03.15.19 | Chris Daily |
It’s time to come clean.
In spite of being a part of a startup, over the last year, I have applied for a couple of jobs. They have typically been at a moment of insecurity when my neurotic self kicks in, and I convince myself that the future looks bleak.
If I actually had to schedule time for an interview and go talk to someone first, I would probably chicken out. Since I can apply while cowering in my home office and no one knows but me, I will occasionally do it.
I got a rejection email two days after applying for a VP of Engineering job at a relatively small company a few weeks ago without talking to anyone.
I didn’t write this post as a confession or to trash anyone. But I’d like to throw something out there to the C-Suite folks who make these decisions:
How many development/engineering directors/VPs do you have to go through before you stop and look in the mirror?
Maybe the problem you have is not that you haven’t found a unicorn, but that you are looking for one at all. In other words, you are the problem.
If you are still reading this and you have CXO in your title, there is still hope for you.
So, let’s carry on.
What is it you are really looking for? An example set of requirements:
A leader who can still code, has been through an exit, and has experience leading a product development team of 20.
Let’s break this down a bit.
“Requirement” #1 – Can Still Code
Let’s take the “can still code” first. Why is this a requirement? Are you trying to avoid the tired executive from a Fortune 500 company who still loves COBOL who wants a big salary?
If you are managing a 20 person product delivery team, do you really want your VP to be able to dig in and solve a technology problem?
Is that the way you want to spend your money?
Does that build teamwork and trust when the so-called “VP Superhero” saves the day?
How do your developers react when the VP thinks they know more than the folks who actually work for a living? Probably not in a positive way.
“Requirement” #2: Has Been Through An Exit
Next up is “has been through an exit.”
Why is this relevant?
What are you trying to say?
Don’t you have advisors to assist with this?
How many positive exits are there?
Is there some other trait, like knowing when to speak and how to speak with others, that you are looking for?
Not sure if this literal “exit strategy” is a reasonable requirement.
“Requirement” #3: Led a 20 Person Team
Finally, let’s tackle “has led a 20 person product team”. \I can happily admit that this IS a quality requirement. This is the one thing you need to figure out how to genuinely identify.
Leadership comes from a combination of experience, skills, attitude, and emotional intelligence. Are you looking for the intangible skills that your organization so desperately needs? These skills are the primary enabler to the future success of leaders, and yet they are very often ignored or neglected.
Most organizations have tunnel vision and are only focused on the next few months.
So, if folks who can still code, have been through an exit, and led a 20 person product team are few and far between, why are these attributes the essential criteria for making the hiring decision?
I am all most done with my rant, so hang with me.
Instead of looking for a unicorn, I’d like to propose a different approach.
Place a priority on the cultural fit of the candidate.
Here are a few questions that can provide cultural insight:
- Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy.
- What are some of the characteristics that were demonstrated by the best boss you’ve ever had?
- What kind of management style brings out your best efforts and makes work enjoyable?
- Describe what you believe are the most effective roles that a good manager plays in his or her relationship with reporting staff members.
- What do you like about your current job and work environment?
- What do you not like about your current situation and work environment?
- What work style do you prefer? Do you like working alone or as part of a team? What percentage of your day would you allot to each if it’s left to you?
Successful employees know how to work effectively within the context of the company that they work in. Prospective employees are more likely to be a good match for both your position and your organization if they fit the job and the workplace culture.
Be careful to not fall into the trap of hiring people who are just like you. New employees are your opportunity to add new ideas, viewpoints, and direction to your organization. Picking employees purely on whether they could become your new best friend rarely works out.
Thanks for coming in today.
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