Would You Hire Yourself? Take a Clean Slate Approach

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“This is interesting,” said the CEO, studying the whiteboard we’d filled with a detailed position profile. Hank, I, and several board directors were updating his company’s succession plans in light of his expected retirement in two years. Updating his own position profile – role, responsibilities, and success criteria – was key to identifying possible internal candidates for his job.

“Our business has changed drastically in the past eighteen months,” Hank noted. “We have more overseas suppliers, more regulation to contend with here and abroad, and more strategic alliances to manage.” He shook his head in mild disbelief. “If I were looking for someone to fill my shoes now, I probably wouldn’t hire myself.”

The exercise proved eye-opening for both Hank and the directors. “It’s amazing what you can see when you take yourself out of the equation,” he said. “The next person in this job definitely needs prior experience running a multinational company. I only got that myself after taking charge.” The directors agreed wholeheartedly.

Would you hire yourself? This question holds the key to achieving maximum success for yourself and your organization.


Before you automatically reply, “Of course,” do what Hank did and take yourself out of the equation. Take a “clean slate” approach to your position. Imagine that you’re retiring and looking to fill the position with the best possible candidate.

Ask yourself:

  • What are my position’s core success metrics today?
  • How are these metrics likely to change in the next two to three years as a result of market or regulatory conditions, technology applications, stakeholder concerns or behavior?


Based on your detailed answers to the above questions, create your ideal candidate profile. In other words, what specific work experiences, technical expertise, and personal attributes would your successor need to possess in order to execute at consistent top-notch levels? These are the position’s “must-haves.”

Tip: Remember that research shows the importance of “emotional intelligence” factors, such as initiative, self-confidence, and interpersonal relations, in senior leadership positions.


Now take a deep breath and compare your qualifications with those of your ideal successor. Is there complete overlap, or do significant discrepancies exist?

If the former, congratulations. You’ve confirmed that a proper alignment exists between your position’s maximum – not minimum – requirements and your ability to deliver extraordinary performance.

If, however, a serious gap or deficit emerges from the comparison, you need to pay attention on two counts.

First, you’re not as effective or productive on the job as you could be. What knowledge and capabilities do you need to acquire to become so? Your comparative analysis should tell you what gaps need to be redressed.

Second, if a pronounced mismatch exists between the ideal candidate profile you’ve created and your own “personal portfolio” of skills, traits, values, or career goals, you’ve identified a potential red flag. You could be in the wrong job (i.e., wrong for you); or the position might not be structured or placed within the organization for optimal functioning. Either possibility can prove a recipe for lackluster performance and personal stress and thus should be examined further.


Would you hire yourself? I recommend that you ask and answer this question once every year. Doing so will enable you and your organization to recalibrate proactively for ongoing operational efficiency and excellence.

Taking a clean slate approach to this exercise will enhance your own work performance and career scalability. It will also improve your organization’s success in developing a winning bench of next-generation leaders.

Copyright © Susan Battley. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.