by Sharon Florentine

5 reasons CEOs should be involved in hiring decisions

Sep 27, 2016

Here are five reasons your CEO should have a say in all hiring decisions and two reasons why they should stay out of it.

Talent compass pointing to the most highly skilled jobs hiring
Credit: Thinkstock

Hiring is as much an art as a science. Bring the wrong talent on board, and it’ll tank morale and impede performance; hire the right people, and growth will accelerate.

However, finding just the right mix of skills, knowledge, experience and personality can feel like a herculean task, says Aytekin Tank, founder and CEO of online form builder JotForm, but for him, it’s the most important part of his job.

Tank says he involves himself in every hiring decision at JotForm. Google’s CEO and cofounder Larry Page famously approves or rejects every one of the company’s hires, too. Should your organization follow suit? Here are five reasons why your CEO should be involved in hiring decisions and two reasons they shouldn’t.

1. Pro: Ensure a fit with corporate culture

Every company has its own personality and unique corporate culture, and JotForm’s no different, says Tank. His involvement in the hiring process makes sure that every new employee will mesh well with the existing atmosphere and won’t create unnecessary conflict.

“If I hire someone who becomes oil to our vinegar, it will be a disaster and could create a toxic environment that causes other valuable team members to leave. The resulting drain of talent could stunt our growth and, quite possibly, sink the company. A culture fit is every bit as important as experience, talent and education,” Tank says.

2. Pro: Sometimes, you have no choice

Early hires are crucial when a company is young and growing, and sometimes, startups don’t have the abundance of personnel or resources of an older, more established firm, says Tank. In those early days — or even at a company that makes a conscious decision to remain small — everyone must chip in and contribute to a lot of different roles.

“Our team has learned to do more with less, wear multiple hats and be prepared to take on any challenge — that includes screening and hiring. Some people would prefer to work in a more structured, hierarchical environment, however, an early-stage company may require a person to be out of their comfort zone from time to time,” Tank says.

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3. Pro: Finding people with passion

While you can teach programming languages, processes, applications and programs, one thing that can’t be taught is passion; the people you hire either have it or they don’t, says Tank.

“Over the years I’ve discovered that passionate people have traits that translate well into business success: They’re not afraid to attack a challenge from a different angle, take risks and will continue to work at something until they’ve reached what they consider to be the pinnacle of achievement. Even then, they continue to work at it, because that’s what they love,” he says.

4. Pro: Develop hiring as a skillset

While many people view hiring as just another “to do” item in a long list of weekly tasks, Tank says that mindset’s inherently wrong. His involvement in the process ensures that every hiring decision is approached as a unique way to add skills and knowledge to the organization.

“The goal in hiring is to find the right person to fill the right position. When you hit the right combination, incredible results follow — for both the person hired and the company. Learning how to hire the right person requires work, to develop those skills, and the more I work at it the better I get,” he says.

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5. Pro: Make the final decision

As CEO, the proverbial buck stops with Tank, so it’s important for him to get it right.

“Early on, I understood the ultimate cost of hiring, not only in dollars but also in time and energy and the value to my company. No one wants to needlessly throw away money and certainly no one has an abundance of time they can afford to waste. If I don’t get this part right, nothing following will matter,” he says.

1. Con: Disempowerment

You’ve carefully hired senior management and your HR teams because of their knowledge, their skills and experience. Now, you need to trust them to do the jobs they were hired for; otherwise, you risk disempowering them, says P.K. Agarwal, CEO and regional dean of Northeastern University Silicon Valley.

“The last thing you want to do is erode the trust of your senior management and your hiring teams by sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong. There are exceptions; in the case of startups that are trying to ensure good cultural fit, or where there are only a few people at the company, this works great. But, in general, I believe it could quickly spiral out of control into a micromanagement nightmare,” Agarwal says.

2. Con: Size matters

At small startups and even medium-sized companies, it’s possible to incorporate a CEO’s approval into the hiring process, Agarwal says. But trying to get a CEO’s feedback on every single candidate can be a colossal waste of time and energy that’s better spent on strategic initiatives and other executive functions, he says.

“Google’s the exception that proves the rule, I believe. I just cannot imagine how this could work efficiently. Even if you did make it work, candidates wouldn’t be getting much more than a cursory glance, and then there’s no value in the CEO’s looking at their application anyway, other than to make them feel impressed that they met with or had their credentials assessed by the CEO,” Agarwal says.

[ Related story: Why you need to rethink your internal communications strategy ]

The take away? Whether you involve your CEO in hiring decisions or not depends on a number of factors: your company size, the importance of culture and how feasible it is for you to incorporate executive approval into the process. Either way, hiring’s one of the most important functions within your company, so handle it with the utmost care.

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