Regardless of the motivators for hiring, welcoming a new General Manager to your business has the potential to be transformational. This is a business-critical role, responsible for laying the foundation of operational performance for the entire organisation.

Making the right hiring decision is critical. And that starts with having clarity on role purpose and the “ideal” candidate who would succeed in the role, complemented by a transparent and thorough search and recruitment process.

At Decipher Group, we are industry experts in the recruitment of executive and c-suite level professionals for New Zealand and Australian businesses. We’re sharing our top tips and advice for hiring a new General Manager.

General Manager Recruitment Checklist

To supplement your existing recruitment approach and process, we recommend adhering to the following checklist for hiring a General Manager.

Click on the graphic to download a pdf.

Now let’s do a deep dive into some of the checklist items.

Hiring A General Manager

So, you need to hire a General Manager (GM). Perhaps you are replacing a departing employee or creating a role in response to a business need, and the obvious conclusion was to recruit a GM. Regardless of the situation, it is important to reflect on what’s driving that decision.

Creating new roles or backfilling existing vacancies isn’t a task to take lightly or completed in an ad hoc manner with disregard for your overall people strategy. Particularly for senior level roles.

What to consider:

  • Good Organisational Design takes your business strategy and translates it into a list of what you need to succeed. It is a strategic process that involves the creation of roles, processes and structures to ensure that an organisation’s goals can be realised.
  • Investing time in Succession Planning will give you the confidence to deal with personnel changes in your organisation. From planned talent transitions through to sudden leadership departures, succession planning enables you to stay ahead of the curve.

General Manager Job Requirements

Given the seniority of the role, the key responsibilities for a General Manager revolve around leadership – leadership of people, organisational leadership, and leadership of operational performance.

This is in contrast to mid or lower tier roles which are primarily focused on delivering operational performance. A well-used descriptor is that the General Manager works on the business, not in the business.

According to Harvard Business Review, there are six key foundational tasks central to the role of General Manager. These include:

  1. Shaping the work environment
  2. Setting strategy
  3. Allocating resources
  4. Developing managers
  5. Building the organisation
  6. Overseeing operations

As explained by HBR, the reason for being clear on the tasks to be performed for a role is that it helps you “define the scope of the job, set priorities, and see important interrelationships among these areas of activity”.

There’s more to hiring well than simply crafting the right role, you also need to have clarity on the experience, technical skills, soft skills, cultural fit – including values, beliefs and outlook – as well as the “potential” of the right person for the role.

This is typically covered in the position description, by including a brief person specification which outlines the skills, experience, qualifications and behaviours required to perform the role. But at this level, more consideration is required.

Gaining consensus on the type of person who would succeed in a role can be challenging. A useful approach, widely used by professional recruiters, is to create a Candidate Profile. While a job description focuses on describing the job, a candidate profile is all about defining the ideal candidate for a specific position. Armed with this knowledge, you will be better positioned to find candidates possessing the right characteristics.

Hiring Process For General Managers

Now that the role is defined, you need to fill it with the best candidate for the job. While a recruitment process is unique to the organisation and role, a best practice approach will include the following steps, prioritising regular and timely communication with role applicants at all stages.

  1. The foundation: Investing time up-front to fully understand the need and what is required in the “right” candidate, including the development of a candidate profile and job brief.
  2. The search: Execute advertising and search strategy, to identify talent.
  3. The candidate screen: Qualify and screen prospects and candidates to better understand their suitability for the role, ensuring they have the right expertise, motivation and organisational fit.
  4. The assessment: Conduct a robust and in-depth assessment of candidates including competency-based interviews, behavioural and psychometric testing and broader assessments.
  5. The offer: Guiding both parties (employer and employee) through the offer and acceptance stage.
  6. The transition: Supporting the transition of the successful candidate through effective onboarding and induction.

While every stage is fundamental to making the right hiring decisions, organisation’s sometimes overlook the importance of an effective transition for the new hire. To be successful in a role, new leaders need more onboarding than most roles. Failure to successfully bring executives into new roles can be a major and costly issue.

For best practice advice, check out our ultimate executive onboarding checklist.

Sourcing General Manager Candidates

While there are fewer roles at the executive level and a smaller pool of job opportunities at any given time, in today’s highly competitive and global candidate market, sourcing senor level talent requires a well thought out and executed research and search strategy.

Gone are the days where roles are filled based on personal connections or referrals. Transparency is an important requirement throughout the entire recruitment and hiring process.

Having a clearly structured search strategy will give you confidence in your hiring decisions. You’ll know the “type” of candidate ideally suited to the role, and your talent sourcing activity will be targeted to produce qualified candidates.

Your organisation may have an internal HR and recruitment resource, however given the infrequent need to recruit these types of senior level roles, many businesses choose to partner with an executive search firm to assist in the recruitment of General Managers.

By understanding the exact needs of the client, an executive search firm utilises a number of tools and techniques to uncover talent. This includes:

  • Existing connections and networks;
  • Market knowledge, particularly talent mobility;
  • Access to digital search tools and platforms;
  • Online connection sites and global links;
  • And, through the expertise and tenacity of executive search consultants.

