5 Things to Get Right Before You Start a Leadership Hiring Process

Laying the Foundation for a Successful Senior Leader Hire

Making mistakes in the leadership hiring process can lead to organizational and financial problems.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has calculated just how expensive a poor hire into your management team can be. Even at mid-management role, REC has estimated the cost at £132,000. And, yes, you did read that right. Further, 85% of hiring managers admit they have made a bad hire, and four in 10 say that their hiring process should be improved.

How do you improve your leadership hiring process?

Before hiring a senior leader, you must be clear about your expectations and what you will offer the candidate in return. You should identify the key responsibilities and duties of the role, and sell your company and the role to potential candidates. Only then will you avoid making the mistake of hiring the wrong people.

In this article, we discuss the five things to get right before starting the hiring process for senior leaders.

1.    Outline the Position and Scope of the Role

When hiring senior leaders, it is essential that you first outline the position and scope of the role.

You want to hire a candidate who will deliver a lot of value – and you can only do this when you know what your organization needs from the position, what kind of skills and background are necessary, and what characteristics will make the candidate a good fit for your business.

You’ll need to take a role-specific approach to describe the duties and responsibilities of the person you hire. For example, if you are considering hiring a chief human resources officer, you should first define how the person will be able to perform that specific role effectively and efficiently.

You should also consider the wider scope of the role, such as:

  • Ensuring that operations and behaviours align with corporate values and strategy
  • Management of people across multiple functional areas
  • Promoting cultural aspects of your brand

2.    Assess for Internal Alignment

Does the role fit within the current structure, or is there overlap with other positions?

Internal alignment is a key factor in determining whether a role will be successful or not. A clear understanding of the goals, priorities, and structures of the company will help in determining whether a position is an optimal fit for the company or not.

The question of whether the role is aligned to the current structure is a difficult one to answer, because internal alignment of a role can be tricky to identify. Yet, you must consider how that position fits into existing team dynamics, and whether there would be overlap in responsibilities or an appropriate fit for organizational culture.

Therefore, when creating a role, it is often helpful to think about the existing structures with which the hired candidate will interact and how that can overlap with other roles. This examination starts with your HR department. They have first-hand knowledge of what roles exist in their company and how these roles are structured. They can provide an objective view on what positions are needed for your company to function most effectively and efficiently.

You should consider if overlap of responsibilities makes sense for organisational culture, and if such overlaps might create confusion, friction, or conflict within your teams.

3.    Salary Benchmarking

Salary benchmarking is a metric that helps a company understand how the market rates the skillset of the people they are hiring.

In essence, you should compare the potential candidate’s job to similar positions. Then, use the salary information you accumulate to assess how much you should pay to be competitive in your market. To make this process fair, you must ensure that you are comparing candidates with similar levels of experience and qualifications, too.

There are many ways to carry out salary benchmarking, though the process can be difficult to perform without the help of a professional consultant. However, there are a few ways that you can do it yourself:

  • Use an online search engine to see what salaries are offered in your area, industry, and at your target company
  • Survey companies in your area and ask them about their current salaries – this will give you an idea of what other companies offer in your local area
  • Examine job listings for talent that has been hired recently and identify the salaries paid
  • Use LinkedIn’s job listings and find out what the average salaries are in your industry for the role you are hiring for


Salary benchmarking is labour intensive and difficult to do accurately. If you don’t get it right, you are likely to find that:

  • A lowball salary range will attract poor-quality candidates
  • An over-competitive salary could put candidates off, too (Why do you need to offer so much – what’s the catch?)

You should never underestimate the importance of salary benchmarking, especially when hiring senior executives.

4.    Job Spec and Candidate Pack

At this stage of the recruitment process, it is now time to compose your job description (the job spec) and create a candidate pack.

The job spec

In short, the job spec helps you, recruiters, and candidates understand what is required in the position. It also serves as a guide for hiring managers during interviews.

It contains all necessary information that allows potential candidates to ‘self-qualify’ themselves for the role – such as key responsibilities, skills, and qualifications needed, and job title, location, hours of work, etc.

The candidate pack

A candidate pack is sent to potential candidates who have expressed initial interest in the role. It is a collection of materials that helps candidates understand what they can expect in the role.

Typically, the candidate pack includes information about the company, products and services, their values, culture, and, perhaps, testimonials from current employees. In effect, it’s a pack designed to help candidates decide if they wish to apply for the role advertised.

5.    Do We Know Someone Already Who Can Do This?

Throughout this process, you have identified the skills and personality you need for your senior hire and the salary range to which you must commit, and written a comprehensive job description.

Before you advertise, you should ask if you already know someone who could fill the senior position.

It’s important to have an accurate understanding of the current market to make the best decision possible. There are two types of market – internal and external – which can help you better understand your current and future needs.

Before searching in the external market, you should look internally. Do you already have an employee who could step into the role, with or without some coaching/training? If not, then you will need to begin your candidate search in the external market. This is where it gets tricky.

A recent study found that only 15% of senior executives are actively seeking opportunities for their next role. This means that 85% of top talent are passive candidates who are waiting for opportunities to come their way.

Unless you have the HR people, time, and connections to reach out to these passive candidates, you are severely hampered in how many quality candidates you might attract to apply.

Have you ever heard hiring managers say, “There’s a lack of candidates: there’s just no one available right now”? Those who say this are those who are marketing their senior roles to the 15% of senior execs who are actively seeking a new opportunity. They’re ignoring the 85%.

The truth is that there are quality candidates for senior roles – providing you know where to find them and how to approach them.


There is a lot of work involved in hiring the right people into senior leadership roles. The five steps above form the foundation of a solid and effective hiring process, and are essential when you are searching for a senior leader.

When we partner with a company like yours, we make certain that all the i’s are dotted, and the t’s are crossed, before we start our search and selection process. Our rigorous approach ensures that we find only the best-matched candidates for your senior roles.

To learn more about our strategic approach to your senior hiring needs, contact Lime Talent to discuss our executive search services.