The Importance of Executive Hiring and Cultural Fit

You’re in the market for a C-suite executive. Whether the hiring need is due to a vacancy or an expansion of the C-suite team, the task before you can easily rank as one of the most challenging the company faces. Since these executive positions come with a lengthy list of leadership and management duties, in addition to the hefty responsibility for setting the general tone of the entire company, C-suite hiring decisions should not be taken lightly or made in haste.


Unfortunately, this crucial juncture in the company’s timeline results too often in a disheartening scenario that looks something like this:

The search for a new CEO, CFO, COO, or CIO commences. The perfect candidate emerges from a sea of applicants, complete with impeccable credentials, strong academics, relevant experience, industry proficiency, and, best of all, a proven track record. The executive team breathes a collective, contented sigh, and the new employee steps into his/her new position. Unfortunately, the perfect-fit scenario soon begins to wear thin. Forward progress stalls, halts, and then moves decidedly backward. Before long, the executive moves on, leaving the company on shakier ground than when he/she joined the team. It’s not that he/she was a weak leader or a “bad” person; they simply were not the right fit for the company’s culture. And that cultural misalignment impacted both the company’s and the executive’s success.


Yes, culture matters. Especially in the C-suite.

The key to long-term, impactful success in the C-suite is an understanding of the need to look beyond traditional and time-honored metrics. The ultimate “perfect fit” cannot be attained without a keen realization that cultural fit plays a significant role in the C-suite success. This situation is where a recruiting firm can be of great assistance. Before moving forward with an executive position search, the firm will conduct an onsite evaluation to gain an understanding of the company’s core values and mission as well as establish a baseline of how the business operates.


This type of detailed analysis will result in a series of behavioral questions to be used in the interview setting. Experienced interviewers are adept at gauging interactions and responses, being mindful of how answers can signal a misalignment between the prospective candidate and the company’s culture. Even the simplest of questions such as how one defines work ethic, views leadership styles, and weighs in on the treatment of others can trigger the awareness of a potential disconnect.


Points to ponder when hiring for the C-suite

  • Attitude can make all the difference in the world. An imperialistic view that exhibits an air of stand-offish-ness to the leadership team and employees will not go over well when contrasted with an already established servant-leader culture.
  • Credentials, education, and intelligence do not tell a candidate’s entire story. As discussed in this LeaderStat article, emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a pivotal role in an executive hire’s success. Or failure.

Jon Sammons, Director of the LeaderStat Premier Team, notes, “Our recruiters have discovered the best candidates to be those who demonstrate both respect and humility and are active, engaged listeners. They respond quickly rather than struggle with direction and are effective team players. Simply put, those with higher levels of EQ tend to get along better with others, whether it be in a hospital or nursing home, in the office, on the sports field, in the factory, or the classroom.” 


Considering the impact C-suite executives have on the company, the search for a candidate who syncs with the company’s cultural vibe should be regarded as a top priority.


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