When hiring for executive positions, employers are sometimes less stringent with the vetting process. The erroneous assumption is that individuals who hold executive positions are automatically trustworthy or that a typical employee screening will be sufficient.
Sometimes executives are treated as if their experience, connections, education, and charisma can make up for any minor shortcomings. But recruiting executives is a sizeable company investment. Taking a lackadaisical approach to filling executive positions is not only a costly financial mistake, but it can also damage your company’s reputation.
As Benjamin Franklin is purported to have said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Are you willing to throw away your company’s reputation by placing it in untrustworthy hands?
You don’t want to recruit executives with your blinders on. Instead, consider these ways to objectively and meticulously vet senior executives:
1. Go Beyond the Basics
Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential executive candidates, don’t overlook basic screening practices. In fact, you should take them a step further.
You’ll still want to verify degree completion, professional licensure, employment history, and all that’s necessary to effectively carry out duties related to the position.
By going a step further, you can also investigate any undisclosed information, such as past or existing lawsuits, fraudulent activity, criminal activity, and so forth. Your aim is to reduce risk and verify truths.
Did sales really increase by 400 percent under their management? Were employees truly more motivated and productive? Or did this candidate sneakily embezzle company funds? You won’t know with certainty until you do the research.
2. Focus on the Candidate’s Character
Screening an executive’s character might make you feel invasive, but it’s necessary.
As we’ve seen with national and international companies, executive decision-making needs to be grounded in integrity. Otherwise, scandals ensue. Whether beefing up earnings reports, skirting around environmental protection standards, or manipulating investors, individual character influences all three.
When vetting executives, it’s just as important to thoroughly engage professional referrers as you would for every other position. Once you’ve obtained a list of names and contact information from your executive candidate, you’ll want to go beyond superficial inquiries.
This might involve asking more poignant questions, like:
- How does this person solve company problems under pressure?
- What feeling do you get when this candidate walks into the room?
- What are the candidate’s three strongest qualities?
- If you were appointed president of a different company, would you want this person reporting to you?
- How many corners does this person cut to meet company expectations?
Within reason and with respect, these and similar questions can help position your company to avoid damaging scandals.
3. Screen the Candidate’s Interpersonal Skills
If you are focusing on credentials, impeccable profit returns, technical skills, and soaring sales, it’s possible to overlook an executive’s mastery of interpersonal skills.
Some call it “emotional intelligence,” others call it “soft skills,” but however you label it, you need to know if your candidate works well with others. Being volatile, too involved, or uninvolved can cause confidence in upper management to wane.
Here are some considerations you should take when screening an executive candidate’s personal skills:
- Overconfidence can cloud an executive’s judgment and cause them to lead employees away from the company’s mission.
- If your candidate is described as a “tyrant,” that management style can snuff out creativity and even hinder productivity.
- Historically, has your candidate kept pertinent individuals informed about shifts and needs within the company, or does the candidate try to handle everything on their own?
- If your candidate resistant to feedback, or do they listen calmly and make changes if necessary?
If your candidate has valued colleagues and subordinates in the past, it’s likely they’ll do the same going forward.
Interpersonal skills are typically developed over time. So as you research your candidate’s fit, take a broad approach. Consider speaking to individuals this person worked with before becoming an executive.
The Value of Multiple Interviews
At this level of candidacy, it’s likely that you’ll meet with interviewees multiple times. Due to technological advancements, you can carry out this task without flying candidates in from across the country or sea – at least not initially.
Multiple interviews are an especially good idea with executive candidates, because they will give you the opportunity to keep digging deeper. Screening is very important when hiring for such high-level roles, so be sure to make the most of your multiple interviews.
Over to you – what’s your process for vetting senior executives?