Hiring senior candidates who are "all beef," not horse meat

It seems we are once again learning that the traditional saying, "what you see is what you get" is simply no longer the case. For instance, news reports focusing on the recent meat scandal in Europe identified that packages of frozen beef burgers actually contained unlabeled horse meat. While horse meat isn't necessarily harmful to one's health, eating it is taboo in some countries while in many other cultures, horse meat is just not viewed as acceptable ingredient. This incident seems to be just scratching the surface as other analyses have reporting finding pig DNA in beef burgers.

Misleading advertising has long been an issue in our marketplace and much has been done to stamp it out. But, as you might expect, certain products are continuing to slip through the cracks no matter how careful inspections are.

The same issue of "slipping through the cracks" applies to the recruitment and selection processes we use to hire senior candidates into our companies. For instance, many of the most senior candidates for the role of Chief Executive Officer are such good communicators; they sail through an interview leaving panelists spellbound by their skills and accomplishments. Even when we ask candidates back for a second interview and a presentation, they might do well. So, how then can we get to the truth of the matter? How can we assure ourselves that our finalist candidate is all "beef" and not a mixture of horse meat or pork?

The solution in my mind is twofold; first be sure to use behavioural descriptive interview questions and secondly, back this step up with the use of a psychometric assessment tool.

Behavioural descriptive questions are a specific format that requires the interviewee to describe a real and specific situation where they applied a certain skill that will be required in the job you are recruiting for. For instance, if you are looking for a leader who has been successful in reconstructing and rebuilding team morale, you might ask a question such as; "tell us about a time when you turned around very dysfunctional team within a short period of time".

When listening to the candidate's response, you need to listen for specifics such as whether or not the situation described was parallel to your own current situation, what their specific role was, what steps they took to turn team around and if the results suggest the individual has the skills you are looking for. When an individual provides a real situation as their example, you can also gage the accuracy of their description through tone of voice, body language. The response will appear to be natural rather than contrived and the candidate will appear to speak fluidly. If an individual is answering hypothetically, in other words, speaking from the position of, "this is what I would do if", then the speech is slower and is typically filled with "and, um and ahhhh". Behavioural interview questions are very powerful and very valid so give them a try.

No matter what interview style used, it is best to accompany the interviews by applying a psychometric assessment tool for each of the finalist candidates. These psychometric tools allow you to compare and contrast your candidates based on a number of personality and character elements. At minimum, look for an assessment tool that includes the following character elements.

  1. Leadership strengths – this assessment element identifies whether or not a candidate likes to lead and be in charge. Those with strong leadership strengths tend to be all business; they can see the big picture, look into the future and can build a team around them that will assure the work is done.
  2. Communication traits – a candidate with high scores on this element is a good communicator who is typically outgoing, persuasive and influential and the type of people who can gain the trust of others quickly. They are action oriented and can rally people around them quickly.
  3. Dependence/independence – individuals with high dependence scores tend to be highly organized but depend on clear instructions from a higher authority. Those with low scores are big picture thinkers versus detail oriented and prefer to work more independently.
  4. Strong personal discipline – an individual who holds a high score in this dimension is someone who has strong personal initiative and personal discipline, effective personal work habits and an overall ability to set goals and make things happen.
  5. Well developed self awareness – this element indicates whether or not an individual as strong personal self awareness. In other words, these individuals know their strengths and areas of challenge and ensure they compensate for this when building their team.

Determining whether or not your candidates are pure "beef" versus a mixture of horsemeat, is absolutely critical. Otherwise, by the time you find out the candidate is not the right person for the job, a good deal of damage will already be done. Avoid mistakes, work with an executive search consultant and apply a recognized psychometric assessment tool.

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