CIO interviews are high-stakes encounters. With time constraints looming, interviewers face the daunting task of discerning whether candidates possess the right skills and vision to thrive within their organization. Crafting the perfect set of CIO interview questions is crucial for securing a successful hire. 

As a leading executive search firm specializing in IT leadership roles, the team at Kirby Partners has conducted hundreds of CIO interviews. As a result, we’ve learned exactly which questions are most effective at gauging whether a candidate is a good fit for a job.

In this post, we’ve curated our top questions for evaluating a candidate’s leadership style, technical expertise, and strategic capabilities. We suggest selecting the questions from each section that best align with your organization’s strategic imperatives.

(If you’re interviewing for a CIO position, we encourage you to review these questions as you prepare. Make sure to check out our executive interviewing guide for tips; ensure you’ve reviewed McKinsey’s article “Eight CEO Priorities for 2024” for ideas on areas to emphasize during your interview.)

CIO interview questions

Section 1: opening / rapport-building questions

Establishing rapport and gaining insights into a candidate’s career trajectory sets the stage for the interview. Here are some key questions to kickstart the conversation:

  1. Please give a two-minute overview of your career focusing on your healthcare leadership responsibilities.
  2. What interests you about this opportunity and our organization?
  3. What is most rewarding about IT work, and what keeps you motivated?
  4. What do you enjoy most about the CIO role? What do you find the most challenging?
  5. What are some of your hobbies or interests?

Section 2: leadership and cultural fit CIO interview questions

Effective leadership is critical to a CIO’s success. Dive deeper into a candidate’s leadership approach and experiences with these insightful questions:

  1. How would you be a leader at our organization and in the community as a whole?
  2. What kind of leadership team environment have you thrived in most in the past? What kind of teams have you struggled with?
  3. Describe your experience mentoring and growing teams.
  4. What is your strategy for hiring direct reports?
  5. How does this position align with your long-term personal and career goals?
  6. Describe your ideal work environment.
  7. What would you have liked to do more of in your current/last position? What held you back?
  8. Describe a time when you had to lead a team through a major change.
  9. What would your colleagues at your current position say about your diversity contributions?
  10. What are some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how have they shaped your approach to leadership?
  11. What are your most important relationships in your current role, and how do you maintain them?
  12. Describe a time when you had to exert influence over an executive committee. What was the outcome?
  13. What is your approach to change management?
  14. How would you describe your leadership style?
  15. Tell me about a transformation you led that had a positive business impact. (Listen for: business outcomes rather than just “on time” or “under budget” metrics.)

Section 3: IT strategy and roadmaps

A robust IT strategy is essential for driving organizational success. Evaluate a candidate’s strategic thinking and execution capabilities with these probing CIO interview questions:

  1. Please describe your experience developing and executing IT strategic plans.
  2. Please describe your experiences improving IT customer service and communication.
  3. Please share your strategies for getting “buy-in” for IT projects.
  4. Please describe where you feel the “right” balance is between risk and business agility and how you work to achieve that optimal balance.
  5. What is the most significant change you foresee in the technology landscape that you would begin preparing us for if hired?
  6. Describe your approach to “ongoing learning” and understanding IT trends that can create business value.
  7. Describe an IT strategy that you developed and executed.
  8. What is your approach to making build versus buy decisions?

Section 4: maturing an IT organization

Elevating an IT organization requires a blend of technical expertise and cultural transformation. Delve into a candidate’s experience in fostering innovation and cultivating a collaborative culture with these interview questions for a CIO role:

  1. On a scale of A to F, how would your current business community rate your IT organization? Why?
  2. What is the culture of your IT organization? Is that the culture you inherited? If not, how have you changed it?
  3. How are you developing “blended” IT leaders who not only have deep technical skills but also understand the business context in which they are working?
  4. What is your experience creating a culture of innovation in the IT organization and across the business?
  5. Have you implemented Agile development in your current organization, if at all?
  6. How would you identify opportunities for IT innovation and serve as an “IT futurist” for our organization?
  7. What is your vision for digital transformation, and what experience do you have leading such initiatives?
  8. How do you stay current with emerging technologies? How do you evaluate their potential impact on the business?

