April 23, 2019 – It’s important to recruit executives that possess the right qualities to steer organizations through uncharted waters. The best leaders have a strong portfolio of future-oriented and change-ready skills that enable them to keep responding to fluctuating market demands.
“We have had the opportunity to work on hundreds of searches over the years and during that time, we have observed and experienced diverse candidate behavior,” said Sally W. Stetson, co-founder and principal of Radnor, PA-based executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group. “During a job search it is understandable for candidates to be nervous or anxious. Sometimes, however, those anxious moments can negatively influence the client’s or search consultant’s perceptions of the candidate.”
Ms. Stetson knows about finding and placing top executives. With more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant, she has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. Specializing in $200,000-plus salaried positions, Salveson Stetson Group places executives at organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit entities. The firm was established in 1996.
“As we enter that time of the year when many people launch a job search, I thought it would be helpful to share how an executive search consultant would describe the perfect candidate,” said Ms. Stetson.
Listed below are seven qualities that Ms. Stetson believes may help a candidate stand out:
1. Concise and Clear Communicator – Candidates who speak concisely and clearly about their career history and accomplishments are a step ahead of other candidates. “Answering questions crisply with abbreviated content will make a candidate stand out over others who provide too much content,” Ms. Stetson. “Often, nerves can take over, causing candidates to ramble, speaking longer and faster. It is the No. 1 criticism we hear from clients,” she said.
2. Executive Presence – Business attire today can be confusing, Ms. Stetson said. Some offices are business casual all the time or some of the time; others are very casual; and some require formal business attire every day. “It is hard to know what to wear,” she said. “It is always best to err on the side of caution by dressing formally unless the company tells you of its attire preference. Men should always wear a tie with a jacket and women should be in a dressy pant suit, skirt or dress.” Right or wrong, first impressions do influence how someone perceives you, she said.
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3. Being Prepared – Do your homework, said Ms. Stetson. Conduct research on the company and the people you will be meeting. “Go the extra mile and develop insightful questions that go beyond information you can find on their website,” she said. “This will leave a positive impression that you are genuinely interested and intellectually curious. Candidates who are truly interested in the role need to demonstrate that they have done their homework and are curious to learn more about the company.”
4. Honest, Open and Transparent – “It is always best to share your honest perceptions and feedback of a role and an organization with us search consultants,” Ms. Stetson said. “Let us know if your spouse, partner or family is hesitant to relocate sooner rather than later in the process as well as what other barriers may stand in the way to accepting the role. Informing us about other serious opportunities that are emerging is important. We can only help if we know these issues in advance, instead of at the last minute.”
“It is always best to be honest, open and transparent,” she said. “Share your honest perceptions and feedback of a role or an organization with us as well as what barriers may stand in the way to accepting the role.”
5. Conscious of Interview Etiquette – It is important to write thank you notes, either via email or by snail mail, every time you go in for an interview. “Be thoughtful about your comments and personalize them to demonstrate you reflected on the conversations,” said Ms. Stetson.
Few businesses are meeting their innovation goals, however, largely because they lack the right leadership, according to a survey of business leaders by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. Although there is some consensus around the most important competencies for innovative C-suite leaders, most respondents indicated that their current executive teams fall short. Similarly, many corporate boards lack the skills and experiences needed to oversee innovation.
“In partnering with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, we were very interested in better gauging and understanding what leadership skills are in most demand, and in asking corporate executives around the world what capabilities they think are the most important for innovative organizations,” said Geoffrey Hoffmann, chief executive officer of DHR International.
6. Receptive to Feedback – “Executive search consultants are working collaboratively with you and want to provide you with the best coaching and feedback to ensure you are successful,” said Ms. Stetson. “Listening and acting on feedback can be instrumental in moving positively to the next stage in the process. It also provides us with a reference point that you are open-minded, receptive to feedback and want to learn.”
7. Open to Discussing Compensation – “Some laws make these conversations more difficult but being open from the beginning about your compensation expectations is crucial,” Ms. Stetson said. “If the salary range is a bit lower than you would be willing to consider, be honest about it. It’s better to have that knowledge up front so we don’t get to the 11th hour of a search and find out expectations are not aligned.”
“Hopefully these insights will be helpful to you the next time you are out in the job marketplace,” Ms. Stetson said. “It is a competitive landscape and the more you approach it in a thoughtful and authentic way, the better your results will be.”
Related: A New Breed of Future-Ready Leaders
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media