Over the years, executives become proficient at assimilating information and accurately assessing situations. In most situations that’s a major asset, but when it comes to recruiting, the same skills that make you a successful executive can actually work against you:
Being decisive – The ability to make decisions quickly is essential for any executive, but it can lead to mistakes when you’re hiring a key team member. All too often, executives jump to conclusions because a candidate interviews well, casting a rosy glow that can obscure some major flaws. If you withhold judgment and spend the time to get to know less-polished candidates, you might discover some unexpected and invaluable talents.
Leading the conversation – You’re probably accustomed to setting the tone and direction of conversations, but interviews are one time you want to let someone else take the lead. If you’re talking more than listening there’s a risk you’ll miss important clues about the candidate’s suitability for the position.
Keeping it professional – You usually don’t want business relationships to get too personal, but that’s a mistake when you’re hiring. It’s essential to understand the candidate’s personality, ambition and motivation. Why is he looking and what is he looking for? At higher levels, the reasons get more complex and more important on both sides of the decision-making process.
Seeing the big picture – Your ability to see the big picture is usually an asset, but you need to ensure you’re using accurate information to draw that picture. It’s never safe to assume a candidate has the specific experience or technical skills you require, no matter what the resume says. It doesn’t have to be you, but make sure someone digs deep to confirm.
Relying on the hard data – Facts are important, but even if the evidence says the candidate can do the job doesn’t mean she will do it well at your organization. It’s essential to confirm cultural fit, not just with yourself, but also with other team members and the overall company. It’s harder to measure, but just as important a predictor of success as experience and skills.
It’s challenging and time-consuming to find the best candidate, but the stakes are far too high to take any shortcuts with key roles. Even if you don’t make an outright mistake, the difference between an okay hire and a great one is enormous at senior levels, so be patient, keep an open mind and be thorough. It’s an investment well worth making.