Section 5: technical expertise and driving results

Closing the interview with a comprehensive assessment of a candidate’s technical expertise and alignment with organizational goals is crucial. Explore a candidate’s perspective on cybersecurity, vendor management, and IT performance metrics with these CIO interview questions:

  1. Tell me about your current or most recent position and how you helped the organization accomplish its goals and mission.
  2. Describe some ways you’ve delivered on the philosophy that technology can be an enabler in your past or current position.
  3. What is your approach to cybersecurity strategy and governance?
  4. How do you manage vendor relationships and approach strategic sourcing?
  5. What metrics and KPIs do you use to measure IT performance and demonstrate value to the business?
  6. Tell me about a time when you inherited a process that wasn’t working, and you had limited time to fix it.

Ultimately, these CIO interview questions will help organizations to effectively assess candidates’ leadership capabilities, strategic vision, and IT acumen.

Kirby Partners is a leading technology and cybersecurity executive search firm. If you need to hire an exceptional CIO, we encourage you to learn more about our executive search services or contact us for more information.

Interested in CIO opportunities? Please check out our open positions.

The organizations that are highly desirable to work for focus heavily on candidate recruitment. They start by investing in their employer brand. Then they deliver a candidate experience that’s consistent with that brand. 

Easier said than done. We know few organizations get this “right” from our more than thirty years in executive search.

Here are top candidate recruitment best practices to help you attract great candidates. Review the list and grade your organization on these aspects of candidate experience. Chances are, there are areas that need improvement.

Candidate Recruitment Strategies for Success

Make it easy to apply

Keep the application as simple as possible. Ensure you’re using all the information collected—if you’re not using it, don’t ask for it.

Application best practices for a good candidate experience:

  • Let candidates know upfront what information they’ll need to complete your application
  • Ensure your application is mobile-friendly
  • Use resume parsing so people have to input less information
  • Send a confirmation email confirming receipt of the application

Streamline your process

We’ve seen countless organizations lose candidates because of a slow hiring process. While they’re deciding, the desired candidate gets hired elsewhere.

Candidates resent having their time wasted. They’re unlikely to accept an offer from an organization they feel wasn’t respectful.

The ideal process is well-orchestrated and efficient with minimal time between interview phases.

In this market, good candidates aren’t available long. Have a clear timeline outlined before you start your search and stick to it. Block calendars for interview times in advance.

Compel candidates to join your organization

Clearly communicate why the work you’re doing is important throughout the hiring process.

Also, generate a list of three or four “sizzle” points or good things about the position. Use that list to market the position and organization to prospective candidates. Highlight these key points throughout the process.

For example, will the new hire build a team from the ground up? Develop a strategy for an innovative project? Improve customer satisfaction?

Know what will appeal to candidates and “sell” them on the opportunity.

Give a realistic portrayal of the position

Identify the need you’re hiring to fill and craft a clear, easy-to-read job description. Be honest and upfront about your expectations for the role and the challenges the new hire will face.

Make candidates feel welcome and accepted

Look for ways to make candidates feel valued during the interview process. Can an employee take them to lunch? Can you give them a facility tour?

Even small things can make a huge difference in candidate recruitment.

Try to understand what motivates them and what’s important to them. Treat people like individuals rather than employing a one size fits all approach.

When a candidate sends thank you and follow-up notes, reply.

Ideally, job offers should come from the candidate’s prospective new boss. If HR has to do it, have the manager contact them immediately following the offer. (In our experience this leads to faster acceptance.)

For your new hire, the first few weeks at work are comparable to the honeymoon phase of a marriage. Consider ways to make their initial days special. Leave a small “welcome gift” on their desk. Set up “meet and greets” to help them get acclimated. If possible, provide a mentor.

Treat candidates respectfully and accommodate their needs

Candidates should feel that their time is respected throughout the process.

When setting up interviews, accommodate their schedules to the extent possible. Find interview times with minimal impact on their current responsibilities.

Ensure interviewers keep their commitments and show up (barring any true emergencies). Remind interviewers to put away their devices, mind their manners, and treat candidates like valued guests.

