Category: Recruiting

What CEOs get wrong about recruiting & how to break out of the box

What CEOs get wrong about recruiting & how to break out of the box

CEOs often set out to make an executive hire because they’re in some kind of pain. They might be missing a key player on the team or a person doing the role right now is failing–and it’s affecting everything from performance metrics to relationships with board members. Recruiting the right leader can put an end to that pain or add to it, depending on the quality of the hire. All this pressure can lead an employer to feeling trapped. When you don’t have options, it’s easy to get into a scarcity mindset–a mindset that actually limits your ability to recruit and hire the best candidates.

There are two sides of the table in every hiring process. Masterful recruiting requires understanding the mindset on each side of the table. As a CEO, recognizing and understanding the mindset with which you are approaching the hiring process is crucial if you want to optimize results and find candidates who are uniquely qualified to succeed at your organization.

Much of the pain that a CEO or employer experiences prior to making an important hire has to do with the need for someone to step in and execute the functional role. As the CEO, you might have had to step into the role yourself, on top of running a hiring process and putting out the day-to-day fires that come with running a business in high-growth mode.

And when the need for someone to come in and help you execute functionally is the most palpable thorn in your foot, you’re prone to committing one of the worst hiring mistakes a CEO can make. Because what you’re feeling most intensely is the need for someone who can get things done in the functional role, you might find yourself placing the highest priority on technical chops in the search process.

Technical chops are undeniably important. Keep in mind that candidates with extraordinary skills must be able to perform those skills within a team so that the organization–not just the individual–soars.

To break out of the typical employer’s scarcity mindset, pay close attention to the other defining characteristics that are of huge importance in a hiring decision–core values, unique proven experience, leadership gravitas, agility, biases and critical thinking.

Organizational culture and the human aspect of work are undervalued, even though they are major determinants of your team’s ability to realize the company’s greater purpose. Its impact might not be as glaring as an empty desk in the office, but an organization’s culture is like a strong immune system and it will squeeze out those that are harmful to the greater body.

In reality, the biggest factor determining the success or failure of a leader at any company is a core values match between his or her personal DNA and the cultural DNA of the organization. Culture fit accounts for 60{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of a candidate’s ability to build enterprise value within a company. Core competencies, hard skills and technical acumen, are responsible for just 20{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of success. Core competencies ensure that a candidate can excel within a role; a core values match ensures that candidates can help you achieve your mission and the vision for the organization.

This is what every employer needs to know about the candidate mindset

This is what every employer needs to know about the candidate mindset

In any hiring process, there are two sides of the table. Masterful recruiting requires understanding the mindset on each side of the table. The cognitive, emotional and social intelligence required to be able to properly evaluate each prospect is what determines the quality of a hire. And when the right candidate is engaged, bringing those mindsets together creates winning results.

On the candidate’s side of the table, there are two important things that every recruiter and employer should understand. Generally, human beings are negotiating between these two things: the external perception that they’re trying to create of themselves (what they do, external facade), and what’s really going on inside (who they are, inner dialogue).


Anyone looking to make a career move must self-manage a range of emotions that could affect how they interview – excitement, curiosity, desperation, anxiety, etc. The candidate has very real human needs and because of this, he or she might create an external perception that may or may not be consistent with who they really are. Too often, candidates are operating from a scarcity mindset (which increases with length of job search) and might prioritize or communicate the wrong things. Because they’re not managing their inner dialogue, they end up creating a scarcity mindset which they then try to overcompensate for through perception management.

My advice to candidates – get rid of that stuff all together so you don’t even have to manage it and so that the truth of your inner strength shines through.

Core Values:

The best thing a candidate can do to land the perfect role for them is to define their own values and personal mission, and then strive to reach a strong core values match with an employer. When they can find that core fit, they’re able to do three things: make themselves better, make the team better, and make the company better. This is how they can create the most value for themselves and for the world.

The same goes for employers. When they have defined organizational values and purpose, and when a Core Fit Selection process is implemented to assess candidates for both their competencies and their core values, the best hires happen.

Candidates with integrity are those whose core values are in line with the external perception they create for themselves. Hire for authenticity, integrity, and humility to secure colleagues who are fully committed to the achievement of your company’s purpose. This alignment can help take your mission beyond just achievement to even greater heights.

Why Executive Searches Fail & How To Recruit Better

Why Executive Searches Fail & How To Recruit Better

Recruiting is fundamentally about human relationships. And research shows that even the most profound and intimate of human relationships, marriage, many times fails. Unless you have a structured methodology to recruit and achieve 90% or better success rates, executive search is no different.

