Carol Quinn on Hiring a CEO

Carol Quinn on How to Hire a CEO

Is hiring a CEO different from hiring other employees?

I personally believe it is no different. Every hire counts. Every hire is an opportunity to select someone who will achieve extraordinary results. That includes the janitor, receptionist, all the way up to the CEO – no exception. It’s NOT okay for anyone to collect a paycheck and perform mediocre.

What qualities and skills do you look for in a CEO?

As the leader and the driver of an organization, I want a visionary, someone with a powerful “attitude” (this goes along with innovation) and someone who makes it a priority throughout the entire organization to “get the right people on the bus, in the right seat, and get the wrong people off” (A Jim Collins quote – author of “Good to Great”). And yes, that includes the latter portion of the quote about being willing to get the wrong people off and creating a maximum performance organization. Motivating the unmotivated is futile. This is not a complete list of qualities. I just wanted to mention a few.

Do educational qualifications matter when hiring a CEO? What sort of educational qualifications are required for a CEO?

I am neither for nor against educational qualifications. I DO NOT believe they are by themselves an indicator of a great CEO. I have seen many organizations believe they must recruit only top graduates, those with a 3.90 GPA or better. They pay them extra and put them in a fast track program only to have 60% drop out or get booted out in the first 6 months. Bill Gates did not have a college degree but he did have what it takes to be a great CEO.

How do you identify whether the CEO candidate has the required qualities and skills?

I look for the 3 components ALL high performers share in common:

  • Skill Competency
  • An Effective “Attitude” and
  • The Passion to do the work.

I would not hire a CEO that only has two out of the three. I use a highly effective interviewing methodology called ‘motivation-based interviewing’ because it enables me to assess all of these components. In addition to skill-assessment, it has a powerful, built-in attitude and passion assessment piece.

What is the recruitment process for hiring a CEO?

As I build my interviewing team, I will NOT allow anyone who has not been adequately trained on how to select the best to be involved. The role of each interviewer must be designated in advance and same with the interview questions. Interview guides must be created ahead of time and include effective interview questions for each of the skills determined to be necessary for success.

Using motivation-based interviewing, the skill-assessment questions are used to gather a second piece of critical information. When you understand why high performers go above and beyond while others stop at average and/or place blame elsewhere, it becomes easier to single these people out during an interview – that is when you know the right questions to ask.

Many CEO’s can run a company reasonable well when things are going smoothly. It’s when all hell breaks loose that a lot of them tank. Understand, high achievers don’t achieve better results because of the absence of obstacles and challenges. They achieve better results despite them.

And ‘skill’ doesn’t typically help a person out here. The very nature of a difficult challenge means that we don’t know how to overcome it, at least at first. High achievers are notably more effective in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, not everyone becomes more determined or shines brighter. Unless your interviewers and your interview questions know how to reveal this insightful information during the interviewing process, you don’t get to find out until AFTER the hire.

Nowadays, applicants have been very interview savvy. The idea is not to hire someone who is merely great at interviewing but rather to hire someone who will be great at achieving tough goals.

What questions should you ask in a CEO interview?

To answer this question properly, I would need to see a job description and would need to work on creating effective interview questions for a specific CEO position. Once done, these questions are used to create an interview guide.

Every interview question needs to gather information that accurately predicts future job performance. If it doesn’t do that, then it’s useless and a waste of the interviewer’s time.

Some questions can actually cause the interviewer over-rate an applicant’s answer by helping them to spin positive information back. Bad/ineffective interview questions and hiring decisions based on an applicant’s skill level alone are the top 2 reasons bad hires happen.

It’s with the questions you ask that you’ll get the applicant information. Unreliable info will adversely affect your hiring results. You can count on that!

Anything else you think is important in hiring a CEO.

To hire a GREAT CEO, the work must be put in on the front end.  That means adequately trained interviewers, building the interviewing team, an accurate job description and writing effective interview questions. If you get lazy or take shortcuts on any of these upfront steps, you’re likely to sabotage the hiring results you achieve on the back-end. What’s at stake here is the success or failure of an entire organization. It’s worth doing it right!


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