Provide candidates the information needed to evaluate the opportunity

Deciding to accept a job offer is a big decision. Best-in-class organizations do everything they can to help candidates make an informed decision. 

If a candidate is potentially relocating, give them adequate time to explore the area. Help them by giving them a lead on a real estate agent and information on schools, if applicable.

Some candidates will ask for an extra meeting with key team members (or their new boss) before accepting. Grant these requests if possible to ensure candidates feel good about the decision.

Communicate frequently throughout the candidate recruitment process

If you’ve ever searched for a new job, it’s no surprise most job seekers want better communication. Candidates want to know where they stand. Yet, too many organizations leave them hanging.

Want to stand out from other hiring organizations? Create a candidate recruitment communications plan detailing how and when you’ll provide updates. Share this with candidates along with your search timeline and process.

Of course, if you need to deviate from the plan, let candidates know. Even a “there is no update” message shows the candidate you’re being transparent.

Notify candidates of the hiring decision as soon as possible. Consider providing feedback or coaching for candidates who don’t receive an offer.

Mastering the candidate recruitment experience

Some of these candidate recruitment strategies should go without saying. But we’ve seen organizations neglect them enough to know they’re worth mentioning.

To sum up, investing in the candidate experience not only improves the recruitment process but also contributes to a positive company reputation. By valuing candidates’ time and effort, organizations can foster a culture of respect and integrity, ultimately leading to stronger employee retention and satisfaction.

The first 90 days for an executive in a new role are critical, often shaping the trajectory of their tenure. From understanding the organizational culture to building key relationships, the stakes are high. Without a structured onboarding plan, executives may struggle to make an impact and integrate successfully.

Many organizations think they are effectively tackling the job of executive onboarding by having HR meet with the new hire to fill out paperwork and benefit forms. 

However, we’ve found that the most successful organizations have a comprehensive executive onboarding plan that goes much farther. 

The importance of executive onboarding in leadership transitions

Illustrating why executive onboarding is so critical, Harvard Business Review covered the true story of one anonymous executive who moved from a Fortune 100 enterprise to head up the same kind of division in a small, but growing company.

This executive’s hard-charging style had made him very successful with his previous employer and that success led to his new job.

At the same time, the new company’s more laid-back and consensus-driven culture presented challenges that this new leader found difficult to understand and cope with.

Sadly, this newly hired executive received little onboarding beyond having his boss introduce him to his new team members and getting set up with HR.

The executive in this story never grasped his new company’s culture and ended up leaving the position after a short time.

This story illustrates one example but similar incidents frequently happen.

Many organizations fail to do a good job of onboarding executives by introducing new hires into their company culture and performance expectations.

The HBR article pointed to one worldwide survey of almost 600 executives in which about 70 percent of the respondents said that unfamiliarity with the organization’s structure or political climate caused new executives to fail much more than lack of experience or incompetence.

These are some more specific replies to the survey about problems that cause newly hired executives problems that may help you devise your own effective executive onboarding plan:

  • Poor grasp of organizational structure and culture: Almost 70%
  • Problems forging alliances with other team members: Almost 60%
  • Not grasping the business model: Almost 50%

At the same time, only one-quarter to one-third of the executives surveyed said that inexperience or lack of skill caused new executives to fail.

This data clearly highlights the need for organizations to focus more on integrating new executive hires into their company.

In our more than 30 years of recruiting, we’ve found that most organizations have some type of onboarding program.

Organizations with the highest success rates for new hires develop a more comprehensive approach to executive onboarding (setting the stage before the employee even starts and emphasizing cultural as well as political awareness).

Key components of a comprehensive onboarding plan

Creating an effective executive onboarding plan involves several key components that play a crucial role in facilitating a smooth transition for the newly appointed executive.

Clear role definition and expectations

It is essential to outline and communicate the specific roles, responsibilities, and expectations for the new executive. This clarity ensures alignment with organizational objectives, minimizes ambiguity, and sets the stage for a productive and impactful integration into the company.

Cultural immersion and organizational understanding

Cultural immersion and gaining a deep understanding of the organization’s values, mission, and vision are vital for the executive’s success. This insight enables the executive to align their leadership style, decision-making, and strategies with the organizational culture, fostering a sense of belonging and commitment.

