Five Strategies to Making the Right Hire

Skillsets and experience serve their purpose in selecting the best candidate for a position. But cultural fit matters even more. Dig deeper before making that final decision to bring someone new on board.

October 6, 2017 – You have spent hours crafting the job description, outlining the ideal skillset, interviewed countless candidates and picked what you thought was a winner. Three months in, you start to have some doubt; by month six you can’t believe you have missed some glaring gaps; and nine months later you make the tough decision to replace your “perfect” new hire.

Many seasoned managers have had this experience or know someone who has. In a new report, Richard Henley, a partner with Leadership Group Executive Search, detailed his keys for making the best hire. 

“Cultural fit is the No.1 determinant for a new executive’s success,” said Mr. Henley. “Skillset and professional background are not the sole indicators that an executive will succeed in an organization. Companies are like living breathing organisms: They embrace and accept you or they reject you and spit you out. When an executive is unable to meld into a new organization within the first 90 days, it is often very hard for them to succeed over the long term.”

In today’s war for talent, many organizations are highly focused on matching a candidate’s skillset, education and professional background to the role they are looking to fill. Hiring managers want an executive who has been in a similar situation as their company, solving a very similar set of issues with solid business results, the report said.


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Executives are expected to give multiple examples from their career that illustrate how they align with the company’s current challenges and opportunities, and demonstrate their success. Hiring managers spend most of their time in interviews matching a candidate’s experience to their carefully crafted job description.

Breaking Down A New Hire

“Previous success at another company is important and should always be examined closely,” Mr. Henley said. “However, it should not be the sole focus when hiring a new executive. Let’s imagine you have gone through an exhaustive set of interviews and have two finalists with ideal professional backgrounds and impressive educational pedigrees. ‘Susan’ and ‘Bill’ will be their names to illustrate our point. This seems like a difficult decision, which candidate should you choose? The only way to make an educated decision is to go beyond basic reference checking and peel back the onion.”

One strategy is back-channel reference checking. “In this case, we called people in our network that were connected to Susan or Bill – people who were not on the list of references they provided,” said Mr. Henley. “Susan’s colleagues said she achieved amazing results in every organization that she was in. In fact, a few wanted to know what company she was going to join because they wanted the opportunity to work with her again.”


Close the Book on Searches and Hire the Best Candidates Quickly
Here’s a storyline that – unfortunately – plays out far too frequently: After interviewing all three final candidates for a senior level position, the members of the hiring team can’t come to a conclusion on which is best for the job.


“After speaking to Bill’s colleagues, we discovered that he achieved to the same stratospheric results,” he said. “However, many of his colleagues stated that while he was successful he was impossible to work with. He only thought about himself and he didn’t care who we stepped on in order to achieve his results. Many people within Bill’s network said that there is no way they would work with him again.”

“So here you have it,” Mr. Henley said. “Two candidates with tremendous professional experience, excellent educational backgrounds and on paper and in-person seem to meet every part of the job description. Susan would be the perfect hire for what you’re trying to achieve, while Bill could cause tremendous disruption to your organization.”

Five Strategies To Making The Right Hire:

1. Complete backchannel references on every candidate.

Make sure you get the complete story on someone’s background. Speak with subordinates, peers and their managers that are beyond their list of references. “We need to gather as much data as possible before making your hiring decision,” said Mr. Henley. “Speaking to the references that candidate provides isn’t enough.”

2. Before you make a job offer, take them to a social setting.

You are going to spend a lot of time with this person. Make sure you spend time with them outside of the office. Take them to dinner and find out what motivates them and where their passions lie. “This is a less formal setting than an interview in your office,” Mr. Henley said. “Candidates are relaxed and most show their true personality in this setting.”

3. Make sure the candidate has spent significant time thinking about how they’re going to add value to your company.

What’s their plan for the first 90/180 days on the job? What do they think of other companies’ strategies within the industry? Make sure they are truly engaged and excited about your business. “I am shocked at how many candidates don’t give any thought into what they will be delivering as an employee during this process,” said Mr. Henley.


This Recruiter’s Top Five Secrets for Landing Candidates
With the high demand for quality talent rising, candidates are in the driver’s seat in today’s job market. This means that companies, and the recruiters representing them, must move quickly when they find the right hire. Fred Medero, a managing partner at Kincannon & Reed, offers up some strategies.


4. Whenever possible, get copies of performance reviews from previous jobs.

Ask candidates to submit these late in the process to make sure answers are not tuned to what is already in the reviews. Having said that, don’t “over read” the reviews as your needs and their old situation may differ. If a candidate is the superstar that they say they are, said Mr. Henley, they should be willing to share this information.

5. Look for hints of what a candidate’s superiors thought of them.

Who got promoted and who was given greater responsibility? Why not this candidate? Getting promoted is usually good but can be bad, depending upon that situation and your requirements. “There is usually a consistent theme in what multiple managers have to say about a candidate,” said Mr. Henley.

Mr. Henley has over 20 years of experience leading organizations in Fortune 500 companies and start-ups. He has a background in the consumer products, travel, sports and financial services industries. Mr. Henley leads searches at the board, chief executive officer, chief marketing officer and chief digital officer for a wide range of consumer sector clients around the world.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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1 Comment on "Five Strategies to Making the Right Hire"

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Michael Schaefer
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This is the best article on this subject that I have read in a long time. In essence, it’s telling recruiters to practice professional skepticism in different ways. Recruiters should be from the “Show Me” state.

Regarding the last point, there is usually a consistent theme but definitely consider the sources. Doing some research via Glassdoor etc. could give you an idea as to how reliable the information from a company will be.

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