Finding the Right Executive for Your Business Needs Part 9 – Use Personality Assessments and References in Your Decision Process
Some culture assessments on the market can be very insightful. We are not experts in the range of such instruments, nor in the selection process of which is best for any specific organization. What we have learned through more than a decade of working with organizations of every size, however, is how to leverage such instruments as part of the vetting process, including what they can tell you and what they can’t tell you.
Assessments also provide another data point to compare with all other interactions with the executive to validate the big picture and establish consistency. Are the assessments verifying the overall narrative of the resumé and discussions, or does it tell a somewhat contrary story? Sometimes there’s a little nagging voice in the back of your mind; does an assessment bear that reservation out, or does it put your mind at ease? If something comes back in black and white on the assessment that aligns with an existing red flag, dig a little deeper.
For example, during our interactions with a specific executive, one email was uncharacteristically aggressive regarding his expectations and requests. It was not consistent with past conversations. On a follow-up conversation, there was no further indication of this tendency. But when we read through his results on a commercially-available personality/work style assessment, they did mention he may have a tendency to behave aggressively when there were unnecessary delays or a stagnant work environment. We then seriously considered whether the
executive would be the right fit for the client, which had experienced a great deal of turnover in the department for which we were helping to find leadership. Taking into consideration the increased pressure the organization was under, we determined the client company would not be a good working situation for this executive’s work style.
Keep it in Perspective
Most people think of references in terms of “Did the executive or did the executive not do a great job?” Of course he or she did; that is why the candidate is providing this particular reference.
While reference checks are still a pro-forma resource at this point of the decision-making process, they are of questionable value in the executive vetting process, which raises an important question: What do you want to get out of a reference?
If somebody has agreed to be a reference for an executive, it goes without saying he or she will say, “This executive is a great person.” The references will gush; that’s expected.
If you do plan to call references, plan questions based on the interview discussions and ask them about specific stories the executive told. Trust, but verify. The goal of a reference call is to either validate what you already know or to dig deeper for the reference’s opinion on the why.
Come back tomorrow to read Part 10. You can find Part 8 here.