Strategic networking and relationship building

Facilitating opportunities for strategic networking and relationship building is crucial for the new executive to establish meaningful connections within the organization. Building professional relationships with key stakeholders, colleagues, and other leaders cultivates collaboration, trust, and a strong foundation for future endeavors.

Access to key resources and information

Providing seamless access to essential resources, tools, and information equips the new executive with the necessary support to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. This access empowers them to make informed decisions, navigate challenges, and contribute to the organization’s success from the outset.

Best practices for implementing an effective onboarding plan

As you develop an executive onboarding plan, it’s crucial to consider the best practices that ensure a seamless integration process for new executives. By tailoring the onboarding experience to each executive’s unique needs, experiences, and skill set, you can lay a solid foundation for their success within the organization.

Personalized onboarding experience

Personalization is key to a successful onboarding process. Tailoring the plan to fit the individual background, goals, and challenges of each executive can lead to a more effective transition. Understanding their specific requirements and aligning the onboarding process with their expectations fosters a sense of belonging and ownership from day one.

Engagement and feedback mechanisms

Creating avenues for ongoing feedback and engagement is pivotal in the onboarding journey. By establishing mechanisms for executives to voice their concerns, provide input, and receive continuous support, you foster a culture of openness and collaboration. Regular check-ins, mentorship programs, and dedicated feedback channels can ensure that executives feel valued and supported throughout their integration.

Continuous evaluation and adaptation

An effective onboarding plan should not remain static. Continuous evaluation and adaptation are essential to align the onboarding process with changing organizational needs and individual executive requirements. By regularly assessing the effectiveness of the onboarding program, you can identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to enhance the overall experience for incoming executives.

By incorporating these best practices into your executive onboarding plan, you can create a supportive and empowering environment for new executives, setting the stage for their long-term success within the organization.

Organizational alignment and integration

Ultimately, a well-structured onboarding plan ensures that new executives understand the company’s culture, goals, and expectations right from the start. It also facilitates faster decision-making, reduces ramp-up time, and minimizes disruptions, leading to improved organizational performance. Investing time and resources into creating an effective executive onboarding plan is a strategic move that pays off in the long run, benefiting both the new executives and the organization as a whole.

Hiring a top executive is not something to be undertaken lightly, but unfortunately, too many organizations have an unnecessarily long hiring process and it’s costing them good talent. In today’s candidate-driven market, it’s imperative to know how to shorten time to hire.

Your CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO, and other executives are responsible for effectively and efficiently leading your organization towards its goals. Without them, your middle managers and other employees lack the guidance and support they need to keep everyday operations running smoothly.

Unfortunately, even the best people move on to other opportunities, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself looking to fill a top executive position within a short period of time. Nevertheless, especially when it comes to a high profile role, should never let speed get in the way of making the right hire. The following pointers will help you shorten time to hire, without sacrificing quality.

Best practices for hiring efficiently

Know exactly what the position entails

Make sure you have an accurate overview of the role’s responsibilities and the skills required to fulfill them. This goes beyond simply looking at tasks — it also means knowing what kind of relationships need to be built with customers and partners, what kind of strategic planning is involved, and what type of leadership style is required. It can be helpful to speak with subject matter experts either within your own organization or in your network to gain more insights.

Know what characteristics would make for a good fit 

Create a psychographic profile of the ideal candidate. This profile should describe the hard and soft skills he or she needs to succeed — not just within the role, but also within your company culture. For example, if your organization has a matrixed structure, then you’ll need an executive who knows how to facilitate collaboration between teams as opposed to someone whose leadership style is more siloed and top-down.

Use your internal pipeline 

Succession planning within your organization is key to getting top executive talent faster. Invest in your high-potential talent, giving them the skills and experience they need to advance when an opportunity arises. That way, they’ll not only possess the exact qualifications you’re looking for and know your organization inside and out; they’re also more likely to be loyal to you over time than incoming talent.

