Two Common CEO Hiring Fails

Joel Trammell

Posted by Joel Trammell
August 25, 2017

One of your five critical responsibilities as CEO is to provide the proper resources. People are one of those resources—the most important, in my opinion. It follows, then, that the CEO should devote a good deal of attention to how he or she provides the right people to meet the organization’s needs.

As with all CEO responsibilities, there are a series of balances to master in the hiring domain. (If you don’t, you end up starving your organization of talent.) One of these balances is between “resume snobbery” on one end and “temp addiction” on the other.

Let’s see how these two CEO fails play out, and what you can do about them.

The Resume Snob: The Hunt for the Perfect CV

The resume-snob CEO is a common occurrence in corporate America. This inclination is often driven by either the background of the CEO or by the belief that an impressive-looking resume actually matters. The CEO is often biased by his own experiences and believes that others with those experiences must be just as wonderful as he is.

For example, the CEO spent his formative years at IBM so the CEO heavily favors candidates who also spent their formative time at IBM. If the CEO went to an Ivy League school, all the executives need to have gone to an Ivy League school. By hiring executives with a similar background, the company is handicapped and likely to fall victim to the bias of groupthink. I believe diversity of background and experience, especially among the executive team, is critical to maximize success. If everyone on the team sees the problems the same way, the chance for innovative solutions that provide a competitive advantage is decreased.

Sometimes, these CEOs favor candidates who seem to have the most amazing combination of experiences. “Oh, look, she went to Harvard and she worked for our competitor. We should grab her.” Now, either of those experiences might contribute to the candidate’s being the right candidate, but on their own, they don’t guarantee it. The resume snob tends to be overly impressed with where people went to school, where they’ve worked, or what titles they’ve held and less concerned about what they’ve actually done.

Finally, resume snobs sometimes prioritize experience because they believe that a highly experienced candidate will get up to speed faster and require less training. I have seen this happen often in fast-growth companies in which all managers are so busy that they don’t think they have time to train. Simply put, this is almost never true. Every company is different, with different processes, a different culture, and a different approach to the work. You have to invest in every new hire to ensure that he or she is successful.

The Temp Addict: “Just Get Somebody in Here”

Some CEOs, on the other hand, just don’t want to commit. The temp-addict CEO has a standard answer to every hiring challenge: “Let’s just get a contractor in here and see what happens.” 

Every time I see this approach to hiring, I am shocked. Imagine an NFL team that needs another wide receiver going out to the market and making a random pick from all the people who played wide receiver in college. The temp addict often believes that people are interchangeable and one person in a given job is not much better than another person in that job. Any CEO who believes this will not have a very successful career. The individuals who are guilty of this sin wouldn’t see it that way. 

Often they believe that getting the right people is important at the executive level. They then wonder why, when the rubber meets the road, the company is poor at things like customer service, frontline sales, or manufacturing. If there is need for a person in the organization to do a job, it is worth trying to find the best person possible for that position, and that is almost always a full-time, permanent employee.

Now, I understand that in certain locations or industries, labor laws make it so hard to terminate employees that it makes sense to hire people as temporary or contract employees. Fortunately, I have spent my business career in Texas, which is an employment-at-will state. Therefore, I always hire the best person possible for every position.

Every position, from receptionist to CEO, can give you a competitive advantage. Don’t be cavalier about hiring for any position, or the culture will develop that regards hiring as a necessary evil versus an opportunity for a competitive advantage.

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Joel Trammell

Joel Trammell

Joel Trammell is the founder and chairman of Khorus Software. He currently serves as CEO of Black Box Network Services. His book, The CEO Tightrope, is a guide to the chief-executive role.

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