Hiring Beyond the Skills Part 1

Hiring Beyond the Skills: What Top CEOs Look for in New Hires (Part 1)

In Leadership Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

After years of interviewing hundreds of CEOs on ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast and also being a recruiter myself, skills often take a back seat to the personality traits, attitude, and culture fit that top CEOs look for when adding to their team. Our “Hiring Beyond the Skills” article series explores some of the traits and attributes that leaders look for in today’s environment.

Having all the relevant skills in the world may not matter if a potential employee lacks curiosity and/or willingness to learn and adapt, especially in fast-changing industries–which seem to be most industries these days!

For Alejandro Martinez, Partner & CEO of U.S. and Canada and Head of the Global Clients Organization, SDG Group, puts it this way: “The technology is changing… and that’s where it’s better to have fighters and people that are willing to learn. I’m not an expert I need feedback from everyone.” Michael Egmont, CEO of Flagship Networks, echoes this idea and points out that filling a company with people who love to learn is a great way to grow, too, because “innovation can really help your business progress.”

That idea of a quickly-changing world is echoed by Sophie Ross, Global CEO of FTI Technology. “The reality is we all learn very quickly in today’s world and in the technical areas your job today is not going to be the same as 24 months from now. We bring in new tools, new technologies, so [people need to be] adaptable and eager to continue learning because that’s the other piece as well.”

That problem-solving mindset and willingness to learn also translate into what the younger generations like to call “vibes.” As Mary Jesse, CEO of MTI Technology says that when she is interviewing a potential new hire, she looks for how they show up. “Are they positive and problem solving or are they sitting back and kind of cynical and negative and complaining?” That’s so important to her, Mary says, “because that’s going to be the foundation of everything and you want people that are just supporting each other all in driving passion.”

So how to get at those qualities in an interview? Most CEOs agree that it’s just a sense you get from a person, but it can be helpful to ask questions about what people are passionate about. Mary says, she likes to ask “a couple of open-ended questions, just, ‘What are you passionate about?’ I don’t specify work, I don’t specify home. It’s just an open-ended question and it’s so interesting to hear [how people respond.]. There’s a just kind of a gut reaction and you get a feeling about what they’re passionate about…and you can tell that they just have that fire in their belly about things.”

Sophie comes at it from a slightly different angle, and asks questions that get people to be introspective but also look to the future: “How do they see that they will be able to make an impact? What is it that they believe they can bring and really kind of make happen? Fast forward, three years from now, five years from now, where do they see themselves in their career and specifically within [the company?]” How people answer those questions point to what they see in themselves and what they’re excited about going forward.

At ROI, we’re experienced interviewers who can get past the hard skills. Get in touch here.

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