There are a couple of exercises you just have to do when you go to hire your first VPs. Because the cost of a mis-hire is so high. It’s not just the money, and the recruiting fee. It’s all the lost time. And the wrong hires that VP will make. A bad VP will set you 6-15 months back. You can’t afford that.
The best exercise is to have them do a 60-day plan. At least, as a penultimate step before they start. This helps make sure the new VP and you are on the same page on priorities and goals. More on that here:
As part of that, usually, you’ll get a priority list. Not always though.
So if you do the 60-day plan and don’t get a prioritized list, or just want to ask the candidate to do something less burdensome than a full 60-day plan (at least at first), ask her or him to make a list of what they’d do when they start.
A priority list isn’t quite as useful as a 60-day plan, but it’s much simpler to put together. And often close to as telling.
A basic list, in a Google Doc or whatever form.
This list of priorities will be profoundly useful to you.
- First, anything they don’t put on the list, they don’t know how to do or don’t value. That may be OK. But at least you know up front.
- Second, even if they don’t realize it, they are always force-ranking the list. Almost everyone puts their top priorities at the top of the list. Not always, but almost always.
- Third, any VP will really will only end up doing and improving 3-4 top things in the end. So this list can help surface those 3-4 things. Usually, at the top of the list. And ask the candidate, when she gives you a list of 30-40 things she wants to do as your new VP, which are the Top 3-4. That’s all she’ll really do.
And that may be OK. But you’ll need to give up on getting the items on the list from 5-50 for now, or backfill it with other hires, or at least have those initiatives done with less commitment.
Asking a VP candidate to put together a simple priority list isn’t a big ask, at least for a 2nd or 3d meeting. It’s a great vehicle to use for a second interview. And you’ll quickly see what they really value. What they think they are good at. And what, realistically, they won’t get to.