Lemon #55. Hiring executives: If you’ve never done the job, how do you hire somebody good?

Lemon #55. Hiring executives: If you’ve
how do you hire somebody good?

While reading ‘The hard thing about hard things’ from Ben Horowitz, we learned about how to hire excellent executives:

The biggest difference between being a great functional manager and being a great general manager is that as a general manager, you must hire and manage people who are far more competent at their jobs than you would be at their jobs. In fact, often you will have to hire and manage people to do jobs that you have never done. How many CEOs have been head of HR, engineering, sales, marketing, finance, and legal? Probably none. 

  • Step 1: Know what you want

If you don’t know what you want, the chances that you’ll get it are extremely low. If you’ve never done the job, how do you know what you want? 

First, you must realize how ignorant you are and resist the temptation to educate yourself simply by interviewing candidates. Some traps: 

  • Hiring on look and feel. It may seem silly to think that anyone would hire an executive based on the way the look and sound in an interview, but in my experience, look and feel are the top criteria for most executive searches. 
  • Looking for someone out of central casting. You must hire the right person for your company at this particular point in time. 
  • Valuing lack of weaknesses rather than strength. 

The very best way to know what you want is to act in the role. Not just in title, but in real action. Acting is really the only way to get all the knowledge that you need to make the hire, because you are looking for the right executive for your company today. 

Be clear in your own mind about your expectations for this person upon joining your company. What will this person do in the first thirty days? 

  • Step 2. Run a process that figures out the right match

In order to find the right executive, you must now take the knowledge that you have gathered and translate it into a process that yields the right candidate. 

Write down the strengths you want and the weaknesses that you’re willing to tolerate. 

  • Step 3. Make a lonely decision

Despite many people being involved in the process, the ultimate decision should be made solo. Only the CEO has comprehensive knowledge of the criteria. Consensus decisions about executives almost always sway the process away from strengths and toward lack of weakness.


It’s a lonely job, but somebody has to do it. 

Ben Horowitz @ The hard thing about hard things.

Jorge Moreno

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