Top Recruiter’s Tips on How to “HireBetter” C-Suite Execs During the Pandemic

Chief Executive Officer

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Guest: Kurt Wilkin, the Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist of HireBetter, a company that “harnesses the power of talent to solve business challenges.” Kurt is also an active member and officer of YPO.

Episode in a Tweet: Covid-19 disruption has created a richer than usual talent pool. Take advantage and upgrade your team where you need it the most.

Quick Background: At the beginning of the year, CEOs were exploring every available option to find top talent during a very tight labor market. The workplace disruption that Covid-19 caused has changed that. If you need to fill an important leadership position in your company right now, the pool of available talent is deeper than it’s been in quite some time. But don’t think that means making a key hire is going to be easier. On the contrary, CEOs have to be even more careful that they’re not letting sterling resumes and shiny smiles distract them from what’s most important: hiring someone who is going to buy into your vision, enhance your culture, and help your company make BIG happen.

On today’s show, Kurt Wilkin discusses effective strategies for sourcing talent and the key considerations CEOs need to make when weighing short-term needs versus long-term goals.

Transcript: Download the full transcript here.

Key Insights on Hiring Top Talent

from Kurt Wilkin

1. Don’t lose sight of your future.

Covid-19 has thrown many CEOs into short-term crisis-control mode this year. But the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 doesn’t mean you should throw out your long-term targets.

Kurt Wilkin says, “I think what’s happened during Covid-19 is people have started thinking too short term. If we are able to pick our head up again and look strategically at the long term, then we can see that there are true opportunities to either bring in talent that you might not have been able to afford or attract before, or maybe simply upgrade members of your team as you seek to continue to grow.”

Struggling CEOs will talk themselves out of making the right hire for all sorts of different reasons: I can’t afford the best; My business isn’t growing enough right now; Jim doesn’t have the skills to take us to the next level but he’s such a nice guy. Covid-19 is making it even easier to turn to these excuses, especially if your business is really hurting. But hiring the best people should always be top of mind for growth-minded CEOs. Whatever challenges you’re facing right now are only going to get worse down the road if you don’t have the best people on your team.

2. Identify what you really need.

OK, so we’re looking past Covid-19 and refocusing on where we want to be in three years, five years, ten years.

Now, ask yourself, what do you really need to hit those milestones? What are the daily, actionable, measurable steps your company needs to take? Who is going to make sure that progress keeps happening, pandemic or no pandemic?

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a cut-and-paste CFO job description,” Kurt Wilkin says. “It’s just not how it should be done. We spend a lot of time on the front end, really uncovering what do you truly need? Maybe it’s a CFO, maybe it’s a controller in augment with a CFO. Maybe it’s strong accounting skills for this stage and then next year you need a stronger finance function. Maybe you need a consultant on a part-time basis in that finance function. If people spend more time and really understand their needs, they can make sure that they find the right hire. I liken it to a blueprint. I tell people that you’re building a house with the wrong set of blueprints if you just take that job description and go try to hire somebody. You’re going to find who you’re looking for, but not who you need.”

When we talk about the importance of hiring the best people, we tend to focus on the c-suite. But Kurt notes that there’s high demand right now from companies looking to build out their sales teams as well. Don’t overlook the opportunity to upgrade your talent at the point of sale. Great salespeople are going to reach more customers; great customer service people are going to create effortless experiences that will keep those customers coming back.

3. Do what you do best.

On the other hand, maybe what your company really needs is its most valuable asset – you – putting your skills to their highest uses and admitting which blind spots you need help filling in.

“Often times the founder is a visionary,” Kurt Wilkin says, “maybe really strong in sales or product, but they’re not always good at operations or running the business. The biggest role that we often help our clients with is what I call the number two, which is the operational partner to help the founder execute their vision. If there’s an overarching role that we help with more often than not, it’s that operating partner with strong financial acumen to be the right hand of the founder.”

It can be challenging for entrepreneurs to let go of certain responsibilities. Confronting gaps in your skill set can be even harder. But the CEO can’t do everything, especially if meaningful scale is the goal. Surrounding yourself with talent that’s complementary rather than redundant will make it easier to pass off things you don’t need to be doing and focus on things only you can do.

Kurt Wilkin: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a cut-and-paste CFO job description. It’s just not how it should be done.

4. Plan ahead.

One advantage to committing to a quarterly and annual planning routine is that it creates a road map for your company’s trajectory. Even after adjusting for fallout from Covid-19, companies with a plan can still see major milestones on the horizon. When you can anticipate your company’s next growth spurt or potential roadblock, you can anticipate what talent upgrades you’re going to need and when to start searching for them.

On the other hand, what if an impatient entrepreneur is looking to hire someone, anyone, to fill a short-term need right now?

“That’s where we get in trouble,” Kurt Wilkin says, “when companies are in a firefight and reactive mode. What we really try to do is help our clients think longer term and more strategically about talent. I counsel them all the time that if you can take 3-12 months to find your next CFO, you’re going to make a great hire. But if you need him or her tomorrow, there’s a very good chance that it’s simply not going to be the right long-term fit. We encourage our clients to think long term and when they do, they can make great hires. It’s when we get in that reactive mode that we get into trouble.”

Top Takeaways

1. Don’t wait. There is a wealth of top talent available right now. If you don’t hire the best candidates your competition will.

2. Focus your search on what your company really needs to achieve KPIs and what you need to operate at the height of your abilities as CEO.

3. Take your time. Bad hires don’t just slow you down, they can be expensive to correct.

Transcript: Download the full transcript here.


Covid-19 disruption has created a richer than usual talent pool. Take advantage and upgrade your team where you need it the most.
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