The truth is that there is an A+ player for every role in every company. In fact, the success of any CEO will be determined by his or her ability to recruit and hire well. And so, on the recommendation of a Board member or your investor, you’ve gone out and engaged a big brand executive recruitment firm to help you secure the right executive. And unbeknownst to you, this was the worst possible thing you could do.

Companies frequently repeat their mistakes and cycle through two or more wrong hires before the right candidate finally sticks. In fact, the stress of this tumult increases the likelihood that a company will embark on yet another doomed executive search or prolong the suffering with their existing search partner.

The skull-crushing pain, suffering and brain damage that comes along with making a bad hiring or search partner decision is often preceded by something like this:

  1. You are missing your KPI’s, MBO’s, performance metrics and your own expertise in making it better is limited.
  2. The Board is worried about continued deterioration in performance.
  3. The person doing the role right now is failing – the needs of the business have outgrown their personal growth curve. But he or she is a really nice person or you have a deep history with them and don’t want to betray the trust or loyalty they have shown you.
  4. You feel like no one really understands what it takes to be successful in the role or to help you achieve your mission.
  5. You’re missing a key player on your leadership team and it’s affecting your entire operation.
  6. You are not seizing market share the way that you would like. The market opportunity is getting away from you; you’re not penetrating deeply enough. There’s competition in your business. You’re frustrated.
  7. There was a saying, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” that you applied to hiring a big brand search firm. You now realize they have no clue about what you need. Worse, they don’t care.
  8. Your executive search partner was just the “deal” maker and a junior associate is running your search.
  9. The candidates you are meeting don’t meet your requirements. And you don’t have time to waste.
  10. You are getting candidates that are unemployed, available and convenient leftovers for the search firm to submit to you.
  11. The search firm is sending you candidates with horrible culture fit or candidates that don’t pass the airport test.
  12. Your team is overworked and your need for this hire is growing stronger, so you’re thinking about settling for a candidate that is “good enough.”
  13. The candidates’ experience set is not quite right or not the one you need. Yet your frustration with the process makes you really want to consider hiring them.
  14. What if you hire one of these candidates and they fail?
  15. You already made a bad hire in this role and they failed.
  16. What am I not seeing or what if the candidate is hiding something?

This hire is so important. You want to hire someone you LOVE for this role! You are spread so thin and the pressure you are putting on yourself is even greater than the pressure coming from your Board. You don’t want to fail. The Board is sending you resumes and making introductions to potential candidates. You feel obligated to meet those candidates and the feeling is awfully similar to being set up on a blind date by someone who has no idea what your wants and needs are. You thought throwing money at the problem and hiring a big brand search firm would make things better and it has only made things worse for you.

How To Make It Better

No progress can be made until the truth is spoken. Recruiting and hiring well is a leadership competency. And like different elements of leadership can be developed, cultivated and mastered, so too can your recruiting and selection prowess be mastered.

First, you must develop and invest in a smart plan, a process to evaluate the wide reaches of the market for top leaders and recruit the highest-caliber executive leader that is right for you.

In order to build the organization you envision, there are some things that you must do to create clarity. Clarity is power. Before you create absolute clarity around the criteria for your executive hire (more on this in another post), first you must create clarity around your ideal executive search partner. Choose a master level recruiter from whom you can learn.

Here’s how you can tell if you’ve found the right executive search partner:

  1. Big search firms build big, slow-moving companies and their process takes much longer to complete. Hire a firm that specializes in helping to build the kind of high-growth company you operate. You need a firm that works with as much intensity and efficiency as you do. A boutique firm is the way to go – one that is agile and nimble with a strong tactile sense of your needs.
  2. Full clarity on technical chops is just the minimum requirement for a recruiter. Technical chops are no guarantee of whether a candidate can work with the team, fit into the company culture, and stay motivated and engaged in the long term.
  3. Great recruiters understand the importance of your core values & organizational culture. They will add value by understanding a company’s cultural DNA. They should have the capability and competency to viably measure and assess candidates’ core values and deliver candidates who will fit and integrate into your team perfectly. They’ve mastered Core Fit Process.
  4. They have a proven methodology for achieving outstanding results. Choose an executive search firm engaged in only the highest level of executive recruiting – Level 3 Recruiting. Level 3 is about a refined selection process, precision extraction and securing top 1% of A+ executive leaders
  5. Look for a search partner who has been on the inside, building a company with his or her own hands. A search executive who has been on the inside, rapidly scaling up both an executive team and the functional teams that support them, will understand your needs and growing pains intuitively.

