How to Hire a CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

Does your growing business need a CEO? CEOs, or chief executive officers, help make key decisions about the direction of the company and provides leadership to the executive team.

Here are some tips to help you find great CEO candidates and make the right hire for your business.

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CEOs searching for jobs on Indeed*


job seekers that clicked CEO jobs


resumes for job seekers with CEO experience on Indeed


CEO jobs that received clicks

What is the cost of hiring a CEO?

  • Common salary in US: $113,840 per year
  • Typical salaries range from $18,000$298,000 per year
  • Find more information on Indeed Salaries

*Indeed data (US) – December 2020

As of December 2020, CEO jobs in the US are moderately competitive compared to other job markets, with an average of 85 job seekers per CEO job.

Why hire a CEO?

Bringing on a new CEO can drastically impact company morale, reputation and strategic direction. A great CEO hire can help your business by:

  • Planning short- and long-term strategic direction
  • Preparing and analyzing budgets
  • Serving as a dedicated resource for reporting on financial status
  • Improving current systems and financial procedures
  • Overseeing taxes and ensuring your company abides by federal regulations
  • Making major corporate and strategic decisions

Deciding between a full-time vs freelance CEO

While CEOs are traditionally a permanent, full-time position at most companies, there has been a rise in “on-demand CEOs” that work on a contract or freelance basis. These CEOs can help with certain aspects of your business, including financial plans, coming up with new solutions and/or improving operations.

Freelance or contract-basis CEOs could be a good solution for small businesses who don’t yet have the budget for a full-time CEO but still need help growing their business and developing critical business strategies. However, consider hiring a full-time CEO if you have the budget and long-term need for it.

Where to find CEOs

To find the right CEO for your business, consider trying out a few different recruiting strategies:

  • Ask for referrals: Tap into your personal and professional networks and ask if they know or have worked with anyone who would be a good fit for your CEO role.
  • Create a search committee: Bring together higher-level employees at your company to create a CEO recruiting committee, making sure to include diverse members. Have them network and ask for referrals within their own networks. 
  • Work with an outside recruiting agency: Executive search firm exist to help businesses fill high-level roles, like CEO.
  • Post your job online: Try posting your CEO job on Indeed to find and attract quality CEO candidates.

Skills to look for in a great CEO

A great CEO candidate will have the following skills, attributes and work experience that reflects:

  • Strong leadership style
  • Long-term thinking for developing company roadmap
  • Master of business administration (MBA) or previous business management experience
  • Excellent delegator
  • Strong presentation style
  • Excellent public persona
  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to stay calm under pressure

Writing a CEO job description

While writing a job description for a CEO can seem challenging, taking the time to put thought into one can yield excellent CEO candidates. A CEO job description should include a compelling summary of the role, a great description of your company and its goals, and a detailed list of expected duties and responsibilities. Organizing an internal committee may also be beneficial to ensuring the right candidate is selected.

When writing your CEO job description, consider including some or all of the following keywords to improve the visibility of your job posting. These are the most popular search terms leading to clicks on CEO jobs, according to Indeed data:

  • ceo
  • executive director
  • chief executive officer
  • hospital ceo
  • executive assistant
  • executive
  • non profit
  • healthcare administration
  • president ceo
  • president

Interviewing CEO candidates

After you’ve reviewed the resumes of your top CEO candidates, ask meaningful interview questions to gain insight into each candidate’s experience, character, personality traits and education in order to find the right CEO for your company. Strong candidates for CEO positions will be confident answering questions regarding:

  • Previous experience in being an executive business leader
  • Critical thinking skills in developing business plans
  • Their leadership style and philosophy

Need help coming up with interview questions? See our list of CEO interview questions for examples (with sample answers).

FAQs about how to hire a CEO

What is the difference between a CEO and a president?

In most cases, a CEO is the highest-ranking employee at a company, while a president is often the second highest-ranking employee. Both roles share similar responsibilities, but a president is usually in charge of day-to-day decisions and company strategy, while a CEO sets overall business strategies and vision, and is often the public face of a company. 

Does a small business need a CEO?

Businesses that are just starting out often don’t need a CEO right away. However, when you reach the growth stage of your business, you may want to think about filling the role. While CEOs may be traditionally associated with enterprise-level organizations, they can be beneficial to small businesses in a number of ways, including:

  • Creating growth strategies to make sure you business is future proof
  • Developing your brand identity and building a strong business reputation
  • Improving operational efficiency and finding creative ways to cut costs
  • Strengthening communication between different team and departments
  • Honing your business’s mission and values

When should I hire a CEO?

Timing is often different for every business, but consider hiring a CEO when you as a business owner or founder would like to focus on other areas of your business and want someone else to execute key business decisions, establish company-wide goals and boost innovation. Other signs it may be time to hire a CEO include:

  • Business growth has come to a standstill
  • Employees aren’t as productive or engaged as they used to be
  • You don’t have all of the necessary skills to lead your business
  • You want to attract long-term investors
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