Key Hiring Techniques for CEOs

The hiring process is no easy task. When hiring new employees, CEOs are faced with many challenging decisions that will have a major impact on the success and future of their company. It is important for a CEO to understand that hiring is both a science and an art. There are logical processes a CEO needs to go through in selecting a key hire including reviewing resumes, references, CVs, etc., but there is also an art to it. The art involves being as objective as possible throughout the entire process.

Leland Sandler | Hiring Techniques

In my experience as an executive advisor, I  have seen many clients fall into the same trap of looking for someone who is too much like themselves. They look for someone they are compatible with and can enjoy being around. While this may be a good quality, the most important question a CEO must consider is whether or not the person can take on the role and execute at a level that the company needs.

Choosing the wrong hire can have detrimental effects on a company, bringing down employee morale, decreasing productivity, damaging client relations, and more. This is why an executive advisor can be so helpful when it comes to the hiring process. An executive advisor offers a fresh perspective and outside point of view to help CEOs make well thought out, objective decisions on who to bring into their company.

Listed below are several qualities to look out for when looking for the best new hires for your company:


One of the greatest qualities to look for in a new employee is energy. The individual should demonstrate that they have what it takes to give 100% every day. At the same time, their high energy levels will reflect positively on other employees and motivate them to do the same.


A second essential quality for a good employee is passion. The individual should be passionate about what the company is all about. If the person is not genuinely excited about the product or their particular role in the company, there is a good chance they will not be willing to give everything they have towards completing company goals.

Meets Specific Job Requirements:

The most important and seemingly obvious quality that all good employees should possess is the ability to meet the specific requirements of their job title. Sometimes a CEO may overlook this and focus more on how they engage and interact with the individual.  While this is a important consideration, one must think about what type of individual will be able to get things done for the company. A person may be likable, but if they cannot bring in results and tangible value, they are really only slowing the company down.

Cultural Fit

Identifying the qualities that will lead to quality interaction and fit in with the company’s culture and with other employees is the final piece. Uncovering the way a candidate will live up to the real operating principles of the company cannot be undervlued.  This “fit” between candidate and principles is a determining factor of long term success for the candidate and the organization.

Challenges and Rewards of Executive Advising

Leland Sandler Executive Advising

Leland Sandler helps teams surpass challenges and improve their leadership, team building, and communication skills.

With over 30 years of experience in education and executive advising, I have gained many rewarding experiences working with a wide range of clients. Working with a diverse group of individuals, however, means that every situation is unique, which can lead to certain obstacles and challenges the executive advisor must overcome.

Some of the major challenges an executive advisor may face while working with a client include:

  • Having a client who sees advising simply as a “nice to have” luxury rather than a necessity
  • Having a client who is not willing to confront their blind spots; or having a client who has identified their blind spots, but is not willing to engage in changes that will lead to successful growth
  • Working with a client who is not open to feedback on their performance or how they “show up”
  • Getting clients to make the necessary investment in themselves or in their teams (even with ROI data to support an investment)

To sum up these challenges, it can be difficult to work with a client who is not fully committed to making the necessary changes to improve themselves, their employee and team relationships, as well as their entire business. The first step to making a positive permanent change is to recognize the need for change and to prepare oneself to do whatever it takes to make that change a reality.

Once a client is committed to creating positive change, there are still a number of challenges they must work through with their executive advisor to excel in their position and bring their business to a higher level of success. Today’s business world is an uncertain, complex, and ever changing environment which has a large impact on the executive advising strategy. Some of the most challenging and significant advising strategies include:

  • Helping a client understand that every person is unique; having the ability to tolerate complexity and ambiguity is one of the most important aspects that make up a strong leader.
  • A leader has to be assessed in relation to the level of complexity their job or company is demanding of them. An executive advisor must look at how a leader copes and reacts to things like complexity, different perspectives, and abstractions and determine what the demands of the position are calling for.
  • Dealing with uncertainty calls for courage and openness; an advisor looks to help a client recognize the value of points of view that are different from their own. The advisor must help the client understand the value of being truly curious as to how others see a certain situation and what they propose to do about it.

