenting to a mixed Panel of interviewers. In real time, your Panel can listen to the presentations and then interrogate them on their assumptions, on the practicalities of their recommendations and the challenges they would anticipate in implementing the strategy.

In just one Case Study Interview, you can analyse Presentation Skills, Problem Solving Approach, Commercial Awareness, Operational Understanding, People and Change Management and even Stakeholder Management / Influencing Skills by pushing back on some of their ideas and seeing how they handle it.

5. Always Utilise Live Video Interviewing

We have all become familiar with meeting clients and colleagues on MS Teams or Zoom. Video meetings have already become the norm and candidates need to be familiar with this tech to work at management level effectively.

Video interviews, even at screening stage, allow you to benefit from nonverbal communication indicators which you don’t have the benefit of from a telephone call. You will see a candidate’s body language, facial expressions, and overall appearance. These clues can help you piece together a picture of how they would fit into your company.

Remember this is a two-way assessment, especially if you have approached them about a role rather than them actively applying to a job. This is not only about you assessing them, but also about them assessing you. You will enhance the candidate’s experience through video calling by engaging them quickly, particularly for Millennials as this is their preferred way of interacting.

Whilst you are assessing a candidate’s ability to navigate technology equally, remember they will be assessing your Management Team’s ability to seamlessly operate VC technology so do ensure you get your Interviewers to run test calls with you before they go live. There is nothing worse than a ‘mis-start’ to an interview; you want these candidates to turn into long-term employees, so you need to set a strong foundation and company image well before they are hired. First impressions count after all.

A huge benefit of video interviewing is how quickly you can make it happen. Currently, speed is of the essence in decision making to stay ahead of the competition and this applies equally to accessing the best talent. The use of video will enable you to engage with the prospective candidate without the hassle of co-ordinating travel.

Not only does this reduce the time to hire as it allows greater freedom to schedule interviews, but it also reduces the spend on unnecessary travel. Additionally, the use of software such as Calendly or equivalent will make setting up screening calls super-efficient, especially when it is set up to link with your preferred VC option.

Creating a connection with candidates who you only meet via video interviewing really is possible. Your business leaders are becoming more and more familiar with this form of communicating, so don’t underestimate the positive impact their recent experiences will have had on their confidence to make a decision based on the new ‘face to face’ experience with a candidate.

6. Maintain Momentum

While the hiring process should never be rushed, maintaining momentum minimises the chance to allow doubt to creep in. Many candidates will have been approached out of the blue and asked to consider leaving their current position in favour of your company. In your eyes, it may seem like a no-brainer, but in their eyes, it can feel like a huge leap of faith.

Hopefully you will have addressed this by connecting with their ‘Why’ from the outset and with presenting them with a well thought through and thorough interview process, incorporating a range of different challenges and tests.

However, you can just as quickly lose a candidate who is the perfect fit for your critical leadership role if the process is stalled or does not run smoothly. So, keep their motivation and enthusiasm for your opportunity by maintaining momentum throughout the process.

Again, the secret is planning. Pre-book slots in diaries with the key decision makers for every stage of the interview process weeks in advance, including a final meeting for decision making and setting deadlines to get offer letters out. Whilst we all know that not every recruitment process goes to plan, experience shows that it is often the challenge of securing diary availability of senior leaders at late notice which leads to delay. So, book them up well in advance and work towards that.

7. Be Efficient with the Offer Letter

This is where all your hard work and planning comes to fruition, and it is critical to maintain momentum and a continued good impression by getting the offer out quickly and by getting it right first time. Anticipate how you are going to deal with an online approval of the Offer Letter rather than having to wait for a physical signature. There should be no surprises at this stage.

Ensure the Offer Letter is clear and customized in line with what has been discussed at the latter stages of the process and that all benefits and allowances are clearly laid out as well as any one-off payments. Try to anticipate any questions such as what relocation expenses will be covered by the company if this is relevant, and the resources and support that will be provided. Also be willing to be flexible and negotiate; this will help the employee and their loved ones feel supported to make an informed decision.

8. Tie Up Loose Ends

Finally, a signed Offer Letter is not the end of the process. Reference checks are one of the best insurance policies in any hiring process. Once you have a verbal acceptance of an offer you can request references. Sense check who these are and try speaking to them directly if at all possible, to satisfy yourself on their capabilities and how they have responded in certain work situations rather than just asking for a written reference.

Put reminders in your diary to check in with your candidate post-resignation to check that has gone smoothly and then have weekly calls to check if there is anything you can support them on in advance of them starting. Provide support with relocation and visas if relevant. The key is to keep communicating.

And be ready for them on day one so you start as you mean to go on. Plan a comprehensive induction and work out how you will do this remotely if needed as well as how you will get them set up to work from home if required.


Through good planning, companies who create a rigorous and multi-dimensional recruitment will de-risk the appointment process and save themselves huge amounts of money in the long run.

Those companies who innovate around hiring and talent acquisition will most certainly be in a position of advantage. By keeping critical hiring on track, companies can demonstrate that they are adaptable to the times, innovative and forward thinking and embrace technology.

Executives in Africa are experts in running a rigorous and multi-dimensional Search Process incorporating our EiA SuitAbiltiy Assessments which have been refined over 11 years. The success of our process is shown through our results;

Over 94% of EiA placed business leaders remain in their roles for at least a year (max time measured) and stay long term.

We can support you at this time with any or every element of our full Search Process including:
• Defining your ‘Why’ to attract Talent
• Talent Mapping
• End to End Assessment Design
• Providing Interview Training on CBI Techniques
• Sitting in on Interviews with your Panel
• Recommending a suitable Behavioural / Cognitive testing system
• Helping with a Marking System
• Salary Advice

Success and growth as the world starts moving on from this current phase depends, in large part, on what you do now. So, think long-term and invest now in the right business leaders who will set you up for a successful future.

For more information on why we believe that Executives in Africa are the right organisation to support you to find the best business leaders for your business in Africa, please contact:

Sarah FitzMorris, CEO & Co-Founder
t: +44 7900 996609

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