What non-family executive candidates want to know

By Barbara Spector

Hiring non-family members for senior positions involves more than assessing candidates leadership qualities and track records. Family business leaders who are recruiting non-family executives also use the interview process to determine whether the candidates will fit in with the company culture.

Executives who are interviewing for top positions in family companies have some questions of their own. Jennifer Pendergast, who leads the family business advisory at Egon Zehnder, a global recruiting firm, lists some questions candidates would like to have answered:

• How many executives from outside the organization have joined the company in the recent past?
• Why does the company want to bring in an outside professional now?
• How does the family interact with the business? Are they very engaged? Would owners not working in the company feel entitled to contact me directly with questions?
• Have there been family issues in the past that have created challenges for management?
• Will the board chair role always be held by a family member, or would a non-family chairman be considered?
• Would young family members be working under my direction?

Jack Ouellette, the non-family executive chairman and former CEO at family-owned American Textile Company, says candidates are wondering if there is uniform buy-in to the culture and if family members are held to the same culture compliance standards as non-family members.

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