Finders Keepers

The stock markets might be soaring as both Canadian and American economies recover; however, the turnover rates among chief executive officers are also continuing to soar. In fact, according to a recent poll, executive turnover jumped to 32.3%, the highest in several years. I agree that some turnover is due to retirements, but others are due to resignations.

While some resignations and/or terminations are due to leadership scandals, the majority of resignations at the CEO level are similar to any other resignation. In other words, the CEO and their board may feel there is no longer a fit for this individual in their organization. The talents they offer are not the talents needed to move the company forward to success in this new economy.

The challenge for organizations then is how do you go about finding the right leader for the right job at the right time? Then again, how do you keep them?


Believe me, it’s not a matter of simply searching for a good candidate. It’s a matter of making certain preferred individuals are indeed the “right” candidate. Therefore, the real challenge before having any candidate sign on the dotted line for employment, is ensuring you have applied a rigorous executive search process and taken as much time as is needed in order to make the right decision.


The starting point of any search process is to define the selection criteria. My strategy is to meet with a search committee, interview senior management and come to consensus on the “must have’s”, the “nice to have’s” and the “I can live with this” selection criteria. These criteria are then compared to the organizational vision, the market requirements and the internal culture to determine if any new criteria should be added or others given less emphasis.

A second step in the criteria selection process is work with the committee to determine specific examples of workplace behavior and experience they would like to see in their candidates. This information rounds out the picture of a successful candidate and provides food for thought with respect to developing interview questions.


The entire selection criteria process requires time consuming and rigorous debate so that all factors are thoroughly examined and consensus amongst the decision makers is achieved. Only then will you be ready to go to market to source out qualified candidates.

The list of selection criteria provides the framework and the tools for identifying and qualifying candidates that might be suitable to your organization. It is the filter through which all candidates are assessed. Selection checklists are prepared, screening and face-to-face interviews are directly linked to the selection criteria and used in candidate discussions. Slowly and carefully, candidates are screened and vetted until there is a set of 3-5 candidates who may be worthy of a presentation to the selection committee itself.

Without an effective selection criteria process, the search committee may misjudge an exceptional candidate who will then unfortunately slip through the cracks. At the same time, there are other individuals with excellent communication skills who may appear to be the cream of the crop but are not. Instead, they are simply good at camouflaging their weaknesses in such a way that it is difficult to assess.

While I have taken time to emphasize that time must be taken to ensure the right selection criteria are set, once these are in place, time then becomes an issue. In other words, the search process must progress in a steady manner over an 8-12 week timeframe in order to ensure the continued interest of potential candidates.

There is nothing more frustrating than putting all the right steps in place and then losing good candidates because the recruitment process itself is not efficiently carried out and/or stalls altogether. The solution to this issue is to ensure everyone is ready to proceed and that personal calendars are cleared in order for key stakeholders to be involved in the final processes.

Spending time on developing the selection criteria for a successful candidate is a rigorous and systematic process. If followed effectively, the process will result in the hiring of a successful candidate who will best meet your needs and will invigorate your organization to reach its goals.

Source: 2014 January: CEO Turnover Soars 32 Percent As Year Starts – Challenger & Christmas