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4 Steps to Hire Your Company’s First CXO

As a company grows and evolves, it will encounter various situations when it needs to hire its first CXO. For example, maybe your company is a fast-growing start-up that is about to hire its first CFO. As another example, maybe your company is a more established organization that is about to hire its first Chief Diversity Officer. No matter the size/stage of your company, or the role that you need to fill, this article features four steps to reduce your risk and increase your chances of success when hiring your first CXO.

1. Determine your top 3-5 goals for the role.

Before you identify or speak with any candidates for your role, invest some time up-front to determine what the position needs to accomplish in the next 1-2 years. Be as specific as possible when establishing these goals.

For example, if your company is hiring its first Chief Sales Officer, one of your goals for the role could be to increase sales by 25% in the next year. As another example, if your company is hiring its first Chief Human Resources Officer, one of your goals for the role could be to decrease employee turnover by 50% in the next two years.

Clarifying your expectations up-front will help you identify and assess potential candidates, and it will also help you measure performance after someone is hired. In addition, candidates will want to know how their performance will be evaluated and how they can exceed expectations.

2. Create a candidate scorecard with 3-5 key assessment criteria.

After you have established your top goals for the role, work backwards to identify the top 3-5 criteria (including tangible experience and intangible traits) that candidates need to possess in order to accomplish your goals. For example, if an early-stage start-up is hiring its first Chief Sales Officer, one of the tangible criteria could be “prior experience working for an early-stage start-up,” and one of the intangible criteria could be “persistence in overcoming challenges.”   

Creating a scorecard provides two primary benefits. First of all, it ensures that the entire hiring team understands what is most important. Secondly, it adds objectivity to the assessment and selection process.

As you think through the selection criteria for your scorecard, consider how many people actually qualify. If less than 25 people in your region meet your criteria, you should probably be more flexible with your requirements.

3. Create a search strategy.

After you have created a candidate scorecard, create a list of companies that are most likely to employ people who meet your criteria. Begin by identifying several industries/categories of companies where the ideal candidate could be working today. Then, create a list of target companies within those industries/categories.

Don’t limit your search strtategy to your company’s competitors. You should also consider candidates from “complementers.” This is a term that I use to refer to companies that sell complementary (not competitive) products and services to your customer base.

Candidates from “complementers” bring relevant industry knowledge and relationships, along with a unique perspective on serving and selling to your customers. In addition, non-compete restrictions are generally not an issue here, like they often are with people working for competitors.

Note: You can click here to download my free eBook, which provides additional suggestions on how to create a search strategy.

4. Create a compelling job description.

Your job description must make it 100% clear why top candidates should want to work for your organization in a specific role. The most desirable candidates are usually not actively looking. They need to be persuaded to consider a new opportunity.

If you want to attract high-caliber candidates, be sure that your job description answers the following five questions:

  • How does your company add value to the world?
  • Why should top candidates want to work for your company over your competitors?
  • What makes your company a great place to work?
  • How is your organization structured, and how will this position fit into the organizational structure?
  • Why should top candidates be excited about this role?

Note: You can click here for more suggestions on how to create a compelling job description.

Looking for More Help?

Hiring your first CXO can be a daunting, time-consuming process. An experienced third-party search firm can bring structure to your search and help you attract higher-quality candidates faster. Click here if you would like to learn how I can support your company in hiring its first CXO.

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About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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