However, once all is said and done, the final results of a successful advising experience far outweigh the challenges and difficulties faced along the way. Seeing an individual gain the courage to confront themselves and the strength to push forward through setbacks is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had as a professional. Executive advising is all about making real change happen; helping business leaders and teams discover different ways of communicating, making difficult decisions, and dealing with conflict.

Leland Sandler on building a solid foundation for a start up’s culture

Startups are great in terms of cultural development because it’s a fairly easy thing to do. They’re small, the work is not that involved, they start practicing certain ways of acting from their very beginning, so it’s not a difficult thing to implement. Executive advisor Leland Sandler discusses how the process should start by identifying the fundamental principles of what’s going to make the startup successful or minimally, what’s going to at least initially keep it from failing, defining what success means and what the main ways are to get there.

The Role of an Executive Advisor

Leland Sandler Executive Advisor

Leland Sandler speaking at an HR conference in Zurich

An executive advisor plays a key role in establishing powerful and enduring change in businesses and organizations through a unique set of strategies and techniques. An executive advisor creates the conditions for individuals and teams to overcome their own internal barriers to change, to take stock of and transcend their own blind spots, and to see errors and weaknesses as prime opportunities for personal growth. Once the strategy for execution is established, the advisor helps the client instill the process, through practices, tools, techniques, and structure, that leads them to permanently change themselves for the better.

A professional may seek the service of an executive advisor for a number of reasons. Listed below are some of the most common roles an executive advisor takes on throughout his career:

  • Expand the ability of leaders and CEOs to deal with the increasing complexity of the world in which they operate in
  • Help professionals deal more effectively with a number of possible constituents including board members, direct reports, customers/clients, as well as business development relationships
  • Assist first time CEOs in need of a safe sounding board to help guide them and challenge them in areas where they do not yet have experience
  • Provide direct, honest feedback to professionals and someone to hold them accountable as they deal with important and challenging issues
  • Identify differences and issues between individual team members (work styles, communication, decision making, etc) and make concrete suggestions on how to better optimize execution and meeting their goals.

While it is important for the executive advisor to be experienced and knowledgeable to provide efficient advising service to the client, it is equally important for the client to be a good advising candidate. A good advising candidate is someone who is open to the possibility of personal change, no matter how successful he or she has been in the past. An executive advisor will work best with someone who is willing to stay the course even when they finally confront a key issue about themselves and/or their team.

A good advisor-client relationship is highly confidential and personal. It requires a great deal of trust on the part of both parties. Advising involvement can vary from meeting with a client every couple of weeks to attending key meetings as well as individual advising meetings each week.

The key to being a successful executive advisor is to be able to effectively identify the focal issue or opportunity that the client most wants to go after. The advisor then must spend a fitting amount of time with the client to provide the initial scaffolding and structure necessary to bring about permanent change.

Looking to build your leadership team? Veterans make outstanding business leaders

Leland Sandler

Looking to build your leadership team?

Hiring a veteran military officer brings your company a foundation of skills and competencies that you’re unlikely to find almost anywhere else in the private sector. These individuals are disciplined, have an exceptional work ethic and success orientation – characteristics key to the leadership of any business.

I had the incredible opportunity to work with the military through the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Military Advisory Committee. I and other San Diego-area business leaders gladly gave our time to these men and women who are making such a huge difference for our country. In my case, I used my expertise as an executive advisor to provide career development advice to officers who were about to come out of the military. Starting with basic questions such as what was important to them and what they thought they might want to do as a civilian, we determined, based on their skill set (especially leadership skills) what industry and what role might be a good fit. Through the members San Diego Chamber of Commerce we placed these officers into private sector jobs, greatly easing their transition from military to civilian life.

As an executive advisor I immediately saw the leadership skills possessed by military officers. What was interesting is that those skills were not as immediately apparent to many of them, as they often misjudged how readily applicable their military leadership experience was to the private sector. It’s true that one of the challenges some military officers face when they get out into the private sector is their hierarchical orientation. This is a key part of the military’s organizational structure. Yet, in today’s business world, we’re looking for flatter and flatter organizations. We’re looking to drive decision down throughout the organization, to broadly empower. In my advisory sessions with these officers I was able to explore with them key ways private sector leadership differed from military leadership, along with strategies for most effectively channeling their leadership abilities. While just about any career shift involves adjustments and adaptation, the skills and experience veterans obtained in the military form a solid foundation for senior leadership in business.