Mr. McHale has conducted multiple executive search assignments within the public sector technology marketplace, encompassing many functions of the executive suite with a concentration on CEO/general management, sales and marketing, as well as technology roles.
Prior to joining Korn Ferry in 1998, Mr. McHale was an executive with several other search firms headquartered in both the United States and in Australia.
Before entering executive search, he worked for Camrus Publishers, a publishing firm, and moved to Washington, D.C. to help establish a magazine venture in the United States. His career began in London, working as an account executive for Sloangate Ltd, a human resource and advertising firm.
Mr. McHale holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Portsmouth University in the United Kingdom.
ExecutiveBiz had the opportunity to catch up with McHale and ask for his perspective on the items candidates ought to consider when accepting a new position.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the top three items candidates take into consideration when accepting a new position?
Rob McHale: Accepting a new role at the C-Suite level is an important life decision for any executive. At Korn Ferry, most senior executives that we approach to fill top roles are typically high-performers and well-respected within their current companies. They will have built up political capital, they will have constructed a dedicated team around them and, in most cases, will be in situations of minimal risk if they are performing well.
Given this backdrop, I typically advise candidates to consider the following elements before accepting a new role. First and foremost, they should give a lot of thought to their future career track and trajectory. Key questions such as “What is your ultimate career destination and goal?” For example, perhaps the candidate’s goal is to become a CEO. If that is the case, (s)he needs to carefully consider if the new role equips him/her with the appropriate career experience for that destination position. Specifically, does the role provide Board exposure? Does the role provide material impact on the greater success of the company? Does the role provide a broad-based view of the strategic and operating functions of the company to include Finance, M&A, HR, Legal, etc.? In short, does the role provide the stepping stone experience critical to the candidate’s achievement of his/her career goals.
Another critical and non-negotiable item to thoroughly check is the alignment of the candidate’s values, culture, and operating style with that of the company they are joining. Most candidates who are hired have the industry skills, domain background and track record required for success. However, it is often the case that the experienced candidate fails to be successful in his/her new company environment. The stark reality is that candidate success pivots on mutual alignment of values, culture and operating style between the new candidate and the new company. Savvy candidates and clients will do their homework on this issue before accepting a new role. Candidates should conduct their own cross-referencing where possible with senior candidates both in and outside of the company they are planning to join, to test for culture and values fit and, vice versa, smart companies will invest in assessment tools and referencing to better understand the values and cultural drivers of the candidates they hire.
Candidates should also look at the competitive position of company in the industry relative to its competitors. Is it a first mover? Does the company have differentiated technology or offerings? Is the industry mature or growing? What is its reputation? To the extent possible, candidates should also attempt to ascertain the status of the company with respect to the likelihood of it being sold or acquired. Other elements to assess would be the quality/pedigree of the leadership team, Board and investors of the company they are joining. Expectations of company relative to resources, financial backing and timeline for success is also another element for the candidate to consider.
Another essential element for the candidate to consider when accepting a new position has to be the economic drivers. Unless someone is independently wealthy, the financial rewards are typically a critical factor. A candidate can learn a lot about a company’s operating philosophy, growth-orientation, and its appetite for risk based on the compensation structure. Key considerations outside of the standard base salary would be the performance compensation model and longer-term incentive compensation, specifically how those elements are structured.
Finally, other items to consider before accepting would be the company’s position on non-compete and general employment agreement terms and conditions. At some point, most executives will look to advance in their careers and change companies and will have to address potentially contentious non-compete agreements that they should have negotiated more carefully when they first joined.