Marcus Aurelius said “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Fear, greed and scarcity are all part of the same mindset and can break your leadership dreams. To grow a thriving leadership team and business, the opposite is needed. Exercise your abundance mindset and the bold confidence you need to achieve your mission.

This is Why You’re not Finding the Right Candidates When You Hire

This is Why You’re not Finding the Right Candidates When You Hire

The emergency call usually comes in when a botched executive search has escalated to a crisis situation. The search has typically been going on for nine months or longer as a big brand search firm cycled through subpar candidates who were unemployed, available and convenient leftovers from previous searches. Or the search firm was sending candidates with horrible culture fit who couldn’t pass the airport test. My team gets called in to rescue that search gone bad when the CEO has had enough and is ready to invest in another process to achieve a greater result.

Large firms are interested in going a mile wide and an inch deep. They are spread too thin and have many encumbrances and restrictions that keep them from pursuing the absolute best talent. Large firms also struggle to create the genuine relationships and meaningful engagement that a more nimble boutique firm is capable of. They will often have junior recruiters doing the heavy lifting. By doing this, big search firms operate a lower quality search and frequently fail to engage top candidates with the opportunity you created.

This happens because most recruiters still believe it’s acceptable to perform Level 2 Recruiting. Level 1 and Level 2 Recruiting consist of broadcasting openings and relying on a blunt, passive search process. Level 2 Recruiting relies specifically on referrals and networks to find candidates who are available and convenient.

There is a better way of recruiting – an elite, special forces approach – and that is Level 3 Recruiting. Level 3 is a refined selection process of precision extraction to secure the top 1{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of A+ executive leaders. Each search for a leadership position must be conducted with a fierce drive to find the ideal candidate. This means caring deeply about not only finding the right person, but communicating with and listening to that person. It means presenting a powerful, irresistible argument to convince that candidate to leave his or her great job. Most top leaders are not between jobs, waiting for the phone to ring. They’re already engaged in something they find interesting. An elite headhunter capable of Level 3 Recruiting can get top candidates out of an existing state of mild happiness, assess their core competencies and core values to ensure culture fit, and then secure them in a fantastic new role – one where they are uniquely qualified to succeed.

Investor Spotlight: How to Best Support an Executive Search

Investor Spotlight: How to Best Support an Executive Search

As an investor and board member, you have a unique perspective that can help guide an executive search to success. You are more emotionally removed from the day-to-day pressures a CEO faces. This emotional distance puts you in a great place to uphold the mission, vision and prosperity of the organization while remaining a fiduciary to shareholders.

You might at times intuitively sense when a CEO is about to make a mistake. The right board mentorship and participation can help a startup founder avoid serious blunders. One of the worst mistakes a CEO can make is selecting a bad executive hire. Failed executive searches cost up to five times the annual salary. The wrong executive hire at a high-growth business costs significantly more than at a slower growth company. It can literally put your survival at stake when an executive leadership role is involved.

On the other hand, the positive impact of a successful executive search is a 1,000{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} ROI. The right executive hire earning a $350k total cash package will create a $3.5M+ increase in enterprise value in the next 12 months. When it comes to your important executive search, the costs add up to one conclusion: get it right the very first time, every time you secure a hire in a key leadership role.

To ensure a successful search and maximize ROI, here are three important steps to take:

1. Refocus on Strategic Priorities

The CEO of the company is facing enormous pressure. Either the company is in the midst of tremendous growth and the need for a functional leader will help keep the train from derailing; or, the team is overworked and performance numbers are suffering so a CEO might decide that something, anything must be done fast. He or she might settle for a candidate that is “good enough” just to alleviate some pressure. In this scenario, the CEO is so mired in the company’s current struggle that he or she has lost sight of longer-term strategic priorities. Double down and re-focus on your strategic priorities for the next six to twenty-four months.

2. Define Success Factors

After you’ve rallied your executive leadership around the mission and strategic priorities of the company, make sure you are also crystal clear on what the success factors are for the leader you need to place. What do they need to accomplish and what will success look like for them? How will they help drive the strategic priorities?

3. Core Fit Selection

Technical chops account for 20 percent of the reason why someone will succeed or fail at any company. A strong values fit accounts for 60 percent. Remember that what makes a candidate uniquely qualified to be successful at your organization is a combination of both core competencies (the basis for strong technical chops) and core values (the basis for strong culture fit). Core competencies allow a leader to be effective in a role, and core values alignment is what pushes leaders to achieve their purpose.