Nurture your contacts and leverage referrals 

As you build your network, make a note of people who might, under the right circumstances, be a good fit for your organization at some point in time. Keep in mind that people who are happy in their current roles can suddenly want to move for any number of reasons — such as the right opportunity coming along. In addition, referrals from your network, as well as from current employees, often make for the most successful hires. However, since you’re recruiting for an executive position, discretion is advised. First of all, you don’t want it known that one of your key roles is or will be open since it could reflect badly on your organization, especially if the position is open for a long time. And second, you don’t want to compromise anyone else’s standing with their current employer.

Work with an executive search firm 

Executive recruiters have extensive networks of top-quality candidates — including individuals you might otherwise never hear of. Since they already have established relationships with them, they possess insights into what kind of roles potential talent would be open to considering and can act as intermediaries for you.

Recruit executive talent from struggling organizations 

Unfortunately, there are always good organizations that are struggling. The good news is that their loss can be your gain since oftentimes, their top talent will be looking for better opportunities. Research organizations in your industry that aren’t doing well, and evaluate the LinkedIn profiles of their executives to see if there’s a potential match. It’s also important to note that a growing number of organizations are hiring from other industries because sometimes a fresh look can inject a boost of creativity into an organization and propel it to the next level.

Have a candidate shortlist 

To shorten time to hire, always make sure that you’re considering more than one candidate for the position. This might be challenging for executive roles, but the wider you cast your net, the more realistic it becomes.

Interview rigorously

When you’ve found an interesting candidate, you need to use the interview process to your advantage to make sure he or she is a good fit. Discuss the candidate’s experience and qualifications, find out his or her reasons for leaving their current position, and ask why he or she is interested in your organization. You should also determine what the candidate’s long-term career objectives are and how this role fits into that picture. In addition, ask questions about the candidate’s vision for fulfilling the role, as well as how he or she would handle a specific challenge or opportunity that the organization is currently dealing with. It can also be helpful to get team input, especially when it comes to gauging cultural fit. Your people don’t have to personally like the candidate, but it’s critical that they respect the individual and can accept leadership from him or her.

Know what you can bring to the negotiation table

Good executives aren’t a dime a dozen. The best candidates are worth something — and they know it. When you find a candidate whom you believe is the best match and you want to make an offer, know exactly what you can bring to the negotiation table, including salary, benefits, perks, relocation package, career development opportunities, and more. By knowing up front where you need to draw the line, you can avoid wasting time going back to HR to see if you can offer more.

Balance speed and taking the time to get it right

Your executives are the backbone of your organization. That’s why, whether you hire from within or recruit from outside your organization, it’s essential to find professionals who don’t just possess the right skills, but also fit into your culture and share your vision for your organization’s future. Just remember that by keeping the above pointers in mind, the effort you invest in your executive search might be intense, but it’s also likely to yield a positive result and shorten time to hire.

Need to hire remote employees?  Here’s what you need to know to ensure you make successful hires for remote team members working from home.

Attracting and hiring a new candidate may differ depending on the requirements and the position or the industry, but generally, many of the concepts remain the same across sectors. But how does the hiring process change when your company is seeking applicants to hire remotely?

You’ll of course still want to identify high-level, talented candidates who can bring value to your organization. But what specific skills should work-from-home applicants possess? What other considerations should you watch out for when hiring a completely remote candidate? And how can you assess these issues during an interview?

Let’s take a deeper dive into the recruitment process and how it differs when seeking a candidate for a work-from-home environment.

What skills should you look for when hiring remote employees?

When you look to hire someone, you’re looking for a specific set of skills based on the position and the responsibilities associated with it. The same mindset applies when you’re looking to hire remote employees.  There are additional skills and attributes you’ll want in a full-time remote employee that helps them succeed in a work-from-home environment. Those skills include:


As much as you’ll want to keep this employee included in daily team communications and make them feel like a part of the company culture, there will be plenty of time where they’ll need to work independently. Without being physically located in the office, it’s important for remote workers to be self-starting and motivated with minimal direction. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to give them guidance, but looking for independent workers for this spot is a plus.


