…How to lose a great VP or any other A+Player

This is a $150 million company that’s managed to survive with the CEO and two or three salespeople that have come and gone. Both the CEO and the newly promoted CRO ( who got promoted out of  engineering because the CEO had done such a miserable job at managing sales and the sales force which kept turning over) decided that they really needed to find a top-notch VP (A+ player) to really reorganize and build a sales organization.

The CEO calls and communicates the company’s sincere commitment to finding the right person. She states that neither she nor the CRO really like or know sales, but in order for them to grow they are going to have to find a really first-class VP. Our firm goes through more than 100 candidates and comes up with five excellent people, who the CEO and CRO interview.

The CRO carries on most of the communications with the two final candidates and it seems like the CRO does most of the interviewing and coordinating of the candidates. He does a fairly decent job of communicating what he “thinks” the company needs to each one of the candidates. Unfortunately, after they claim they are going to have the two candidates back they start postponing the interviewing process. They came up with all kinds of excuses… COVID-19, vacations, business trips. But they keep telling us that the two candidates are the best they’ve seen and (words that always seemed dubious to us, “We’re going to hire one of these guys.”)

What had been fairly open communications between the candidates and the CRO all of a sudden started dying down. The candidates would email and call and eventually get no returns of either kind.

This goes on for about three weeks. We tried to explain in emails and voicemails to both the CEO and the CRO that our candidates are losing interest, mostly because they are feeling neglected. Both are employed and, although not that unhappy, very interested in the position. Or at least they were!

So much time elapsed that the CRO decided he wanted to interview the candidates again. He didn’t really say that he wanted to “start over” but said that he wanted to get “re-refreshed” with the candidates. His lack of experience in the real sales world was showing. And, his fear of making a mistake was too.

One of the candidates was pretty irritated about the whole thing. He agreed to talk with them again but he certainly wasn’t feeling loved or that hiring him…or anyone, was a high priority. The second candidate seemed just as interested as he had been before, but told us that the situation at his company had changed and he wasn’t sure how that change was going to affect him.

We communicated all of this to the CRO. We had written the CRO and the CEO a number of weeks before this that when things drag on like this, candidates not only lose interest but the company appears indecisive about making decisions. They both acknowledged our warnings, but didn’t really change their activity. They told us that hiring someone was important, but they certainly didn’t act like it.

They brought both candidates back. Unfortunately, the CRO basically interviewed them as though he had never met with them before. He asked the same questions he had asked almost a month previously and both candidates were beginning to feel like they were wasting their time and really could not see much point in the interviews. He then informed them that they would both have to speak to the CEO..again.

Believe it or not, the CEO told us that she wanted to speak with the candidates again but couldn’t for at least two weeks. We tried to explain to the CRO directly that this was just getting to be too much and we ran the risk of losing both candidates.

And that is what happened. The first candidate told us that he just didn’t feel like the organization was committed to finding a good candidate. His assumption was that they were going to treat him as an employee the way they were treating him as a candidate. (It was very hard to argue with that.) The second candidate’s situation at his company changed to the point where, since he wasn’t really excited about the new opportunity, he was going to wait and see what was going to happen at his present firm.

As of Friday, we don’t really know what our client is going to do. Experience has taught us that they will either start all over or postpone the whole thing because they have created such a mess, they really don’t look good. My bet is that there is a 75% chance they will postpone the whole thing. Leaders in companies, especially inexperienced ones, simply don’t like doing interviewing and hiring. They obviously don’t do it well, look poor at doing it and are just plain afraid. When most folks are subtly afraid, they do nothing. They avoid the elephant in the room.

This is one way of losing a great VP candidate!

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