I was reading a book the other day about selecting executives. It was helpful, and included information such as:
- deciding who should be involved in hiring
- understanding the challenges
- attracting quality talent
- making the decision
- integrating the executive
All good stuff. It was good to see that as we partner with our clients and/or search firms in executive selection that they (and we) are following best practices. What I have observed is that our clients and partners do a great job of identifying the critical education, knowledge, experiences, and technical skills and abilities needed for success. They also do a great job of sourcing candidates, understanding the hiring process, and they even pay greater attention to on-boarding than ever before.
What I continually notice, however, are weaknesses in identifying and defining “competencies and characteristics” that also determine success. Job descriptions have a lot of great information about the responsibilities that must be performed, and/or the credentials candidates need to have. And, clearly these are important, but there is another level of understanding that can add to more accurately predicting success.
Some job descriptions do have a list of competencies, but much of what is listed are general, vague, or ill-defined (e.g., organized, good people skills.) In addition, some competencies are an amalgam of several underlying cognitive, personality, and social styles that added together, make up the entirety of competency. For example, strategic thinking. This is clearly a critical executive skill but when hiring authorities are asked what that means to them, I hear definitions like the “ability to communicate a vision” or “creating an inspiring vision” and “understanding/making sense of the future of the industry.” In reality, these can be part of a definition of strategic thinking, but each of these are predicted by different underlying personality-related variables.
So, when I read this book, I was surprised that there was nothing in it about the importance of or methods for helping organizations determine, and then clearly, accurately define the specific competencies and characteristics needed. This is at least as important as the other steps, and, if a competency is missing, or is too much of a strength, it can be derailing!
We at The Bailey Group can’t speak for our clients in terms of exact definitions and relative importance of them to the executive position they are seeking at this moment. BUT, we can partner with clients to identify these characteristics in ways that truly define what they really need in a candidate. Then, we can measure and predict these competencies and characteristics, and then accurately predict if your top candidates really have them. So, next time you are considering a critical executive hire, send me an email or give us a call. We would be glad to share with you the methods that have worked for us and our clients!