By Richard Sterling, Partner at AltoPartners Australia
Becoming involved early in the hiring of a commercial professional is essential yet this is denied to many commercial executives by the machinery of internal recruitment.
So what can you do about it?
Commercial professionals are very good at entering into relationships early to support successful outcomes. In pursing good customer or supplier relationships commercial professionals will do their homework and conduct their analysis, ask searching questions, exercise a healthy degree of scepticism and finally agree the terms and conditions before signatures are collected.
So why doesn’t this happen so much when entering into the most important of all relationships, that of employer and employee?
A major and frequent difficulty that I am told about is that many commercial executives, principally those within very large organisations, have very little involvement except for the final interview.
As one commercial director put it to me, “… all people hired into our company and into my department are supplied by the internal recruiters. I have no influence other than during the interview process.”
From the many conversations I have had around the world this approach is seen as a major frustration for commercial executives primarily because it undermines the success that can be achieved from being involved as early as possible in defining the position relative to the outcomes required, the cultural landscape of the department and even that of key stakeholders.
This is something that all commercial professionals know to be self evident and true.
Given the structures and lines of demarcation in many large companies it seems to be a hard battle to win the right of early involvement in the hiring process. So in the absence of being able to take up such a position here are 10 points that will help you to mitigate the potential of an expensive bad hire when all you have left at your disposal is the interview.
10 Points to Avoiding a Bad Hire
Schedule at least an hour and half to 2 hours. When interviewing for a senior or a mission critical role that will impact your company’s bottom line you need time to cover the important elements that will determine the candidate’s success.
Initial impressions both physical and temperamental can set stereotypes which may need to be unwound later but having said that trust your instincts and experience. Is this candidate a cultural fit with your business? If not, do not spend 2 hours in the interview.
Did the candidate bother to do any research on your organisation and the role? They should come prepared with a strong feel for your strategy and challenges and be able to pre-empt your questions and approach. A lack of insightful questions could signal ignorance, arrogance or complete comfort with the roles requirements. What do you feel is the case? Be passionate about your organisation but don’t spend 2 hours telling them about it. If you possess a leadership capability framework drive it into your questioning. Elicit solid case study material which demonstrates personal involvement and achievement. When you give them the floor they should pummel you with high quality questions.
As you review their career it is important to understand if the candidate is actively shaping their career by initiating and securing new opportunities, or is the candidate at the mercy of internal and external change pressures? Does the candidate survive organisational restructures resulting from decentralisation /centralisation, merger/acquisition activity? How has the candidate made an impact in the organisation? What legacy did they leave behind? What was transformed? Also, focus on the evolution of the candidate’s responsibility, autonomy and performance within their past organisations where they have spent a significant period. Are there any gaps in the resume? Have they fudged dates or glossed over details?
Why do they want this job? Can they articulate their rationale behind wanting the job? Explore their values and their decision making. Do you think your role represents a viable step in their career? Be wary of shoehorning a senior person into a smaller role. They may not stick. The best shortlists are emotionally connected with your role and very motivated.
What is the candidate’s leadership/management style? Will it fit with your organisation? What does the candidate respond to in terms of leadership/management? How do they like to be led and can they articulate this? What is their customer engagement style? Can they partner and value add?
You must get the hygiene factors on the table early. No point having a shortlist full of candidates beyond your remunerative reach. Ensure current and desired remuneration requirements are well understood including, Fixed Annual Remuneration and STI/LTI structures. Do you feel their temperament is aligned to your reward structures? Explore the nature of past reward and how this may have driven their behaviour.
If currently engaged how will their organisation respond to their impending departure? Will they be shown the door by their current organisation if offered the role, meaning they can start with your organisation immediately? What is their notice period? Do restraint covenants exist on the candidate? This is particularly important for market facing roles when you may have an expectation of quick market penetration and speed to revenue.
Are you competing for this candidate? Is the candidate in discussions with other consultancies/employers? Would you fast track this candidate? If they are very active in the market they may have recently undergone executive assessment. Can you access this material and feed it into your decision making? Will you undertake executive assessment on candidates yourself?
Finally, do not feel obliged to hire any of the candidates presented to you if you can justifiably argue that a fit by way of culture, skill and/or experience is just not there or at least, not to the degree you require to deliver the outcomes expected of your department. Instead schedule a meeting with the internal recruiters and discuss with them exactly what was missing, how you came to your conclusions and then commence briefing them on exactly what you want.
Definitely a busy interview but these 10 points go a long way towards mitigating the risk of an inappropriate appointment which could cost you far more than just time and money.
Tell me about your ideas and views about this article. Post a comment on LinkedIn or write to me at the e-mail below.
- What is your experience of hiring commercial professionals?
- Do your internal recruiters really understand what you want?
- How would you like to go about making a hire?
Richard Sterling is AltoPartners’ practice leader for Contract and Commercial Management. He can be contacted via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or on +61 2 8007 5812, (Sydney Australia)
AltoPartners is the global provider of Executive Search and Leadership Advisory services to the members of The International Association of Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM).