At Hyperion Executive Search, the majority of our clients are start-ups / scale-ups. Typically they have their Founding team plus a selection of close hires from personal networks or opportunistic hiring.
This works fine as a starter but when it is time for are scaling, these clients need more specific expertise added to their team and they have to search for A players in the wider industry. In these cases, we are often asked for our guidance on their external interview process (for many, it is the first formal interview process they’ve conducted!)
Of course, the structure / participants can vary depending on the type of role but there one point I consistently advise:
As a CEO, you should always aim to conduct the 1st interview.
Here are some of the benefits:
Telling your story: As CEO, you are typically the visionary behind the start-up and “chief storyteller”. A well crafted, personal and emotive story about the journey to date, will engage the candidate at a deeper level from step one. This is important in a start-up as often you need to sell the company to a candidate as well as them sell themselves to you.
Alignment with company vision & culture: A start-up culture is unique and requires a certain type of person to thrive in this environment. It is likely you can convey your company’s mission, cultural values, and goals better than anyone, so by being involved from the get-go, the CEO can assess if the candidate’s values, work style, and personality align with the team dynamics and the start-up’s working environment.
Setting the tone: As mentioned in point one, you will need to sell the company to candidates. Your early involvement in the hiring process sends a strong message to candidates about the importance of the role and their potential impact within the organization. It shows that you as a CEO are invested in hiring the right talent & care about the team you are building. This level of engagement can attract top candidates and demonstrate the start-up’s commitment to excellence.
Building rapport and trust: Your direct interaction with candidates can help establish rapport and build trust early on. Your candidate is more likely to engage with you at a deeper level if they see they can ask questions directly to their CEO, and they will get a sense of your leadership style.
Of course, the above is an advisory – we understand its important to consider scalability and time constraints as a start-up grows. As the company gets bigger, the hiring needs will expand, & processes will naturally need to evolve too.
It is important start-ups identify the inflection point in their hiring and at this point, the CEO may need to delegate initial interviews to other trusted team members while maintaining involvement in the final stages of candidate selection.
Ultimately, the decision of the CEO depends on the context but in those early days of external hiring, I think it is vitally important!