Questions to Ask Before Working With a VP of People Search Firm

For a fast-growing startup or new business, many crucial factors influence where that organization is heading. From the tech stack it’s using to the business strategy in play, taking a startup to new heights requires everything to run like a well-oiled machine.

But there’s one asset in a startup that might just be more important than all the rest: Its people.

Sure, a startup's tools, funds, and resources are vital to how it fares. But the employees make the real difference in how one performs and where it goes. And to best manage those all-star players, hire top talent, and ensure employees have a positive experience, organizations can hire a best-in-class VP of People. 

As with any executive hire, bringing on a VP of People is no small undertaking. In general, the turnover rate for C-Suite executives is around the highest in the past 22 years

While large and well-established companies can afford missteps when bringing on a VP of People, these hires are far more impactful for startups and can carry more risk. For example, while there are varying data demonstrating just how much money it costs to replace an executive, reasonable estimates show that it can cost between six and nine months of that employee’s salary. 

Replacing ill-fitting executive hires can be extremely costly, and these high costs can be detrimental to startups. 

To ensure a perfect-fit hire for your next VP of People, you can partner with a leading search firm. Sure, you can go with an in-house team or recruiting agency, but these placements are far too critical to leave up to chance. 

The best executive search firms don’t only find candidates who are a professional match: They recruit executives who are a cultural fit and additive to your organization. Before choosing which VP of People search firm to partner with, you’ll want to dig deep to ensure they can execute your search and help you find your dream candidate.

With that in mind, we’ll go over questions to ask yourself and your potential partner firm.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before bringing on a new team member for this role, here are some questions to consider to ensure this is the right choice for your startup. 

Why Do We Need a VP of People?

Before starting your executive search process, it’s first critical that your organization understands why it needs a VP of People. If the first answer that comes to mind is “just because,” that might not be a reason that helps you land your dream candidate. 

To understand what you’re looking for in a VP of People candidate, you need to identify why you want them in the first place and what exactly you want them to do at your organization. 

Who on Our Current Team Will Work With the New VP of People?

It’s not enough to simply partner with a VP of People search firm which brings on an excellent executive. Your organization needs to understand what workflows will be like with your new VP of People and who exactly will work with them. 

Will they work with HR leaders, managers, or hiring teams? What executives can they expect to work with? Figuring out workflows can help your organization understand what exactly your new VP of People will have ownership of. 

What KPIs Are Important to This New Role?

Success should always be measured. With that in mind, your team should identify certain KPIs tied to your new VP of People that can track success. 

They should be measured before the new VP of People is brought on and then periodically measured and discussed. Your new VP of People might own certain metrics, including employee retention, engagement, and performance reviews.

What Do We Want Our New VP of People to Bring to the Table?

Whether it’s certain skills or personality traits, what exactly do you want your new VP of People to bring to your organization? Regarding startups and new companies, every hire counts because they have the power to greatly influence the company's trajectory. 

This is particularly true for executive hires. Because of this, it’s critical to understand what exactly you want your new VP of People to contribute to your organization. These can be skills, qualities, traits, or goals. 

How Will We Support Our New VP of People?

When it comes to new hires (including executive hires), there needs to be support and structure to ensure their success. With that in mind, your organization should establish how it will support your new VP of People. 

What will onboarding look like? What post-onboarding resources will they have? Who can they turn to if they have questions?

What Initiatives Do We Want Our New VP of People to Have Ownership of?

When it comes to your new VP of People, you might already have some processes, projects, and initiatives in mind for them to take ownership of. If you don’t, now is an excellent time to think it through: What exactly will this new team member be in charge of? 

Questions for the Search Firm

Now that you’ve decided a VP of People is just what your startup needs, it’s time to partner with a search firm to find your ideal candidate. That said, here are some questions for the search firm to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

What’s Your Firm’s Success Rate With Hiring a VP of People? How Do You Define Success?

When identifying your ideal VP of People search firm, you should ask prospective firms about their success rate with these placements. Not all executive search firms are created equal; some are more experienced at recruiting for these roles than others. 

Also, it’s important to understand exactly how your search firm defines success. Is it simply after they hand you a certain number of candidates (regardless of whether the placements are successful)? Or is success defined by a perfect-fit placement?

How Do You Maintain Hiring Efficiency?

Efficiency is critical to an effective executive hiring process. Think about it like this: Here at Will Reed, we’ve found that the best executive candidates are only on the market for an average of 10 days. 

That’s why we run our executive recruiting services on a contingency timeline, and our search process takes 45 days, not the usual 90+. When deciding on a VP of People search firm, find out how your potential partner plans to maintain hiring efficiency throughout your search. 

What Types of Questions Do You Ask VP of People Interviewees?

Hiring a VP of People is not the same as hiring an average employee and isn’t even the same as hiring another executive. With that in mind, your VP of People search firm should have specific questions in mind that will ask interviewees. These questions should identify if the candidate is a professional fit and help elucidate if they will be culturally additive to the organization. 

How Do You Promote Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are more than just a buzzword in today’s business landscape, especially regarding executive and C-Suite positions. Not only are diversity and inclusion essential from an organizational standpoint, but they can also lead to a better business overall: Research found that gender-diverse companies are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than their competitors. Today’s leading executive search firms need to discuss diversity and inclusion and demonstrate how they plan to embody it in their process. 

What Is Your Pay Structure Like?

Executive search firms have different methods for calculating compensation and payment for their services. For example, here at Will Reed, we charge a flat fee, so our partners never question our motivations when negotiating candidate compensation. 

How Do You Support the Hiring Process?

When choosing a VP of People search firm to partner with, you should seek a firm that doesn’t simply hand you lists of candidates. Premier search firms take steps to ensure success with the hiring process by supporting your organization. For example, our executive searches always start with talent infrastructure: We ensure you and your team have the proper infrastructure to run a best-in-class interview process at scale.

Hiring a VP of People Search Firm Can Completely Transform Your Organization

Who is on your team matters, especially regarding your next VP of People. And in this new startup era, you need great leaders who can help take your organization to new heights. But the only problem is that the best-in-class VP of People leaders are ever-more discerning and in incredibly high demand.

That’s why partnering with Will Reed as your VP of People search firm is a game changer. 

We know it’s not enough to be a recruiter. That’s why we built a team of culture-obsessed management consultants with vast networks of partners. When we start a search, we ensure your team has a robust talent infrastructure in place and work fast to match you with the candidate of your dreams.

Interested in partnering with Will Reed for your next VP of People search?

Let's chat.


January 26, 2023

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