The Leadership Assessment Key by Wassim KarkabiExecutive Assessment, Featured, Leadership Saturday, January 15th, 2011
When an employer approaches an Executive Search firm to engage them in an assignment to finally hire a leader at executive level, he typically has a number of expectations of that search firm, and that list can be quite loaded in terms of process, deliverables, and particularities. In any Executive Search assignment the required result is one, to hire the right person, that will exceed the expectations of the organization and drive it forward, and remain in that role long enough to bring back value to the organization which first poured value into him or her, while boarding.
If we go a little deeper into the different deliverables we identify a number of other items that are included in what is expected of a search firm and those are: 1) the actual search and name identification process 2) the ability to engage executives at that level 3) an assessment process that is streamlined and covers the candidate requirements, 4) due diligence and reports 5) candidate evaluation reports 6) on-boarding and coaching services 7) and sometimes even a market findings reports with a variety of content. The list can go into more detail as you delve into each one of those areas.
Probably the most important of all of these, and probably the single most important differentiator between executive search firms today is not the ability to search the market and identify names, as that is not rocket science, nor to write in an appropriate language a report that will impress that employer to hire a specific candidate. The differentiator is in the assessment. A consultant’s ability to first of all understand the client’s requirements and flexibilities and then eventually transfer that understanding into an assessment mechanism that ensures that the delivered candidates have been screened, interviewed and assessed properly vis-à-vis the employer’s requirements, is likely to be the single most important part of the whole service. This part unfortunately is not done by an organization, but rather by one individual in an organization, that single individual who has been chosen by the client to conduct and run the search and assess the people. The client has to trust the ability of that person to understand the role and assess the candidates accordingly. So, the single differentiator amongst firms comes down at the end of the day to the capabilities of a consultant or partner.
So when I get asked what makes one executive search firm better than another, my answer always is: “the consultant”. In this business, and specifically when it comes to these deliverables that require the input and intellect of the individual consultant or partner, the brand, product and capabilities of the individual are sometimes much more important than those of the organization.
Of course it helps that the organization would have put standards and best practices, relevant to the brief collection and assessment process. Those best practices, procedures and standards must impress on the consultant to follow through on specific items when conducting assessments, both in the macro and the micro sense. While employer preferences vary, and legal norms related to discrimination also vary between countries, some key elements remain the same, and I would like to focus on the Macro part of the assessment.
In essence the structure of the assessment will need to cover two areas: 1) a CV based interview and assessment and 2) the CB interview and assessment. While it is obvious that CV refers to the technicalities of the role, the experiences, and history of works, performances, and achievements of the individual over their lifetime, the CB refers to the Competency Based (CB) or Behavioral part of the interview. They can both be as important, but typically the weight of the CB assessment is usually higher than that of the CV, and grows gradually as the role becomes more senior, and starts to be more and more involved in leading people, rather than performing tasks. I am not sure who coined the phrase “you will get hired for your hard skills, and will get fired for your soft skills”, but at senior level, this is an absolute truth.
While considering a candidate for a role can depend on whether that candidate actually can speak in grammatically correct language, despite the candidate’s ability to perform the elements of the job correctly, other candidates already selected may be let go six-months after hire or in a worst case scenario, longer than six months, due to the fact that they are unable to integrate culturally and behaviorally with the organization’s culture. Employers need to remember that the real cost of a bad hire, discovered long after the hire, can cost the organization an exponential amount far and beyond the cost directly related to the compensation and benefits of that individual. The real cost is scary, but that is a totally different subject altogether.
As a conclusion, it is important that employers choose their executive search consulting firms properly, explore their best practices and standards in candidate assessment, and meet in person and be comfortable that the consultant they will be working with can bring on board the required understanding needed to conduct proper technical screening and behavioral interviews at executive and leadership levels. Leadership Assessment is the key differentiator for a sustainable hire at executive level in a full turnaround executive search assignment.