Interpersonal Skills are Essential to New Hire Success

A recent Harvard Business Review study indicated that 46% of new hires failed in the first 18 months of their new work and only approximately 20% percent achieved full success in their jobs. The key reason for failure was found to be poor interpersonal skills. 


My own experience as an executive search professional solidly supports this notion. However, what I found even more alarming about this study report was that over 80% of the recruiters interviewed failed to consider interpersonal skills in the recruitment process. This rate of failure creates considerable risk for organizations as it costs time and money to conduct a search only to lose a candidate within the first two years.

That’s why many organizations turn to an executive search professional to conduct a recruitment project for them. However, that’s not a singular answer. In other words, you have to hire the right search consultant! And that means paying attention to two key issues. First, you need to focus on developing a trusting relationship and secondly, you need to ensure there is frequent communication regarding your project.

Trust is developed by being open and honest about challenges you might expect with the search assignment and working with your consultant to identify the skills and competencies required for the role. When you have trust, you have confidence in your consultant being able to identify potential candidates that will be the right fit for your skill requirements and organization culture. You will also have confidence the consultant will demonstrate honesty, integrity and respect as a key part of your relationship. Finally, you will have confidence your consultant will continue to focus on your assignment even when candidates are hard to find and/or other unforeseen challenges arise.

Secondly, you must not only look for good communication skills with your clients but you must also expect and demand good communication from your consultant. This means providing you with frequent status updates after each milestone of the search process. This communication is critical so that you are never blindsided by a challenge that must be overcome. For instance, receiving feedback from your consultants on issues such as salary competitiveness will enable you to make adjustments should that be necessary.

While the Harvard Business study suggested that interpersonal skills were neglected within the interview process, I can also assure you that assessing interpersonal skills is not as easy as one thinks. That’s because interpersonal skills includes a broad range of sub-skills such as being a good listener, seeing things from the other person’s point of view, being able to work creatively with others and communicating clearly. These simply cannot be assessed from a one hour interview.

Thus, in my practice, I take a much more comprehensive approach. Candidates are assessed through a number of different tactics. They are asked to provide written work in which they must describe their strengths and areas of challenge. They are interviewed by up to three persons during the initial screening process prior to my final interview. Once I am satisfied, I will recommend one or two interviews with the client.

As well, I apply an additional more scientific approach by utilizing psychometric tools that measure many of the elements of personality, communication style and motivators required for success in today’s marketplace.  Once complete, we share the results with our client, compare and contrast the different candidates and then confidently determine which candidate is the best fit.

It has been proven time and time again that interpersonal skills, trust and communication are the keys to success for senior leaders. In my view, these same requirements apply to the kind of relationship you want with your search professional.

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