Tag: Recruiting

Conquering Super Bowl Challenges: Insights with Alain Benzaken

Conquering Super Bowl Challenges: Insights with Alain Benzaken

Alain Benzaken has decades of experience developing innovative technology for some of the most successful Internet companies in the world. Most recently, Alain has served as CTO, Americas of Decisyon. He was also Vice President of Development at Priceline before leading the technology organization at Ladders with me in 2005. Alain also led the technology organization at Buddy Media during its $800M acquisition by Salesforce.

Alain and I have trained together for Ironman triathlons. In business and in sport, Alain understands that strong mentors help you achieve bigger results faster.


Alain was one of the first technology hires at Priceline and was an integral part of building the company’s core systems. During the dotcom boom, Priceline was one of 3 companies valued over a $1B. Alain talked to me about the importance of choosing tech opportunities wisely.


Throughout his career, Alain has had to overcome what he calls the “Super Bowl challenges.” It all comes down to hiring the right people to help you conquer.


Alain also talked with me about how strong leaders master influence. Understand which levers to pull, adapt to each situation, and remember to solve new problems without fighting old battles.


For more insights from my good friend Alain and from other outstanding executive leaders, visit DaveCarvajal.com/videos.

Insights with World-Class Executive Jim Madej

Insights with World-Class Executive Jim Madej

Jim Madej has nearly three decades of experience leading and learning from some of the greatest Fortune 50 companies in the United States. Jim served as Chief Customer Officer for National Grid, Director of National Sales & Service at Hess, and Chief Commercial Officer for General Electric before forming his own strategic growth consulting firm, Madej Core. I had the opportunity to talk with Jim about the insights he’s gained on business and leadership over the years.

It was a privilege talking with Jim about the three keys to GE’s long-term success. In our conversation, Jim opened up about the company’s three most important business practices.

One of the greatest marks of a leader is humility, and Jim understands the importance of measuring victory by the success of the entire team.


Every good company keeps track of KPIs, but here’s Jim’s argument for why you might be focusing too much on output metrics – along with other advice for achieving high performance in your career.

One of the biggest insights along the journey of professional development is distinguishing between management and leadership skills. Jim talked with me about what makes someone a true leader.

You can see more of my conversation with Jim Madej on the Insights page of DaveCarvajal.com. You’ll also find more interviews with some of my favorite leaders on the planet.


How CEOs and Board Members Can Make the Best Hire Together

How CEOs and Board Members Can Make the Best Hire Together

Often times, performance improvement hinges on making an important executive hire that is necessary to fill a key gap in your team. When teams begin to consistently miss their KPIs, MBOs and other metrics, the consequences of low performance fall squarely on the shoulders of the CEO.

Achieving high-growth at a startup is difficult, and it can be an even bigger feat to sustain the same level of growth as a company matures. Series B funding comes with greater expectations for founders and CEOs. Boards can easily decide that in this pivotal moment, given the performance metrics or lack thereof, it may also be time for that dreaded conversation about a succession plan or an immediate replacement plan.

So what can you do as a CEO when you’re in the midst of a turnaround plan or have already launched an executive search and the board is worried about continued deterioration in performance?

First, understand that when any board expresses this concern to the CEO, what they really mean is, ‘You better make something happen fast.’ The hard truth is that they’re not talking about your team’s failure to perform, they’re talking about your failure in leadership performance. And if you’re incapable of solving this problem as a leader, you might have reached the end of your tenure.

Making the right or wrong executive hire in this situation can be your saving grace, or give the board more reason to give you the boot.

The weight of this pressure on a CEO can unfortunately make a hiring process all the more difficult. Board members might want to step into operating roles, make introductions and suggest potential candidates to fill the role. This is well-intentioned, and occasionally seems like a promising idea. As a CEO, you feel obligated to meet those candidates and the feeling is awfully similar to being set up on a blind date by a friend who means well but doesn’t fully understand what your wants and needs are.