All of your team members will ideally be well-organized, but it’s especially important for any remote workers who won’t have a physical presence at your facility. This moves beyond just keeping track of computer files and paperwork, though that plays a role in it. It means being able to participate in project planning. With each project, you’ll want someone who can identify a goal, create milestones and deliverables that will help it get closer to completion, and establish a deadline to finish the project. They should then hold the appropriate team members (or themselves) accountable until the project is done.


A remote worker isn’t going to be able to congregate with their fellow employees by the coffee machine. They can’t simply pop into their supervisor’s office for a chat about a project’s status. This means that inevitably, they’ll miss out on opportunities to communicate with other team members that someone in the office will get to participate in.

That’s why you should look to hire a good communicator – someone who understands the importance of establishing regular and open channels of communication. You’ll want someone who does a great job articulating their goals via phone calls or video conferences. They should also be able to design documents (i.e. memos, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) that concisely and comprehensively summarize topics or projects they’re working on.

Proactive vs. reactive

Finally, another critical skill for remote workers to have is the ability to approach their work with a proactive posture rather than a reactive one. You’ll want someone who’s looking to anticipate challenges rather than respond to them. Someone who can come to a supervisor, manager, or executive with a solution to an issue before it develops into a problem.

Other considerations when you hire remote employees

The candidate’s skill set is crucial in determining whether or not they’ll be a good fit for a full-time remote position. But those skills aren’t the only aspect of the candidate you should take into consideration. Below are a few other things you’ll want to take into account when assessing them:


What hours is the candidate available for? It’s important to establish that even though the individual is working from home, there will still be core operating hours during which they’ll need to be responsive. This is especially important if they’re located outside your company office’s time zone.

IT requirements

Every remote worker needs at least two things: a working computer and an internet connection. Does your company furnish your employees’ equipment, or is it a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) set up in which they’ll need to have their own computer? If it’s the latter, do they currently have a device with the proper specifications? Do they have a reliable internet connection from their home wireless network?

Distraction-free workspace

Does the employee have a dedicated space in their home in which to work? Do they have a distraction-free environment? This can be a tough topic to tackle, but it is important to make sure they’re not encumbered by family (or any other type of) commitments during the day.  Many employers are being extremely flexible about this right now, but potential employees should be able to articulate a plan for how they’ll juggle competing priorities at home and fit in their work.

How to assess critical skills during the interview process

Once you’ve determined what skills you value most in a candidate for a remote position, you’ll need to assess the candidate to figure out if they actually possess these qualities. There are a few ways you can do that during the interview process:

  • Ask them how they plan to communicate with their direct reports and/or supervisors.
  • Request work samples – specifically larger projects that involved detailed project plans. Ask them for details on the planning process. Get an idea for how they go about setting up a project as well as how they execute it.
  • Do they have experience working remotely? If so, ask them how they organized their day. This will help you gauge the importance they place on time management.
  • Take note of how they make their points. Do they do so in a cogent, easy-to-understand manner? What kind of questions are they asking? Are they good at communicating?

If you identify an elite candidate that’s the kind of person you want in your organization, the chances are high that they’ll check all these boxes. But the skills and considerations listed above are all key items you’ll want to address and watch out for when working through the process of hiring remote employees.

Ensuring remote employee performance

Not everyone is cut out for remote work. If you seek out an employee with a strong track record of independent work and clear communication skills, chances are they will succeed in a remote work environment. By implementing a thorough and transparent onboarding process and providing ongoing support and feedback, remote employees can thrive and contribute to the success of the team and the organization as a whole.

When you’re hiring a recruiter to fill a critical open position, it is important that you select the right executive search partner. 

If you turn your search over to an inexperienced recruiter you could end up making a bad hire, having your position vacant for an extended period of time, or making an offer to a candidate who backs out or fails to show up.  The stakes are high.  

Here are 7 questions you should ask before hiring a recruiter to make sure your executive search will end in a successful outcome: efficiently hiring a candidate who thrives at your organization. 

1. How long have you been doing executive recruiting?

Successful executive recruiters have robust networks and excel at relationship building.  If you want a firm that will succeed at finding the right candidate for your open position, look at how long they have been in business. 

The executive search industry is highly competitive with firms coming and going so if a company has been successful over the long haul you know they’re doing something right. (Kirby Partners has been conducting executive searches since 1989 and we’ve seen many search firms go out of business during this time.)

