One of the key things an Executive Search firm will try to understand is the organisation they are working with, and the types of people who are successful within it. Less obvious skills, like the ability to influence, are often overlooked and can often result in a poor fit. Someone who looks like a great fit on paper with strong technical skills won’t be able to make a success of their role without the correct environmental match.
One of the major issues with a poor wrongly placed candidate is the damage to the reputation and credibility of the function (not to mention the brand in an outward facing role) and absorb a disproportionate amount of management and colleague time.
There are key differentiators between hiring at mid management and executive level and understanding them is critical in reducing the risk of a bad hire.
At an executive level, incumbents need to be ensuring that their function is effective within the context of what the organisation wants. They will be dedicated to continuous improvement and are more likely to make decisions on less information and change it if they’re wrong, rather than let the decision-making drag on for months. They have a presence, they are risk takers and they don’t mind making mistakes.
Mid management is about good control, knowledge of processes and market segments but there is less focus on cross-organisational skills and translating them into tangible action. The skill set of middle-management is centred around leadership, demonstrate the desired quality of work to members of staff and set clear and measurable objectives, and are skilled in presenting, persuading and influencing people.
The role of the Executive Search firm is to recognise whether the individual has the confidence to step up a level and go outside their core skillset, and act as a broad contributor to the business.
Risk can be attributed to the client not clearly expressing what their real requirements are. It’s important to know if they want someone to complement or challenge what is in place already. When an organisation is trying to reduce risk in hire, they firstly need to understand what the business needs and how the new position will fulfil these needs. Being explicit is a good starting point in terms of ensuring the hire doesn’t become a misfit.
A good Executive Search firm will spend a lot of time getting to understand an organisation; if the initial setup is thorough then straight away you’re reducing risk and only targeting well-matched individuals. This should mean they liaise with a smaller pool of candidates, and through a mature discussion with each candidate, quickly determine whether they represent a good fit.