Authenticity and Data When Making Key Hiring Decisions

If your executive hiring is becoming more and more of an objective, scientific, data-driven process, I have one question … how’s that been working for you?

The reality is, the more personality assessments, skill assessments, task exercises, and data accumulating processes become available and utilized, the average tenure of senior executives continues to decline.

While assessment data can add some insight… If you’re hoping to hire a sentient human being, they are not simply defined by data!

Often, organizations want to accrue a critical mass of data to be able to evaluate the results and hopefully make a “wise” decision. Alternatively, or sometimes concurrently, they expect candidates to “sell” themselves as to why they are the best person for the job. The candidate with the best presentation wins. While many of those assessment tools have value in providing insights, and a great presenter tends to give reassurance, neither method is a solid indicator in determining someone’s long-term success or failure in the role.

Interviews are crucial. However, conventional thinking when it comes to conducting “good” interviews is to have structured interviews that ask each candidate the same set of questions to supposedly be able to make better comparisons. The candidate that presents themselves better and answers the standard questions best, must be the best choice… right? Not so much… they’ve only shown they’ve prepared and interviewed well.

So the obvious question then is… How DO you determine the best candidate???
Get to authentically know each other!

Ultimately, the success or failure in a senior executive role is determined more by the working relationship of the team than it is by technical knowledge or skills or previous accomplishments.

Every leader has heard of or seen examples of stories of a star executive at Coca-Cola that goes to Pepsi and fails miserably, or vice versa. Clearly, they understood the industry and the technical requirements of the job, they excelled on assessments and interviews, and yet they failed in a matter of months. Why? Almost always, because of a lack of shared worldview, values, and working relationship.

The assessment evaluation and structured interview process didn’t lead to relationship formation.

A relationship isn’t achieved by small talk with the candidate’s family over dinner. It’s achieved through authentic and transparent conversations about motivations, purpose, personal priorities, values, and vision.

The structured interview process primarily revolves around “What did you do?” and “What did you achieve?” More enlightening lines of questioning include “How did you do that?”, “Why did you do that?”, and “What was your purpose in doing those things?”

As in building all other relationships in our lives, real transparency comes when it’s a mutual endeavor.

The most effective means to uncover the authentic picture of a candidate is to lead with authentic transparency yourself! Good candidates will almost always follow in kind.

Many leaders shy away from transparency about themselves and their companies to a candidate, thinking the candidate will then be disillusioned by the warts and no longer be interested in the opportunity. The alternative, however, is them landing in a role with false perceptions, and be disillusioned soon after starting the new job… naturally leading to retention problems. The right candidate that shares vision, values, and forms an effective relationship (who will undoubtedly also have their own flaws), will opt into tackling the warts and see them as a welcome challenge. They will be all-in and not be easily lured away when challenges surface.

While a structured interview can be a good starting point, allowing the conversation to take different turns depending on the individual can expose critical insight that will be different for each person.

One size fits all questions don’t get to the heart of the uniqueness of each person!

Our firm, HansenBack, has successfully coached our client organizations and our candidates through the hiring process to achieve an industry leading 97% retention rate of our executive placements while the industry average is less than 60%. Want to hear more? Check us out at:

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HansenBack is an Executive Recruiting firm based in Minneapolis. We have a 30+ year track record of helping our Clients hire and retain excellent executive leaders.

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