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Home / Blog / 3 Signs that Indicate You Need to Hire a Fractional CxO

3 Signs that Indicate You Need to Hire a Fractional CxO

Hiring fractional executives that bring expertise to your leadership team in a cost-effective way.

Trent Cotton
HR and Recruitment Industry Leader, Vice President of Talent and Culture at Hatchworks
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Successful companies recognize the pivotal role that leadership plays in driving their growth and achieving their goals. However, not every organization is in a position to hire full-time executives for all their key roles. Some companies are embracing a growing trend that offers a unique solution to this challenge— fractional hiring.

In This Article

Fractional hiring is an innovative approach that allows companies to access the expertise of highly skilled executives on a part-time or project-based basis. It offers a flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional full-time hiring, enabling organizations to tap into a diverse pool of experienced leaders who can contribute their specialized knowledge and strategic insights.

According to SelectSoftware, one of the key benefits of hiring a fractional CxO is flexibility.

Organizations can tailor the engagement to their specific needs, whether it's a short-term project, ongoing advisory services, or assistance during a transitional period. This flexibility enables companies to adapt quickly to changing market dynamics and seize opportunities without the constraints of a traditional employment arrangement.

Companies searching for fractional talent can take advantage of executives who may have decided to leave the full-time workforce in favor of the gig economy because they are not ready to go into full retirement. Their experience and insights offer companies many of the benefits of a strong C-Suite leader without the hefty price tag commonly associated with such roles. This concept is especially advantageous to startups and small businesses who often have the greatest need and the smallest budgets for such talent.

A fractional executive sits in on a meeting with employees.

What is a Fractional CxO?

A fractional CxO, also known as a part-time or interim CxO, is an experienced executive who works with multiple companies on a fractional basis. Fractional CxOs bring their expertise and leadership skills to organizations that may not require a full-time executive presence.

Fractional executives typically work on a flexible schedule, devoting a portion of their time to each client, and provide strategic guidance and support in their specific area of expertise, such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Chief Product Officer (CPO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), or Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Typically, companies engaging in a fractional hiring relationship will outline the core needs or expectations of the role during the search process. Candidates who are interested will review the list of needs and work with the company to develop a schedule, timeline of expectations, and a budget commensurate with the expectations of the role. Most CxO roles will not have direct reports but serve more in an advisory capacity in the functional executive role.

3 Signs Your Company Can Benefit from Hiring a Fractional CxO

As a company grows, the demands for executive leadership will require companies to review the needs against the ability to pay. There are several indicators companies can use to identify when it is time to consider fractional hiring.

Companies will typically begin considering hiring a fractional CxO when they encounter some of the following scenarios:

1. Limited Resources

If your company is in its early stages or has a limited budget, hiring a full-time executive may not be financially feasible.

Fractional leadership allows you to tap into high-level expertise without the price tag associated with a full-time executive. As the term implies, you get top-tier leadership at a fraction of the cost.

2. A Need for Specific Expertise

In some cases, budget constraints are not the primary factor in this decision. Growing companies will often need specific expertise during their lifecycle.

Examples could include the need for expertise for a particular stage of the business, an industry vertical, or an expansion opportunity. Fractional CxOs bring a wealth of expertise and can fill in the gaps in your organization, providing strategic guidance and leadership in their area of specialization.

3. Transitional Periods

During periods of change, such as mergers, acquisitions, digital transformation, or leadership transitions, hiring a fractional CxO can provide stability and guidance.

A fractional leader or leadership team can help navigate the complexities associated with these transitions and ensure a smooth process for your organization. Companies can benefit from the experience of many fractional leaders during these times and do not have to make the long-term commitment common with full-time positions.

This is also applicable if your company has a specific project or initiative that requires leadership for a limited duration. A fractional CxO or executive team can step in, drive the project forward, and provide the necessary expertise until its completion.

A team of fractional executives with years of business experience

Where Fractional Leadership Makes the Most Sense

In certain industries, companies face unique challenges and complexities that require specialized knowledge and expertise.

Hiring a fractional CxO with deep industry experience can be immensely beneficial in navigating the intricacies of these industry verticals. In each of these industry verticals, hiring fractional CxOs allows companies to tap into specialized knowledge and experience without the need for a full-time executive.