Everything bad that happens at a company is fundamentally a people problem, and so is everything that’s good. There is an A+ player for every executive role in every company. As an investor or board member, you have a broader perspective. You have a clearer view of what the values of the organization are and what core values a candidate must have in order to align with the mission of the company.

The utilization of venture capital is best applied towards the acquisition of the right human capital.

What You Need to Look for to Choose the Best Executive Search Partner

What You Need to Look for to Choose the Best Executive Search Partner

Are you giving a potential executive search partner the airport test for core values and culture fit? Be as thorough with your evaluation of a recruiter as you are with a candidate you might place on your team.

The most important consideration in choosing an executive search partner is the person who’s actually doing the work, not the brand of the company. What matters most for the execution of a strong executive search is the high quality work that’s being done to engage and excite top executive leaders about the opportunity to achieve greatness in a role and at your company. This engagement and excitement is often best created by a world-class executive search partner who is not encumbered by too many restrictions and/or has lost their hunger, drive or performance excellence.

Sometimes leaders choose to work with big brand executive search firms because of the sense of security this brings. If you choose this route, you’ll find that the heavyweight headhunter was just the “dealmaker” and a junior associate is now running your search. There are some administrative, research, logistic and scheduling tasks that can be passed to a junior recruiter, but you want the engagement and enthusiasm building to be done by the world class executive search partner that you hired. Too often big brand retained search firms will have underlings doing the heavy lifting. By doing this, big search firms operate a lower quality search and frequently fail to engage top candidates with the opportunity you created. They get stuck performing Level 2 Recruiting and compromise the quality of your results.

If you set standards for high performance in your leadership and business, you want the highest quality executive search through proven methodologies like Level 3 Recruiting and Core Fit Process.

As you evaluate potential search partners, here are some questions to ask yourself and your recruiters:

  • Do I have my culture and core values clearly defined?
  • Does the recruiter understand what my core values are? Have they taken the time to learn about me?
  • Does the recruiter have a structured process and proven methodology for assessing candidates’ core competencies and core values?
  • Who am I going to be working with directly during this search?
CEO Spotlight: How to Damage Control A Bad Hire Disaster

CEO Spotlight: How to Damage Control A Bad Hire Disaster

Powering through an executive search can feel even more daunting the second time around when you need to replace a bad hire. The stakes are much higher and there’s no more room for error. Ironically, this pressure can increase your chance of making a bad situation worse.

The more severe an accident, the more attention it attracts. Rubbernecking is a leading cause of car accidents. When there’s already a pileup on the road, the chance of another accident taking place increases as drivers become distracted with the initial crash. Likewise, working through a failed executive search is visible both internally and externally and attracts gawkers. This adds distractions and complications to your new search.

Studies show that work-related stress releases adrenaline and cortisol, kicking us into fight, flight or freeze mode. If you feel as if you’ve been backed into a corner because of a bad hire, it’s best to have professional first responders come to your rescue and save the day. These are the responses you might have:


It’s the insane thing to do, but many of us continue to do the same thing over while expecting different results. There was already a failure in the process, partnership and/or decision. You might choose to stick with the same hiring process and hiring partner that got you stuck with a bad hire in the first place – especially if it’s a big name firm, the kind that cares the least about your results. Failure can make us want to cling to the familiar. Unfortunately, choosing this route keeps you in a cycle of poor results.


You might decide to take action fast. Something, anything has to be done right away. While the courage to take action is laudable, it can also be risky. Everyone is pressuring you to make the problem go away. Your search partner might be sending you recycled candidates from other searches – candidates who don’t pass the airport test or don’t have the culture fit necessary to succeed at your organization. Maybe your board members are sending over referrals from their networks. Be wary of settling for these candidates just for the sake of making a new hire fast. Remember that there is an A+ player for every role in every company and every CEO should know this. Settling for anything less will only rob you of your entrepreneurial dreams.


If you’ve already made one bad hire, the thing that is required in order for you to make a better decision is to take a strategic risk and secure the win. You’ll need to choose a different plan than what you’ve already been doing. Step out of your comfort zone. Choose courage over security. Execute a different process to achieve a greater result.

The best utilization of venture capital is to acquire the right human capital. Exercise your abundance mindset and the bold confidence you need to achieve your mission. Choose a search partner with proven experience in Level 3 Recruiting™ who can run a proper Core Fit Process™ and shares your courage and mindset. A good recruiter has a keen interest in recruiting and knows all the rules. A great recruiter knows how to go beyond the rules and is just as invested in your success as you are.