These kind of referrals still limit you to Level 2 Recruiting—a blunt, passive recruiting strategy based on referrals, networking and candidates that are leftover from other searches or unemployed (often with good reason). If you end up hiring the person the board recommended and it doesn’t work out—as CEO, you’re still the one responsible for the whole mess.

The biggest factor determining the success or failure of any CEO is his or her ability to recruit and hire well. And when something as important as an executive search—and potentially your own position in an organization—is on the line, you want to make sure that the job is done with mastery.

Rather than you or your board members dabbling in recruiting and using up the precious time and energy you need to drive your team’s performance, bring in the right expert—not just someone referred by the board. Partner with someone who has built companies like yours before, who understands core competencies and culture fit and can elevate your search to Level 3 Recruiting™. Level 3 Recruiting™ is about precision extraction and a refined selection process that secures the top 1{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} A+ executive leaders.

This collaborative process is the best way CEOs and boards, especially in the midst of intense pressure or even in a crisis situation, can make sure they make the best hire.

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.

When to Hire an Executive Search Firm & How to Find the Best

When to Hire an Executive Search Firm & How to Find the Best

We see it play out every day: show us a promising startup that’s floundering, and we’ll show you an executive team that was built haphazardly or based on short-term thinking.

Building dynamic executive teams is the key to success—an insight that holds doubly true for companies in high-growth mode. Inside the tornado of rapid expansion, emerging businesses won’t survive or thrive without the right executive teams in place to nurture system-wide creativity and protect organizational values. That’s why top CEOs now report spending 30-50% of their time managing human talent.

So when is the right time to hire an executive search firm?

If you’re asking that question, the answer is probably: right now.

Typically, by the time executive search firms are brought on board, companies are already hurting. They’re missing one or more key members of the executive leadership team, stalled on a crucial search, or struggling with a string of bad fits. They’re losing market share or paying the high costs of lost opportunity. Their CEOs find themselves burdened with endless rounds of recruitment, instead of putting their energy where it counts—building the team.

This happens even with some of the most productive, people-savvy CEOs around. Chalk it up to the dynamics of growth. When a business is small, the personal contacts of the C-suite and Board may suffice to build out a strong executive team. Once the business is on a rapid growth trajectory, that’s unlikely to be true. It takes specific expertise to run a fast, agile, and rigorous search. It takes miles of networks. It takes deep wells of HR experience and intuition.

But once you know you need outside help, how do you find the executive search team that’s right for you?

Here are crucial issues to consider:

Find a search firm committed to learning your culture and core values. It’s not enough to understand the list of competencies you seek in a new executive. Each candidate a headhunter brings you should be vetted for the core value set your leadership team honors. They should share your cultural DNA. Otherwise, their presence is likely to cause turbulence at a point where you need to focus on fortification and growth. You need a strong core values match, to be sure and you can’t afford to think short term; sacrificing values fit over skills fit. Neither should your executive search firm.

Ask who will be leading the search. Remember the adage: Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. The bigger the search firm, the more that people take credit for work of others and the longer your search will take. Make sure your search will be led directly by someone whose name is on the door. It’s that simple. That way the success or failure of your search will reflect directly on the firm you’ve brought on board. It’s the quickest and best way to ensure accountability—and to avoid having a crucial search languish for months on the desk of an overwhelmed associate.

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. They’ll understand the pitfalls of recruitment from the inside out—and they’ll have mastered the art of the executive interview in a way that only happens when your own company is on the line. There is just no substitute for experience.

Look for a search partner who can be a full partner to you. A search firm will be your bridge to talent. It will represent your company to diverse circles of stakeholders, including investors and potential clients. You need to make this choice count on multiple levels. Look for someone with the energy to inspire top talent to join you. Look for someone with the gravitas to represent your firm and its mission in the fullest and most holistic way.

Here at Dave Partners we exist to help entrepreneurs conquer the world with what they are doing. More than just executive search, we build the teams and a real mission-based partnership with the companies that have the greatest opportunity to make the world a better place for us all.

This is our calling. It’s why we love what we do.

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?