Key Qualities for a VP of Operations: What to Look For

what to look for in a vp of operations

You’ve decided you need to make a crucial leadership hire, and now it’s time to start identifying what to look for in a VP of Operations. But if you’ve never been in an operations role, how do you know which qualities make a VP of Ops successful?

As a leadership search firm that connects high growth organizations with exceptional leaders, Y Scouts understands the importance of connecting companies with candidates based on research, outreach and through a final interview selection. If you’re unsure about what to look for in a VP of Operations, here are five qualities you can consider in each phase throughout the hiring process.

1. Culture Fit
Culture fit is one of the most important attributes to look for in a VP of Operations. A VP of Ops who fits in with your company will have an easier time adjusting to the position and the procedures within the company, and will have an easier time forming relationships with your current employees. Since your operations is the pulse within your company, it’s important to hire a leader who aligns with your company’s values.

To hire for cultural fit, start off the Research & Planning phase of your recruitment process by conducting an organization survey among your senior leadership team to help define your culture. By having this definition accessible to everyone involved in the hiring process, you’ll be able to benchmark a candidate’s purpose and values against your organizational culture – a critical first step to attracting the right leadership candidates.

2. Industry Understanding
This goes without saying, but if a VP of Operations doesn’t understand how to operate within your industry, then chances are that they may not be a good fit. Experience, and industry understanding are high up the totem pole of importance in a senior leadership role. If the candidate can talk about how the industry is evolving, they should have a general idea of what your company needs to do in order to stay on top of the changes. All of this knowledge is extremely important to look for in a VP of Operations, because it shows that the candidate is thinking about how to adjust an organization in the face of new changes.

During the Outreach & Aligning process, evaluating functional expertise is a necessary step right after Purpose & Values.

3. Drives Results
As the leader of your operations, a good VP of Ops lives by the results – how efficient the organization is run, what’s the profit margin, how is the company doing as a while? When reaching out to candidates, part of the evaluation process must measure how they’ve driven results for their previous employers, and how they can drive results for your organization.

4. Develops Process
If an operations employee is only as good as the organization’s process, then a VP of Operations better be able to develop a great process. Good senior level operations executives understand that if they are going to achieve lofty revenue targets, then they’ll have to accomplish them by innovating a process. During the Outreach & Aligning process, evaluate how a candidate speaks about their biggest accomplishments. Do they start and end with their own accomplishments, or do they mention that developing a process as one of their career accomplishments? Look for specific examples of how a candidate has made it a point to develop their operations philosophies, and ask how they would develop the operations at your organization.

5. Learns Relentlessly
When deciding what to look for in a VP of Operations, consider if a candidate is a relentless learner. Are they constantly looking for an edge in your industry, or do they rely on a proven operations model that’s worked at their previous companies? Do they know the industry a little too well, and feel like they know everything? Or do they use their industry knowledge to learn more about how they can capitalize on opportunities? Great operations leaders never stop learning. They develop themselves, then develop their process, which in turn drives results.

Once your candidates pass the Purpose & Values test, show that they have Functional Expertise, Drive Results, Develops People and Learns Relentlessly, then it’s time to select your interview finalists and make your selections.

You might be interested in these other posts about hiring a VP of Operations:
When to Hire a VP of Operations
What to Look For in a VP of Operations
10 VP of Operations Interview Questions
What to Pay your VP of Operations
How To Hire a VP of Operations
How did you decide what to look for in a VP of Operations? Let us know in the comments.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.