Tips for Hiring the Right Candidate

By Etheline Desir | Desir Group | LeadershipBrief.com

Last month, I shared the incredibly high cost of hiring the wrong executive. Inasmuch as a bad executive can create havoc, hiring the right candidate is often transformative. Based on personal experience and empirical research, I want to offer some tips to consider for hiring the right executive.

1. Understand the organization’s vision and the importance of the position for which you are hiring, and hence, its impact on the organization’s success. Will this new position fill a skills or personality gap on your leadership team? Avoid the temptation to take short cuts; do not rush the process. Remember that if you get this right, you can expect incredible long-term results.

2. Create a comprehensive job description that outlines responsibilities, values, attributes and personality traits that are essential for success in your organization. Invite input from other senior leaders as well as subordinates who understand what the position entails.

3. Clearly outline and communicate the strategic imperatives so candidates understand and acknowledge what is expectedof them within given timeframes. Address each imperative in a behavioral-style interview, cognizant of the fact that ability and skills account for only 50 percent of the weight; the other 50 percent is cultural “fit”.

4. If partnering with a search firm, engage multi-disciplinary teams (including non-professionals) to participate in the fact-finding processto give the search consultants a realistic or balanced perspective of the organization. One-on-one discussions allow for greater transparency, especially for mid and senior level executives. The interview process and the candidate experience send a strong message about the culture of the organization. Remember that interviews involve two-way selling, especially for “A” level candidates; so make the experience as thoughtful, informative, productive and efficient as possible.

5. A psychometric assessment is highly valuable for middle and senior level executives as it offers an unbiased assessment of the candidate’s personality, work-style preference, and provides areas of concern to probe further during referencing and/or the second interview.

6. References are overrated unless you are able to do back-door references. In 25 years doing this work, I have received only two negative references. It is prudent, at the right time, for senior executives in the hiring organization to reach out to peers from the candidate’s organization for a more honest and objective reference.

7. The offer package and onboarding process set the tone and expectations. Stellar candidates with strong emotional intelligences understand themselves and their worth. Do not lowball an executive you expect to be a strong negotiator in your organization.

8. Have an thoughtful onboarding plan for a smooth and acculturation into the organization and the community.


While skills, knowledge and experience are important, values, behaviors and characteristics are where the exceptional, long-term results are created.


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