These fractional leaders bring industry-specific expertise, strategic guidance, and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities unique to their respective sectors. By leveraging their insights and skills, companies can enhance their competitiveness, navigate industry-specific regulations, and drive sustainable growth within their chosen industry vertical. Here are some examples:


The healthcare industry is highly regulated, and companies operating within it must comply with various legal and ethical requirements. Hiring a fractional Chief Medical Officer (CMO) or Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) can provide valuable expertise in navigating healthcare regulations, ensuring proper compliance, and implementing effective quality control measures.

These fractional CxOs can also offer insights into industry best practices and help develop strategies for improving patient care and outcomes.

Financial Services

Financial institutions operate in a complex and highly regulated environment. Fractional CxOs with expertise in finance, such as a fractional Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Chief Risk Officer (CRO), can provide guidance on financial management, risk mitigation, and regulatory compliance. They can assist in developing financial strategies, optimizing capital allocation, and ensuring that the company adheres to industry-specific regulations and reporting requirements.


The technology industry is constantly evolving, with rapid advancements and emerging trends. Hiring a fractional Chief Technology Officer (CTO) can help companies stay ahead of the curve by providing technical expertise and insights into industry trends.

Fractional CTOs can guide product development strategies, assess new technologies, and ensure that the company's technology infrastructure is scalable and secure. They can also help evaluate potential partnerships or acquisitions in the tech sector.

Fractional executives offering advice to full-time employees.

Considerations When Choosing a Fractional CxO

The recruiting and selection process for fractional talent for leadership differs greatly from your traditional processes. It is important for boards or the senior leaders of a company to clearly define the needs of the role before engaging in the search. More importantly, the selection process should be more rigorous and precise to ensure the proper fit.

Key considerations to keep top of mind are:

Expertise and Fit

Assess your company's needs and determine the specific expertise required from a fractional CxO. Look for candidates with a track record of success in your industry and a deep understanding of the challenges you face. Additionally, consider their compatibility with your company culture. business models, and values to ensure a seamless integration.

Availability and Time Commitment

Discuss the expected time commitment with potential fractional CxOs to ensure availability aligns with your needs. Clarify the number of hours or days per week the fractional executive can dedicate to your organization and ensure it meets your expectations.

Communication and Collaboration

Strong communication skills are essential for effective collaboration with a fractional CxO. They should be able to clearly convey their insights and recommendations and work collaboratively with your existing team.

Assess their communication style and ensure it aligns with your company's communication norms.

References and Reputation

Request references and thoroughly research the fractional CxO's reputation and track record.

Speak with business owners who are past clients to gain insights into the fractional executive’s work ethic, problem-solving abilities, and overall effectiveness. Use this feedback to establish whether the fractional leader has the ability to drive profitability and business development in your company. This due diligence will help you make an informed decision.

People Management Skills

Serving as a fractional CxO requires a unique level of people management skills. These leaders will often be required to lead teams with influence versus direct management due to the temporary nature of the role.

They will have to establish credibility quickly and motivate teams to accomplish the outlined expectations while only using a fraction of their time. If you hire the wrong person, the negative impacts on your team, success metrics, and potentially your brand could be detrimental.

A recruiter interviewing a fractional executive

Finding the Perfect CxO

A best practice to consider when sourcing for your new fractional role is to tap into the network of existing executive leadership, your board, and other similar work groups. These sources typically know of executives who will be open to such an arrangement.

The added benefit of this strategy includes vetting potential candidates using knowledge gained from your network about their abilities and past performance.

If you are unable to find or attract candidates from the network, there are a number of sourcing tools available for this type of search.

LinkedIn Recruiter, a widely recognized platform, stands out for its extensive candidate search functionalities and the ability for recruiters to directly connect with potential candidates. Those with a recruiter seat can leverage the on-demand search capabilities and engage with potential candidates using InMail. While the platform has become inundated with recruiters reaching out to candidates at nauseam, it still serves as one of the best tools to source talent.

HireEZ leverages AI and machine learning to provide recruiters with comprehensive candidate profiles and personalized recommendations. It sources candidates across forty-five platforms including LinkedIn, Social Media sites, as well as niche sites like GitHub and others. The platform will often capture organizational and personal contact information, increasing the touch points recruiters can use to attract fractional talent.

Getting the Most Out of Your Fractional CxO's Time

One misstep companies make is not making the most of the time spent by their fractional CXO. Companies should be conscious and diligent in their efforts to maximize the value derived from a fractional CxO. Here are some strategies to consider:

Clearly Define Objectives and Expectations

Clearly communicate your goals and objectives to the fractional CxO. Provide them with a detailed understanding of the challenges you face and the outcomes you aim to achieve.

