Key Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Next CEO

Published on August 18, 2020
Written by Lawson Delaney

Key Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Next CEO

According to the Harvard Business review, just three in five newly appointed CEOs live up to performance expectations in their first 18 months on the job.

Identifying the right leader for your business is the most difficult decision you will make as an organisation and there are many questions to be asked along the way. This is a short guide to some of the questions you need to be able to answer to make the right appointment.

Some of the most important decisions will affect not just who you hire but who you don’t hire. Robust and thorough recruitment process helps mitigate the risk of appointing the wrong person.

What kind of leader am I looking for?

Job titles only tell you so much. Not all leaders need to bring the same skills set, a successful CEO / Managing Director of an ASX listed company is very different to the CEO / Managing Director of a privately owned business. The COO of a global manufacturer has an entirely different skill set to the COO of a family owned Victorian manufacturer.

  • What are the business owners really trying to achieve in this appointment?
  • What is the current business situation, do we need to change significantly or are we well set and need a steady hand?
  • Do we need someone with a strong industry alignment or do we want a fresh approach?
  • Do we need a strong strategist or do we need a hands-on leader?
  • Do we need someone to fit the current culture or set a new one?
  • Do we need someone who can drive sales and growth or do we need a strong compliance and operational skill set?

How am I going to find them?

There are many ways to find a new leader, each of course has pro’s and con’s and attracts different costs. It is worth considering:

  • Should we ask our accountant or trusted advisors who they know that might be suitable?
  • Should we appoint a recruitment company or search firm to find someone?
  • Should we appoint multiple recruitment companies / executive search firms to find someone?
  • Should we save money and advertise directly online and manage the process internally?

How do we manage the process of rejection?

When recruiting there will be a spotlight on your business and running a good process can do wonders for your profile while running a bad one can do reputational damage.

  • How do we communicate with external candidates who were unsuccessful?
  • How do we fairly identify and evaluate internal candidates?
  • How do we turn down internal applicants whilst keeping them motivated?
  • How do we manage the information to the market, can we be overt or do we exercise discretion?

From the shortlist how will I decide who the right person is?

Evaluating candidates is a highly skilled and technical process, only so much reliance can be put on “gut feel” – there needs to be science and objective decision making markers.

  • Have we searched the market thoroughly to identify the best possible candidate?
  • Was this candidate the best or just the best we’ve seen?
  • Have we asked the right questions to unearth the candidate’s motivations?
  • Have we deployed sufficient steps in the interviewing process to avoid any unconscious bias? Contact us to read our report on Understanding Unconscious Bias.
  • Have we scientifically assessed and evaluated the candidate’s character and likely behaviours?

Have we validated the candidate’s authenticity?

Key to getting the right person is being able to validate that the candidate is all they appear to be.

  • Have we carried out the appropriate checks to validate that the candidate is who they say they are?
  • Have we checked academic and professional accreditations?
  • Have we been able to validate the referees via face to face reference checks?

If you would like more information to help you answer any of these questions, please contact Guy Sigston on 0477 013 841 or

Published on August 18, 2020
Written by Lawson Delaney

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