Good Luck Finding A Talented Leader

Businessman standing with back against city

Or, at least one who will tell me everything I need to know in a couple of hours interviewing!

At one point or another, we all have the charge to hire employees.   If you are an Executive in a business, you will be hiring other managers to step in and lead your teams,  divisions or so on.  So, how do you make sure you have hired the right person?  I wish I could say it was simple & just do 1-2-3.  By now, you’ve figured out it’s not.  Let’s see if we might create a slightly more effective approach and at least offer some ideas.

For our discussions, we are going to be hiring a VP level to run parts of your business.  This role will have significant P & L responsibility.  They will be managing managers as well.

First, we need to advertise for the position.  The key is letting folks know.  Whether it’s a referral by word of mouth, an ad (digital or print), it doesn’t matter.  LinkedIn is a great tool for this as it allows you to target and recruit (keyword!).  You want to select this person as much as possible.  Look for the skills and features you feel fit the position and align with the culture, then reach out to these candidates and try to recruit.  In these markets, you need to pursue top talent and don’t wait for it to appear on your doorstep, it won’t.

Once you have what you feel is a qualified candidate you need something additional to give you a subsurface to know who you are talking to.  I, for one, am a strong believer in screenings such as PI, Strengths Finders or Profiles.  These tools aren’t foolproof but they seem to work the best based on experience and feedback.  You want to know what holes might be there so you can address them in the interview to see if the weakness is enough to toss the candidate.   Also, try to better validate those strengths that are indicated in the screening through the interview.  Check their personality, their body language & how they come across in speech.  The screenings are a great preparation tool for the interview process and will signal you to address certain aspects of a person that you may not have thought of without it.

Now, to focus on the interview process.  So, how much is too much?  It’s my opinion that a multi-step process for a VP is critical, but a gauntlet is crazy and may cost you a great leader.  This person will need to have at least 4 interviews over 2-3 different days.  Make sure the candidate’s interview across all levels of your company.  This is important because you want to see if a person changes behavior based on who they’re talking to.

Once a person has passed through the interviews it’s also important to bring them outside of the business for a social contact, a spouse dinner or something to get them out of character. This throws in the wild card of spouses and most likely personal things that will be discussed not business related.  Really pay attention here.  How does the candidate relate to their spouse in this setting?  Does the spouse look at the candidate before they speak all the time?  Try to pick up anything here that may give insight into communication style or honesty vs. the person you have interviewed so far.  If a spouse is getting a non-verbal “OK to talk” every time they open their mouth, there is a reason they are being that careful.  Drill into it and save yourself a headache down the road.   You are working through all these steps to try and weed out any of those you feel will not make it.   If you are fortunate enough to have 2-3 that make it to the decision point, you are very lucky.  This is where my decision becomes based on the “X” factor to make the final call.

What is an “X” factor?  It could be something said between interviews or a mention in a thank you note.  Did all the candidates even do thank you notes?  Maybe it was something they brought to an interview or some creativity they showed above and beyond.  Typically, it’s that positive notion you’ve gotten somewhere throughout the process that has stuck with you.  We all know when we have seen it and out of 2-3 people, someone will outshine the others in a small way somewhere.  Coaching to discover the person with that unknown is possible and there are ways to drill into it that I just don’t have space for here.  Finding real grit for the job is a science and an art, but it can be taught.

Wishing you growth.


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