This clarity will enable them to focus their efforts effectively and serve as accountability for both the company and the fractional talent. As with any other C-level executive role, clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will increase the chance of success. Regularly review progress and provide feedback to ensure alignment and make adjustments as needed.

Prioritize Tasks and Projects

Work with the fractional CxO to prioritize tasks and projects based on their expertise and potential impact on your business.

Prioritization is important in any executive role but with limited time, the focus on prioritization for the fractional CxO is critical. This collaborative approach ensures alignment and allows for the most critical issues to be addressed first.

Foster Open Communication

Encourage open and transparent communication between the fractional CxO and your internal team. This will facilitate knowledge sharing, idea generation, and the smooth flow of information, leading to more effective decision-making. It is recommended companies schedule one on ones and performance reports to maximize communication for this role.

A fractional leader offering advice to a junior employee.

"Try Before You Buy": Using Fractional Hiring to Find a Full-Time Leader

In some cases, hiring a fractional CxO can serve as a "try-before-you-buy" approach to finding a full-time executive. By working with a fractional CxO on a part-time basis, you can assess their fit within your organization, evaluate their performance, and determine if they are the right long-term solution. This trial period allows you to mitigate the risks associated with hiring a full-time executive without committing to a permanent hire upfront.

For the fractional talent, this also provides first-hand knowledge of the company's true needs. If the time requirement grows beyond the need originally discussed, they may become interested in a more full-time role with your firm. The ability for the fractional talent to grow with the company also allows them to help you find the right full-time executive if they are not interested. They could be assigned the responsibility of sourcing and vetting their replacement, saving the company time and money in an often laborious search process.


Fractional CxOs offer a flexible and cost-effective solution for companies seeking high-level leadership and expertise. By recognizing the signs that indicate your company can benefit from hiring a fractional CxO and considering key factors when choosing one, you can tap into their strategic guidance and experience to drive your business forward.

Remember to clearly define objectives, prioritize tasks, foster open communication, and establish clear expectations to get the most out of your fractional CxO's time. Furthermore, fractional hiring can even serve as a pathway to finding a full-time leader by utilizing the "try-before-you-buy" approach. Embrace the opportunities fractional CxOs present and position your company for success in an ever-changing business landscape.


Q: How much does it cost to hire a fractional CxO?

A: The cost of hiring a fractional CxO varies depending on factors such as the level of experience, scope of work, and engagement duration. It is best to discuss specific pricing with potential fractional CxO.

Q: Can a fractional CxO handle the same responsibilities as a full-time CxO?

A: Yes, a fractional CxO can handle similar responsibilities but on a part-time or project basis. They bring expertise and strategic guidance to address specific challenges effectively.

Q: How long should I engage a fractional CxO?

A: The engagement duration depends on your business needs. It can range from a few months to a year or longer, depending on the complexity of the business challenges and the desired outcomes.

Q: Will a fractional CxO understand the specific needs of my industry?

A: Fractional CxOs often have experience across various industries and adapt quickly to understand the specific needs of your industry. Look for candidates with relevant industry knowledge or transferable skills.

Q: What happens if my business outgrows the fractional CxO's capabilities?

A: If your business experiences significant growth or requires a full-time CxO, you can transition to a full-time executive. Fractional CxOs often provide recommendations and assist in the transition process.

Trent Cotton
HR and Recruitment Industry Leader, Vice President of Talent and Culture at Hatchworks
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Trent Cotton is a highly accomplished leader and strategist with extensive experience in organizational development, talent management, and business operations. With a strong background in HR leadership, he has a proven track record of designing and implementing innovative HR programs that drive employee engagement, retention, and business performance.

As an experienced executive, Trent has worked with some of the world's leading companies, where he has led and supported HR initiatives across a broad range of functions, including talent acquisition, workforce planning, diversity and inclusion, performance management, and employee relations. He is also highly skilled in HR technology implementation, data analytics, and HR process improvement, helping organizations to optimize their HR operations and drive business results.

If you follow his blog or have read his book, Sprint Recruiting, you would experience his raw communication style, his ability to build and lead high-performing teams, and his strategic mindset. He is passionate about creating workplaces where employees can thrive and grow, and he is committed to helping organizations leverage the power of their people to achieve their business objectives.

In addition to his professional experience, Trent is actively involved in his community and has served on several boards and committees supporting education, workforce development, and diversity initiatives.

Also featured on: Recruit CRM, Visier, and HatchWorks

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