2. What is your executive search process?

Before you hire a recruiter to find an executive on your behalf, you’ll want to have a clear idea of what exactly they’ll be doing. If they can’t concisely explain their methodology, that’s a red flag. 

The best executive search firms have a clear process outlined for project managing your search. 

Make sure you ask about the ways the search firm accesses passive candidates on your behalf.  Frequently top candidates are already employed so they’re unlikely to be looking on job boards for a new position.  You’ll want a search partner who identifies and reaches out to “passive” candidates who would be a good fit for your organization rather than solely posting your opportunity and seeing who applies. 

3. Can you tell me about some successful executive searches you have completed?

You have two goals with this question. First, you’re looking for the types of results they’ve generated for their clients.  Ideally, they should be able to articulate how they have driven results for clients of similar scale and scope to yours. 

Second, you’re also looking to see how they define success.  Listen for how long it typically takes for them to provide a slate of qualified candidates, how long the average tenure is of placed candidates, and how they follow-up after the search is completed to ensure their clients are satisfied.  

4. What organizations have you worked with in my industry before?

Though best practices don’t necessarily change based on the client’s type of business, it can be helpful to hire a recruiter with experience in your industry because it ensures they have the expertise needed to understand candidates’ qualifications. 

It also means they’re more likely to have the connections needed to uncover the best candidates.  We’ve found that candidates are more likely to take our calls when they’ve met us or know us from industry events like CHIME and the Scottsdale Institute meetings.

5. Can you provide references?

If the recruiting firm can’t provide at least 3 references of satisfied clients, with names and phone numbers, then you should keep looking.

Assuming you get the 3 references, call the people and ask them about their experiences, including the type of search they used the recruiting firm for, the outcome, and whether they would use the search firm again. 

6. What fees do you charge? 

Most retained search firms charge a percentage of the hired candidate’s first year’s salary.

When you receive a quote, it’s important to determine whether the percentage is charged on base and bonus, or just base.  Some firms will take a cut of relocation expenses and many search firms will charge administrative fees of around 10% in addition to the search fees. 

(Kirby Partners doesn’t charge administrative fees making us highly competitive in terms of fees.)

7. What type of guarantee do you offer?

Offering a guarantee of 12 months is pretty standard for an executive placement. 

This typically means that if the candidate is released by your organization for performance related issues during the first twelve months of employment, the search firm conducts a new search to replace the candidate for no additional search fee (charging only expenses incurred).

Supercharge your hiring

Ultimately, hiring an executive search firm can greatly enhance your chances of finding a top-tier executive for your organization. The right partner will offer valuable expertise in identifying and attracting high-caliber candidates to your organization.

Trying to fill a key executive position without the help of an executive search firm is a lot like listing your house “for sale by owner”— it may feel like there are major advantages to the DIY approach, but hiring an executive search firm usually yields great benefit.

Just like some homeowners believe an FSBO approach will give them a better outcome, many organizations start trying to find executive candidates on their own.

Common reasons we hear for not hiring an executive search firm include:

  • Wanting full control over the process
  • The belief that a recruiting firm won’t understand their unique culture
  • Attempting to save money
  • The perception that they have all of the right resources to find candidates on your own (with LinkedIn at everyone’s fingertips, it can seem deceptively easy to source candidates on your own.)
  • Feeling like a recruiting firm can’t “sell” their organization the way they can
  • Difficulty getting the organization aligned on the need to use a search firm

Though some of these reasons can be valid, a good executive search firm can work around these challenges while adding significant value to the process.

Why use an executive search firm?

In a candidate-driven market, most hiring managers indicate attracting top talent is their number one challenge.

After posting their executive job online, organizations quickly find themselves inundated with resumes, mostly from unqualified candidates.

Often the best candidates are already employed and not actively looking for a new role, so they’re typically missed by traditional in-house recruiting methods.

While an internal recruiter has important knowledge about the organization’s culture, data shows that they often struggle filling more technical and executive positions. Hiring managers overwhelmingly report that internal recruiters don’t have an adequate understanding of the jobs for which they recruit.

