Executive Search Firm

Hire Thoughts

Insights to help you build an extraordinary team.

Removing Fear from Hiring

The unknown is one of the greatest sources of fear in hiring.

I have found that one of the greatest assets in successful hiring is a clear sense of awareness. The things that come back to haunt us in recruiting and hiring are unknowns that were knowable if only we had been more attuned.

In my work as an executive recruiter, working primarily with startups and growth companies, one of my goals is to minimize the unknowns for both the client and the candidate and to create a situation that leads to hiring confidently. This has evolved over the years into a highly transparent process that involves asking fearless questions of both parties.

From my experience, the companies that have the most success in hiring are those that have a clear sense of the environment into which they are inviting a new team member.

When the CEO or other hiring leader understands the company’s strengths and weaknesses as a place to work, this is a great foundation for finding and hiring the person who will be the right fit. It is critical to offer the candidate relevant information needed to make a well-informed decision. When someone joins a company with eyes wide open, I rarely hear later complaints even when the going gets tough, as it inevitably does in a startup.  When I do hear complaints, this is often due to unpleasant discoveries that were not disclosed in the interview process — one of the reasons top talent is easily lured away.

These “unpleasant discoveries” are not typically the result of an intentional effort to mislead, but rather from a lack of awareness by the company’s leadership. Some entrepreneurs have such a strong sense of vision and optimism that they don’t see the cracks in their company. Or they spend so much of their time in survival mode, or focused on growing the business, that they are not fully aware of what it is actually like to be part of their team. In some instances, the CEO doesn’t have the type of relationships with team members that allow for open feedback. Or doesn’t have a coach or mentor to help pinpoint where growth as a leader is needed.

If you are a CEO or other leader planning to hire, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to take time to thoroughly and fearlessly assess your environment. You might consider asking team members to share candidly about their experience of working with the company – and with you. If you have concern about your team feeling comfortable enough to openly share this type of feedback with “the boss” then ask a trusted source to compile this information with the assurance that comments will remain confidential.

One of the gifts you will receive from this process is the opportunity for greater self-awareness which is one of the most valuable strengths of an effective leader.

The awareness that you gain will not only help you to set realistic expectations for candidates and new hires, but will also help you identify the characteristics and attributes that predict that someone will be successful on your team. On top of all this, this insight will empower you to detect internal company problems that require attention.

Greater awareness of your company’s internal environment is but one important aspect of removing the unknowns and reinforcing your ability to hire confidently. Bringing a high level of awareness to the candidate assessment process is also crucial, but that’s a topic for another time.


If you would like a list of sample questions to use in getting valuable feedback from your team, message me and I will share this with you (no strings). Also, if you have specific questions about anything I’ve shared, I would be happy to address this in the comments or privately. 

Donna White

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