How To Hire a General Manager

A general manager

Considering hiring a General Manager, or partner with a general manager executive search firm? Let’s first understand the purpose of the function. General Managers are operational/administrative managers responsible for maintaining a company’s workforce, budgets, and operations. This can include overseeing HR processes, building/ workplace management and admin, and team schedule/shift management. At a single location, district, or at a regional/country level.

I would like to point out that the title of General Manager in North America can vary from a mid-level professional position to that of an executive role. Most of my European clients will refer to a country president or managing director as a general manager. The seniority of the individual you were trying to recruit with the title of General Manager will impact the type of recruitment strategy you choose to use.

Types of General Managers and their Responsibilities

What type of general manager you are hiring will impact their responsibilities. The standard types of General Managers and their responsibilities are as follows:

  • Department Managers – responsible for a single department in a location. This can often be a factory or large store, and these managers are in charge of the schedule of their departments and developing goals to improve the department.
  • Overnight Managers – many factories, stores, and other businesses run overnight. these managers are responsible for night-time tasks, such as security and cleaning and maintenance, and other tasks, such as keeping factory lines running reliably through the night.
  • District Managers – manage multiple locations in a district, such as several branches of a bank, restaurant, or store. They liaise with the general managers of these locations. Ensuring the stores comply with corporate policy and meet their district’s targets.
  • Regional Managers – Regional managers manage multiple districts and guide the district and general managers of the locations by reducing costs and increasing revenue. Regions can be stores in one state, an entire country, or across borders, depending on the size of the business and locations they operate.

How to hire a General Manager


Recruiters help optimize your employer brand and job listing to attract as many appropriate candidates as possible. They normally charge for each successful candidate they get you. Targeting the active job market.

They take a lot of the recruiting workload on such as: writing the job description, posting it in the best locations and filtering through candidates. To only offer you the best candidates to interview.

Using an External Search Partner

Companies that rely on external search consultants do so for several reasons. They may not have an in-house recruiting team, or their team is overwhelmed with requisitions for lower-level roles. Most companies use external search consultants because the need to go outside for help is infrequent. In addition,  working with an external search firm gives you access to a larger talent network. If the consultant or firm specializes in your industry, it may help you find talent faster.

When you go outside for help to hire a General Manager, there are two standard options for you to choose. The first is a contingent recruiting firm. These firms will rely heavily on their internal databases and advertising the position on various digital platforms. The process relies heavily on finding professionals currently looking for new job opportunities. 

A contingent recruiter will charge you a success fee when they deliver someone to you, and you choose to hire them. Fees for this type of service are typically 15-25% of the first-year compensation of the placed candidate. Given there is no income unless you hire someone, most of the due diligence will be your responsibility. They will provide the resume; if you are interested, you will take over from there. Also, there may not be a guarantee of performance; if there is, it will usually be around three months.

The second option is to use a retained search firm. The process is very different and involves considerably more resources to execute correctly. The focus will be on new research and proactively reaching out to employed candidates. The focus is on targeting professionals who are very busy succeeding in their respective positions and not looking at job boards or advertisements for new opportunities. 

The general manager executive search consultant will spend considerable time conducting multiple interviews to help determine if the candidate is a proper fit based on your criteria. The ultimate goal is to save you time so that it will be a worthy exercise when you choose to interview someone. Fees for this highly specialized service tend to range from 28- 34% of first-year total cash compensation. Most reputable search firms will stand behind the performance of their placed executive for a minimum of 12 months.

What do executive search firms do? Contact me if you would like help from Boyden in your General Manager search. 

However, if you are replacing a current underperforming GM, we can discuss helping you find a replacement confidentially.

Sourcing Talent on Your Own

Open Job Listings

A popular method for sourcing talent is creating open job listings on various digital platforms. Websites such as LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, and Betterteam will give you access to a broad audience of job-seeking professionals. If you have a corporate website where you can post your opportunities, that is a common strategy as well.

It is important to have a solid strategy in place to handle the responses to your advertisements. Unfortunately, most of those applying for your positions will be unqualified. You will need a dedicated team to help manage the process as you look to identify possibilities within the applicant pool. Companies that have a mature internal recruiting team are quite capable of approaching a recruitment process in this manner.


One important thing not to overlook is the power of internal referrals within your own company. Many individuals within your team have no quality candidates that they worked with previously. Pay close attention to those team members who have joined your company recently. They tend to have a fresh perspective on talent from the recently left organizations. Many of my clients offer some reward for referring a successfully hired candidate. Usually, it is a monetary amount, but it varies greatly from company to company.

What should your next General Manager Look Like?

It is important to get internal alignment on the expectations of a new general manager coming into the business. Consider factors like the maturity of your business and what the growth plans are going forward. You want to bring a general manager into the company that can quickly adapt to your current state and be able to grow with you according to your strategic plan.

Time should be taken to focus on the specific skills you are looking for and the industries you would prefer to see your general manager come from. Equally important, you should determine what you don’t want to see in a candidate, especially if you are replacing someone who did not perform at the level you had expected.

Create a Compelling Job Description

Regardless of whether you choose to conduct a recruitment process on your own or turn to the assistance of an external search partner, you will need to have a compelling job description. This job description needs to accurately sell the role and paint a picture that is attractive. It needs to make the reader want to consider the opportunity thoroughly. The time you take to create this document will be well spent as you will be able to use elements to create your various online postings and to provide it to interested candidates as they consider applying for the role. 

What to keep in mind when considering candidates

If you are looking at hiring a General Manager, here are some key things to consider:

  • What are the specific duties and responsibilities you need from this general manager?
  • What sectors or industries would be ideal for a candidate to come from?
  • How many direct reports will the general manager have? How many indirect reports?
  • What is the personality of the leader you are looking for? What would a cultural fit look like?

Once you have a good understanding of what you need from a general manager, you can start to look at potential candidates. When looking at resumes, pay attention to:

  •  How much tenure do they have as a proven manager?
  •  What industries and types of companies have they worked for in the past?
  •  How big or complex are the previous teams they have managed?
  •  Do they have a track record of succeeding in the things you will need to be done?
  •  What type of leader are they. Do they have a track record of developing good talent?

Learn how your Candidates Manage

Again, if you are choosing to conduct a general manager recruitment on your own, you must be thoughtful in how you manage your candidates. Every step of the way, you need to qualify your candidate and determine if they will continue forward in your recruitment process or if they should be dismissed. Getting accurate information is critical at this stage, and the questions you ask will help you get the information you need to decide.

The following are some sample questions that may help you get some quality information about your candidate:

  • Please walk me through a time when you had two team members disagreeing on how to move forward on an issue. What was the issue, and how did you help create a resolution?
  • Who was the most difficult employee you’ve ever had to manage? Someone who you were close to terminating but managed to turn around, and they became a success story? How did you accomplish this?
  • Suppose one of your departments, or groups, is performing exceptionally well while another is failing to meet its objectives. How have you leveraged the success of one to help motivate the other?
  • Given how busy our personal end corporate lives can be, how do you address you personal growth and continued learning?  
  • With the wealth of experience you bring to the table, what would success look like for you in this position after 12 months?

Help with Executive Search

If you believe executive search for a general manager is your best option to hire a new General Manager. Please contact me. I can help you identify if it truly is the best option for your business. If needed, I can connect you to be the best search consultant to assist you in your region/geography,

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