It’s important to note that making a hiring mistake can be expensive (by some estimates as much as 30% of the executive’s first-year annual salary).

While on the surface it may seem that you’ll save money and have more control over the search process, it’s important to fully consider whether you’ll get the expected benefits from taking the DIY approach instead of hiring an executive search firm.

Why partner with Kirby Partners for your executive search needs?

As an award-winning executive search firm, here’s how Kirby Partners adds significant value to your executive hiring process.

Providing access to passive candidates

Frequently top candidates are already employed so they’re unlikely to be looking on job boards for a new position.

Our team regularly communicates with leaders at healthcare and cybersecurity industry events so we know which executives aren’t actively seeking a new role, but would consider it if the right position came along.

At Kirby Partners, a key part of our strategy is identifying and reaching out to “passive” candidates who would be a good fit for your organization rather than solely posting your opportunity and seeing who applies.

Offering guidance on exactly what you need in a leader

If you’re like many organizations and don’t have full alignment on your needs (or have differing opinions), we’ll help you define exactly what you need in a leader. Sometimes
it’s a slightly different candidate profile than you have in mind who would be most effective.

Top executives need to possess the technical and soft skills for their role — plus, they need to be a good cultural match for your organization.

Fostering diversity

We focus exclusively in healthcare and cybersecurity so we know the market and can advise you on the candidate pool. To ensure a diverse slate of candidates, your position will be posted on our website, social media accounts, and on select diversity job boards, including

When your position is marketed through multiple channels, using the right messaging and high-quality visuals, it gets noticed. Not all backgrounds of candidates are well-represented at the executive level.

We help level the playing field by conducting research to identify profiles of up-and-coming leaders and executives in other industries who may possess the qualities you are seeking. (We believe diverse teams make strong teams. That’s why Kirby Partners had taken the Parity Pledge for our hires.)

Sharing knowledge about the candidate pool

Kirby Partners knows which candidates look good on paper, but are unlikely to succeed in your organization.

Some candidates might look good on their résumé but prove to be challenging to work with for any number of reasons.

Perhaps they have a hard time fitting into a new company’s culture, or maybe they fail to keep up to date on new developments.

Experienced executive recruiters such as the Kirby Partners team are aware of these factors and can save organizations a lot of time and resources by not including this type of candidate in their selection process.

We conduct thorough reference checks, and dive into the potential of each candidate to see whether their career objectives are a match for the position.

Ensuring cultural fit

Visiting your organization in-person or virtually and meeting with stakeholders for your position is a critical part of our process. We excel at asking the “right” questions to help us understand your business, dive into the requirements of your role and familiarize ourselves with your company culture.

That way, we can select candidates who possess all of the required qualities to thrive in the position.

Crafting a competitive offer

Our executive recruiters know the competitive landscape — plus, they know what’s important to our candidates. That means that once your organization has selected a candidate and wants to make an offer, our recruiters can offer advice regarding a competitive salary and benefits package, as well as other perks.

Across the country cities and states are enacting salary history bans, forbidding hiring authorities from asking job candidates about their compensation and benefit histories—this new legislation will be “game changing” for hiring organizations.

We’re here to help you navigate these changes and attract the best candidates to your organization.

Evaluating your internal talent so everyone is treated equitably

If you have internal applicants, we’ll review their candidacy and will help you identify anyone whose leadership potential may have been overlooked.

Managing your employer brand

Just like a homeowner stages a home, it’s in your company’s best interest to present itself in the best light possible.

We excel at helping you craft an exceptional candidate experience and onboarding process to set your new hire up for success.

The Kirby Partners advantage

Finding top candidates is a time-consuming process that often involves multiple people and several steps.

Working with a top executive search firm like Kirby Partners offers many benefits to organizations — and those benefits far outweigh any perceived advantages of a DIY search.

By working with a team of experienced professionals whose job it is to select and place top talent in the right work environments, you can find the executives you need to help drive your organization to the next level.

We’ve helped healthcare organizations “Hire for Impact” since 1989.

We’d welcome the opportunity to partner with you to add value to your next executive search. Contact us today for more information about our services.