A Pause for Thought

A Pause for Thought

Approached recently by a rapidly growing engineering firm in the aerospace & defence sector to discuss the recruitment of a Deputy as a potential successor to the CEO in a few years’ time, the following are examples of the types of questions we ask our clients to consider in such a situation before embarking on the assignment and employing ETL to prepare and undertake the recruitment. It has been prepared by Michael Smith who would lead the assignment with the support of Jason Crabtree:


  • Have you a clear idea where you are taking the business in, say, three to five years’ time, and why?

  • Also, have you identified the principal steps to get there?  If so, what are they?

  • Against the answers to the questions above, how would the new recruit assist you?

  • What do you wish your new deputy to achieve in the short and longer-terms, by priority order and approximate timescales?

  • With the above in mind, what would be the new incumbent’s principal duties?  Would any further duties be added over time; if so, what are they likely to be?

  • What responsibilities, authorities and limitations would you place on the new incumbent?

  • With all the above in mind, what essential experiences and knowledge would the new incumbent require, and what would be desirable? These must be demonstrably successful.

  • Likewise, what skills and personal attributes would the new incumbent require, and what would be desirable?  These also must be demonstrably successful.

  • And finally on this theme, what qualifications & previous training would the new incumbent require?

  • Where would the new incumbent be employed; how much travel would be involved in the job, and where most likely to?

  • How would you ‘sell’ the role to the candidates?  With this in mind you would need to consider carefully the appointment from the candidate’s viewpoint, not just your own.  Remember, just because you make an offer does not mean your preferred candidate should accept it!  There should be a benefit to both parties. 

  • What opportunities, in addition to potential succession, could you offer the short-list candidates, especially in relation to their further career/business/professional advancement that would benefit your company while you are in post - and beyond?

  • You would need to show your short-list candidates your factory.  How would you explain their presence?

  • What information are you prepared to give the short-list candidates, including financial details?

  • You may need to gain agreement from short-list candidates to sign NDAs. 

  • When would you introduce your preferred candidates to your existing executives, if only because the former will wish to meet the people they will be working with & leading/managing.

  • How would you explain succession to the candidates and your existing executives?

  • How would you remunerate your deputy?  What would be the split between salary and incentive?  What would be the start level of the former; and how would the latter be gained & applied?

  • With incentives in mind, and thinking ahead, how would you measure your deputy’s performance and then link that to the incentive scheme and his/her potential to succeed you?

  • How would this remuneration affect your other executives?  What changes may you have to make?

  • What would be the other elements of the remuneration package?

  • What would be the other terms of engagement, including notice periods both ways?

  • Would relocation expenses be available if required, and what would the maximum be?

  • Would you use advertising, search, or a combination of the two, to undertake the recruitment?  If advertising were involved, how would you explain the recruitment to your current executives?

  • Have you costed this recruitment and can you fund it; not just the recruitment exercise cost, but the ongoing cost of the new incumbent?

  • Are you sure one or more of your present executives could not fill this appointment?  If they could, who are they?

  • Who amongst your current contacts might be suitable for this role?

  • Which companies would you NOT wish to recruit from?

  • Which companies, that you know of, are most likely to have a suitable recruit?

  • Must the candidates must come from the aerospace industry?  If not, what other industries, such as defence and automotive, might be suitable?

  • Before interviewing, have you done as much due diligence as you can on your short-list candidates?

  • Have you checked candidate qualifications and references?

  • Before making an offer of employment, are there any outstanding limitations of employment carrying over from the candidate’s last/current appointment?  If so, how would you deal with them?

  • When do you want the new recruit in post? 

  • Would there be a probationary period and, if so, how long?

  • What would you include in the recruit’s induction programme?  

  • What would you include in the individual’s development programme so they can work towards being able to replace you?  What would the required outputs and milestones be?

  • Regarding the above, would you have sufficient time to mentor your deputy?  How would you balance that with your ongoing role?

  • Recognising when you want the new incumbent in post, and the likelihood of a notice period with the existing employer, when do you want the recruitment exercise to commence?  How much time flexibility do you have?

  • If you would like to engage ETL for this task we would need to agree an appointment specification with you, plus all other relevant matters as suggested above.  

  • If so, when would you like to meet again to discuss and finalise matters?  At that time we would wish to visit your factory and offices to gain a feeling for the culture the new incumbent would be working in.  We would then prepare an Assignment Brief for ETL to work against which we would send to you for comment, alteration as necessary, and agreement.

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