April 16, 2019

Top Skills I Looked for in My New Hires: How Important Is an Executive Resume?

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When I was hiring executives, I wasn’t always concerned with the issues that the human resources department thought was most important. For example, I often didn’t care whether someone had a degree in their field unless it was absolutely required. I’ve met some PhDs who were absolute idiots, and I’ve met people with nothing more than a high school diploma who were absolutely brilliant. So, unless I had to hire an engineer or a chemist, I was less concerned whether someone had a degree.

What I looked for instead was whether a candidate was passionate about their subject. If you can display some passion about what you’re being hired for, then the outcome becomes contagious and your colleagues get fired up because you’re fired up. (Of course, they’re already fired up, because they’re passionate about their subject too.)

I also wanted people who were able to communicate effectively. Did they have to be a great presenter? No, but the ability to communicate their ideas and thoughts was paramount. Of course, if they were managers, they did need some demonstrated skills in terms of being able to present in front of people. They didn’t have to be large groups, because if you’re in disciplines other than sales and marketing, the audience is going to be smaller anyway.

Finally, I wanted them to have the strength of character to be able to debate any issue. I had a reputation for giving a funky interview and I would purposely challenge a candidate to see if they would debate with me or challenge me on a particular topic. I was always more interested in people who would challenge and debate with me than those who were going through their List of 20 Responses For The Effective Interview.

I heard about an executive of a multi-national company who had a record of never hiring candidates that were recommended to him by the HR department. He found that while HR’s candidates may have ticked all their boxes — college degree, could type 45 words per minute — they never fit what he needed. As the VP of Sales and Marketing, he wanted people with sales backgrounds, had lived in another country, and spoke a second or third language. His successful candidates often did not have a college degree, but they could sell million-dollar projects.

I never believed it was HR’s function to hire anyone. It was the functional manager’s job to hire the people they needed to get the job done. HR will never understand the functions that need to be performed the way the manager does, and so they often cast out candidates who would actually be prime fits for the company.

Don’t get me wrong: HR does great work, and they serve an absolutely vital purpose to the company. But beyond the initial screening of candidates, hiring is not part of that purpose.

That meant that if the functional manager was an idiot, they’d have a tendency to hire idiots. So it’s up to you as a director or executive to ensure you don’t have idiots working as functional managers. If you did, then maybe you need to take a closer look in the mirror.

This is also why I think managers should spend 15 – 20 percent of their time identifying talent. They already meet with vendors, suppliers, customers, and all sorts of people on a day-to-day basis. And if you look at all of those people as a potential talent pool, it’s easier to find the people who you think could make a big impact in your company.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my ExecRanks profile.

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