Checkout the video below and hear direct from business leaders on what they are doing to find top talent at both a practical, day to day level and from a strategic and government policy perspective.

Background Screening For General Managers

Candidate screening happens in the early stages of a recruitment process. It’s an initial stage gate to assess whether an individual broadly meets the requirements for a role. This could occur with candidates who have formally submitted a job application, or, with talent that you are engaging and “selling” the opportunity to.

If your HR team are using an Applicant Tracking System (or ATS) the software will likely be filtering CVs and applications to identify more qualified candidates. This is called “resume parsing”. It is a time saving approach for managing large volumes of applications but shouldn’t be relied upon as the primary screening tool, particularly for senior roles.

In our experience as executive recruiters, the more senior the role, the less time spent by the candidate on crafting their CV. That’s why it is important to dig a little deeper and gain a better understanding of an applicants background and suitability for a role.

Beyond reviewing a candidate’s CV and online profile (for example LinkedIn), screening needs to include a conversation with the person. This will likely happen on the phone or remotely via Zoom, and include a set of screening questions relevant to the role.

Think beyond ensuring the candidate meets the basic requirements for the role – you’ll likely answer this question by reviewing their CV. The focus of the conversation should be on gaining a more holistic view of the candidate, for example:

  • What are their motivations for pursuing the role?
  • Are they invested in the opportunity?
  • Can you gain a general view of their persona, values or leadership style?

Interviewing General Manager Candidates

The approach taken to interview candidates is often the biggest misstep in the recruitment process. To begin with, there’s an equal measure of both enthusiasm and dread at the thought of an interview, by both the interviewer and the interviewee.

To ensure an effective process, we highly recommend interview training for hiring managers to arm them with the knowledge of how to interview effectively and with minimal bias.

Also, think carefully about who is included on the interview panel, to give you confidence that they will conduct impartial interviews and ultimately, get the best candidate for the role.

Top tips for interviewing:

  • Given the nature of the role, it is likely that the candidate has been through some sort of screening and assessment prior to making it to the interview stage. Don’t waste valuable time in your interview rehashing what you already know about the candidate. Chances are they “tick” most, if not all, of the role requirements, so use your interview time wisely.
  • Remember that an interview is a conversation not an interrogation – the candidate is forming an opinion of the role and organisation as much as you are assessing their fit. It’s the job of the lead interviewer to set the tone and engage all participants to create a natural and meaningful discussion.
  • And that means asking questions and listening. Too often we see employers monopolise valuable interview time talking about themselves or the organisation, rather than giving the candidate the opportunity to shine.
  • Assess the candidate’s suitability in a thorough and robust way, for example by using a structured and consistent behavioural interview approach. However make sure you conduct the interview in a considered way, obtaining relevant information but also guiding the discussion in a productive and professional manner.

Executive Recruitment Services

As mentioned earlier, many organisations seek out the services of an executive search firm to assist with the recruitment of senior level roles including General Managers. These firms provide an objective third-party perspective and specialist expertise to help businesses find the right talent for senior positions.

Check out our recent blogs for further advice and guidance:

How to find the right executive recruiter
What is an executive search firm? Do you need one?

Need Help?

Decipher Group are industry experts in the recruitment of executive, c-suite level professionals, and governance leaders for New Zealand and Australian businesses. We’ve been connecting talented people to exciting opportunities for 15 years.

Find out more about our executive recruitment expertise. Or, reach out to one of our team today; let’s work together.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and hear about new role vacancies, follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

A short Q&A with our team on related questions that people commonly search for on Google.

How do you recruit a General Manager?

  1. A strong starting point. A key initial step is defining the role and how it ‘fits’ in the business. While their contribution will be invaluable, any leadership transition should always be driven by organisational need.
  2. The foundation. Investing time up front will smooth the path for a successful transition. This includes any strategic or operational HR changes that may need to be made to accommodate the new role, and/or, work that needs to be done in shifting the company culture.
  3. The search. The search and recruitment of an executive leader is simply the midpoint in the transition process. Identifying, attracting and selecting the right candidate is however critical. Do not underestimate the rigour and time required to recruit the very best leadership talent.
  4. Preparing for onboarding. You have appointed your new General Manager; mission accomplished. But there is still much work to be done. Onboarding is a well-established, best practice approach to ensuring your senior leaders are oriented and on the right path to success. Preparation is key.
  5. Setting up for long-term success. A transition period for a GM goes beyond onboarding and induction, it is an ongoing process of managing interactions from the moment a placement has been made through many months after the appointee has commenced the role.

What is a General Manager?

The role of General Manager can vary widely. Within New Zealand, we generally assign the title to a person who oversees a particular function (i.e., General Manager of Operations), often called a tier 2 role. This person is typically part of a senior leadership team and reports to the Chief Executive Officer or CEO.

However, depending on the size and structure of an organisation, the role of General Manager can also be the most senior person in the business and assume similar responsibilities to a CEO. This is often the case in family owned or founder-led businesses.

In other parts of the world, for example the USA, the title of General Manager can vary from a mid-level position to an executive role. For global organisations with a presence in New Zealand, they may be using the organisational hierarchy of head office which can cause some confusion in terms of role titles and functions.

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