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How long does it take to hire an executive?

The process of hiring a new executive comes with a lot of pressure. Depending your role, you're likely hiring a superior, possibly even your own boss, which means that it's a process that shouldn't be rushed. But even if you need to fill an opening quickly, you're still likely going to end up investing more time than you would when filling lower level openings. Executive searches tend to take significantly more time than the average hire, so it's critical to make sure that you create a timeline that gives you plenty of space to do the job well.

Searching for your next executive Whether you're looking for a CEO or a vice president of finance, you should set realistic expectations for the process. If your superiors are expecting the process to take the same amount of time as the average hire, you may need to have a conversation. A survey published by Jobvite in 2015 put the average time to hire a C-level employee at 71 days. The report found that it takes even longer to hire for positions with "director" or "vice president" in the title – 76 days. Both numbers are significantly higher than the average across all industries, which Jobvite put at 43 days. To summarize: If you needed a new executive team member yesterday, you're out of luck. These positions take a significant time investment if you want to do it right. There are a number of reasons that executive searches take longer than hiring the average employee. One contributor is that background screenings are typically more thorough. Leadership in an organization sets the tone for the entire company, which means that the wrong hire can have a ripple effect. Consequently, you need to ensure your screening process is thorough enough to weed out any undesirable candidates. Another reason companies take longer to hire executives is that members of the C-suite and other leaders tend to earn much higher salaries than the average employee. In fact, according to a report by the job and salary website Glassdoor, CEOs on average earn 204 times the median pay of their workers. When it comes to hiring, that means that your company likely has more money on the line when considering a new executive team member. Your executive team sets the tone for the rest of your company.

Narrowing the field So you acknowledge that finding the perfect executive hire can be a long process and you have a pool of candidates – now what? As you likely know, a list of achievements doesn't necessarily mean the person will thrive in your workplace. The in-person interview is your chance to get a better idea of how the candidate identifies, addresses and solves problems, and how he or she would translate those abilities to your organization. During the interview, consider asking questions such as the following:

  • What were your goals when you began your current position and how did you approach them?

  • Can you give an example of a time you positively changed your workplace?

  • If you have a problem with another employee, how do you address it?

  • If hired, what would your priorities be in the coming months?

Whatever strategy you're using, there are a number of traits that you should be looking for in the process.

  • Resilience: Everyone fails – it's how they respond to the situation that really shows their abilities. You want an executive who can work through problems successfully and doesn't give up when things go wrong.

  • Communication skills: Your next executive needs to be able to communicate well with staff members from the top down. Otherwise he or she will struggle to impart a vision and motivate your team to pursue group objectives.

  • Emotional intelligence: Though technical knowledge is important, you also need someone who can relate to others and develop positive interpersonal relationships with your staff.

  • Compatibility: Don't underestimate the importance of cultural fit when you hire your next executive. Consider taking the final candidates you're considering out to dinner or drinks to see how they act in a more casual environment.

Finding the perfect fit When you hire an executive, you don't need to navigate the process on your own. Working with a recruiting firm gives you access to professionals with experience identifying and placing candidates who go on to have great success as leaders in your industry.

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