As a talent acquisition leader, you’re a problem-solver. When you’re tasked with tracking down a rainbow unicorn pegasus candidate, you somehow discover a way to find the unfindable. But there’s one seemingly straightforward req that will inevitably come your way that is loaded with hidden complexities.
What’s the dreaded req? Hiring your own boss. At some point in your career, a frugal or cash-strapped employer won’t want to pay a search firm, and you’ll be asked to hire your own boss. (Org charts will vary, but let’s say it’s the VP of People for our purposes here.)
At the outset, being entrusted with hiring one’s own boss can be seen as a flattering vote of confidence, but don’t let your guard down. There are a host of potential conflicts of interest with this search.
Your core group of stakeholders for this most senior position are unlikely to align spontaneously on what “good” looks like for the role. That means there’s some real risk as you try to cater to disparate expectations.
How might this play out in real life?
- One stakeholder might think you’re moving too many candidates forward because you don’t really know, or care, what the company needs from the critical role.
- Another might think you’re moving too few candidates forward because you don’t want a new boss pushing you to work harder.
- If you put forward candidates who are strong in TA, some might perceive you as not caring enough about the business’s needs in other HR sub-disciplines.
- If you put forward candidates who are weak in TA, others may perceive you as not wanting a boss who’d push you to raise your game.
As you can see, it’s a minefield of perceived conflicts of interest. After building up a bank of trust by hiring for all the other departments and roles for years, trying to hire your own boss can blow it all up. Kind of unfair, right? After all, the director of engineering isn’t tasked with hiring their boss. The VP of accounting isn’t asked to find the CFO. Yet you’re the exception.
What Can You Do?
There’s a reason why members of the Justice Department must recuse themselves from an investigation in which they may be personally involved. Or why the American Medical Association recommends that doctors don’t treat their own family members. Likewise, it’s worth it for you to point out that this is a situation where you may be unable to be as objective as you’d like.
That doesn’t mean you must recuse yourself entirely. You can still consult on the process, but you’ll need to put some protective scaffolding in place:
Facilitate alignment of stakeholders using objective data. One way you can add value to the process is by identifying which skills are most important for the role. For instance, you might provide a template of job requirements from a neutral source like SHRM. You can then encourage the interview panel (excluding you) to customize that template based on your company’s unique needs…