After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ten to Win

Last week, I had the pleasure of addressing a number of individuals at the St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church Jobs Ministry.  I took this opportunity to pull back the curtain on the wizardry of the executive search process.  Speaking on behalf (unsolicited) of all headhunters, I outlined what headhunters look for in a candidate.  While I am not sure all of my colleagues will agree on every item, I am sure that all will agree that each item has a major impact on whether or not a person will be considered a viable candidate for further consideration.

Over my career in the search business, I have met what seems to be hundreds of thousands of candidates.  In reality, it certainly is in the thousands.  My observations contribute to the basis of my list.  Since establishing my own firm, I also sit in the sessions when my client (the hiring person) meets my candidate.  The observations from actual interviews have been invaluable in determining why many candidates do not continue in the process.  This experience forms the basis for my list of what I look for in a candidate.  To the list we go.

1.      First impression.

How you appear as far as appropriate clothing choice, eye contact and a firm hand shake may sound shallow, but you could be digging an unnecessary hole if you neglect one of these.  Bottom line is: Do you look appear as though you fit the role?

2.      Engagement

During the meeting, are you showing energy? Have you prepared by researching the company and the role?  Are you listening to what is said and responding appropriately with questions or agreement?

3.      Communication skills

Are you able to speak in complete sentences, focus on the subject and convey your thought in brief, cohesive answers?

4.      Presentation of Case

Like a litigator, can you present your experience and actual examples of performance that support your candidacy? 

5.      Accomplishment

I am not looking for someone who has brought world peace to New York or cured cancer.  I am looking for someone who has performed very well in his/her career and has been promoted based upon accomplishment.  Specific examples of accomplishment are critical.

6.      Questions

Questions are your friend.  If you are engaged in the interview, you should be asking questions about the company if for no reason but to confirm what you have learned in research.  Your questions provide great insight into how you think.  Voltaire said “Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”  If you have no questions, you are probably going home early in the process.

7.      Suitability

This is a no brainer.  Are you suited for the job based upon your industry and experience?

8.      Decisiveness

I personally look for a person who is capable of making a decision and can provide examples of doing so.  Too many managers today are incapable of making timely decisions. 

9.      Recoveries

Life is a series of wins and losses.  Your decision-making abilities are judged by your win/loss ratio.  In addition, I am very interested in your losses and what you did in response.  My experience is that you learn far more from losses.  What you do in response to a failure provides insight into what you will do in tough times.

10.  A sense of humor

Generally, my client will be spending 40-plus hours each week with the successful candidate.  I look for a person who is seeking to be successful and enjoy life. Humor is a great ingredient.

Each assignment I undertake will add one or two additional criteria but all assignments include these benchmarks.  While you don’t have to hit each one out of the park, you cannot ignore any of them.  High scores on each of the criteria will greatly increase your chances of success.


In a selfish plug of our book, From Interview Disaster to Interview Master, during my presentation (Really, the book perfectly addressed at least two questions during my presentation.), I noted that the book was available for $4 on Amazon in Kindle format.  Some said that they didn’t have a Kindle.  I am pleased to say, you don’t have to own a Kindle to take advantage of the pricing.  There is a Kindle app which is free, that you can download to your PC/Mac which will allow you to take advantage of the electronic publishing resource.  It works for most if not all e-books. 

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