How to Seize the Most Market Share in the Midst of an Executive Search

How to Seize the Most Market Share in the Midst of an Executive Search

Seizing market share is about speed to execution and quality. Achieving this requires a combination of team alignment and strong leadership. A bad executive leader can interfere with both of those things.

The skull-crushing pain, suffering and brain damage that results from hiring the wrong leader is usually followed by a whole host of problems that reach beyond the realm of just lost market share.

A failing functional leader can continue to hemorrhage cash burn while damaging organizational effectiveness. And not only is the bad hire costing you cash, it’s also interfering with your ability to grow the business. You aren’t seizing market share the way that you would like and it’s creating uncertainty. The market opportunity is slipping through your fingers.

So what can you do to seize the most market share in the midst of an important executive search?

1. Step into the Role

No matter the drama, the show must go on. And that means that someone has to step into the functional role that your executive search seeks to fill and provide leadership to the team. You as the CEO now have to act as the marketing lead or product lead – whatever needs to be done.

2. Rally the Team

Once you’ve stepped into a hands-on role, use this opportunity to bring your team together. Communicate, build clarity around core values, create and share your vision for the better outcome you are all working towards. Franklin D Roosevelt said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” A missing leader may have created some tumult – and this represents an opportunity to let your leadership lead the way. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This is your chance to reinvigorate and strengthen team alignment.

3. Recruit Like an Expert

Learn from any mistakes you’ve made in your executive search so far and make corrections – immediately. If you’re replacing a bad hire, you’re probably also thinking you chose the wrong search partner. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Change the way you recruit so you can get the results you desire. Most search firms operate at Level 2 recruiting, relying on referrals and networking. For top high-growth companies who want the best, this strategy won’t nearly suffice. There’s a better way of recruiting and that’s through Level 3 Recruiting™and a Core Fit Process™. Bring in an elite, special forces recruitment team that is equipped with the expertise and proven methodologies to turn any situation into a silver lining.

We’re all looking to conquer the world with what we are doing. We need good people to help us do it, people who want to achieve success for themselves and who can help us achieve our greater purpose as a team.

How to Increase Value While Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes

How to Increase Value While Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes

CEOs tend to seriously underestimate the costs of making an executive hire. Aside from the costs of acquisition, the costs of replacing a top executive can run up to 500{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of annual salary — or upwards of $1,750,000 to fill a leadership role with annual cash compensation of $350k.

What goes into these figures? It depends on the quality of your executive search:

Executive Search Recruiting Hiring Costs Dave Carvajal

When it comes to your important executive search, the costs add up to one conclusion: get it right the very first time, every time you seek to fill a key leadership role. Dabbling in recruiting without having the expertise to execute well is not worth the risk.

A master headhunter who understands the unique culture and goals of your firm can provide you with a structured methodology and concrete conceptual models to achieve 90{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} or better success rates. CEOs can create massive enterprise value while avoiding costly hiring mistakes. 

How to Make the Best Hires to Complement Your Founding Team

How to Make the Best Hires to Complement Your Founding Team

Your founding team is your Fantastic 4. You’ve beat the odds together and your team is on the cusp of reaching your startup dreams. You’ve already been in the trenches together, but now comes the harder part. Sustaining the same level of high growth will be an even greater trial you’ll face together – and this time you’ll need more than just your founding team. The added challenge will be to identify and secure the right A+ executive leaders who can can fit within the culture you’ve already established, and take your business to the next level.


If you want to make the best hires to complement your founding team, keep these two critical concepts in mind:

Hire for Culture Fit & Core Values

Hiring for technical chops alone is one of the gravest and most common mistakes CEOs make. Keep in mind that there are other defining characteristics that are of huge importance in a hiring decision. The biggest reason why someone will succeed or fail at any company has everything to do with whether his or her personal DNA matches the cultural DNA of the CEO, the founders and existing executive team. Candidates’ personal DNA is made up of their core values and unique personal experiences, capabilities, biases, and critical thinking. An executive search is not just about finding top leaders, it’s about securing an executive leader who is uniquely qualified to succeed at your company. That shift towards tailor-matching the right leader for the right role at the right organization changes everything.

Build Clarity & Commitment Around the Mission

How do you determine if a new hire is a good culture fit with your organization? You first need to build clarity around what your organization’s grand purpose is. If you and your co-founders were successful in reaching Series B round funding – then you’ve probably got a winning mission already. Be sure that the new leaders you hire understand your mission and have the same devotion to it that you as a founder do. You can accomplish this by making sure his or her core values are in line with your company’s greater purpose. If the the new battles you face together are in service of your mission, your growing executive team will be as unstoppable (and hopefully even stronger) than the groundbreakers who started your organization.