Success Indicators: Candidate Qualities That Equate To A Successful Executive Hire

The 10 Candidate Qualities that are Critical to the Success of an Executive Search Process

When hiring an executive, you simply cannot afford for the candidate to be anything short of a success. While there are tangible costs associated with recruiting and training the wrong person, there are also intangible costs to consider. The wrong hire can cause significant disruption and damage to morale and productivity, and can diminish customer satisfaction, work quality, and your business’ overall reputation.

At Kinsley Sarn, our team has been in the business of recruiting executives for over 30 years. During that time, we’ve seen many successful placements, but we’ve also seen (and heard about) candidate placements that weren’t the right fit. For various reasons, not every candidate placement is a success. If there’s one thing our experience has taught us, it’s what contributes to a successful (or unsuccessful) executive placement. While the expertise of your executive recruiting team and the quality of their executive search process has a large impact on the success of your new hire – there is another important aspect to consider. Though qualifications may vary based on industry and organization, we have found these ten candidate qualities are critical in the most successful executives regardless of industry or organization. Look for them during your hiring process.

qualities to look for in candidate infographic

10 Critical Qualities Successful Executive Candidate’s Possess

1. Vision

Look for the candidate who not only understands the long-term vision for your organization but buys into it. Explore how they would make that vision a reality within the scope of the position they are pursuing. Successful candidates who enter a new role with a game plan, achieve more immediate and long-term results.

2. Empowering

It’s important that the individual you put into an executive position is equipped to empower the employees they oversee. Successful leaders know how and when to delegate, freeing them up to pursue critical objectives while stretching and developing their direct reports. When employees are empowered by their leader, the entire organization benefits.

3. Open-Mindedness

An individual who is open to new ideas and processes is critical for your company to continue to perform and grow. They also need to be respectful of current norms and values while understanding how to bring about needed change. Just as important is for the leader to be open to feedback and pushback, along with a willingness to change and adapt based on other’s input and ideas.  

4. Courage

Someone with the courage and willingness to take risks (often without assurance of success) in order to achieve the end goal is a strong candidate for an executive position. The nature of an executive’s position involves risk and you’ll want to be confident in your leader’s ability to handle that risk appropriately. Courage also comes in the form of having difficult conversations around direction and feedback with employees and/or customers, when the issue or opportunity presents itself, and not just during their annual review.

5. Integrity

The success of an organization is built on the trust of its customers, employees and the public. Therefore, it’s important to build a team of honest and truthful leaders. When interviewing executive candidates, look for individuals with strong personal values and a demonstrated track record of ethical behavior as they will surely instill those same values and ethics in your organization.

6. Humility

Humility is easy to mistake for weakness. But in reality the most successful leaders have a strong sense of humility. This tends to be a rare quality in leaders as it requires them to soften their ego. A candidate who can recognize the value in others (without feeling threatened), admit when they’re wrong, and give credit, recognition and visibility will best suited to make your business successful. Avoid leaders tuned into WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”!

7. Resilience

In the ever-changing high-pressure world we live and work in today requires resilient leadership. The ability to take on change and adapt to what’s happening in the workplace is especially important in an executive role. Ask candidates about a time they faced a major setback and listen carefully to how they overcame it. The most resilient leaders can bounce back from disruptions without sacrificing their composure or putting stress on others.

8. Emotional Intelligence

A candidate might check all the boxes according to your job description, but do they have emotional intelligence? A leader with emotional intelligence inspires and motivates peers, builds relationships with team members, and focuses on collaboration which can dramatically improve your organization. Seek candidates who show their human side, are connected to their subordinates, and have empathy for others.

9. Passion

If an executive lacks passion, energy or excitement, run, do not walk to the nearest exit! More seriously, find out why they are interested in your opportunity and company and how they would describe it to their family and friends. Pay special attention to candidates who are enthusiastic about their work, your product, big goals, and of course, success. This fit will determine the success of the candidate

10. Ownership

There is much to be said for an individual who can take ownership – whether it is ownership of a project or task, or when something does not go as planned. Take some time to understand mistakes from their past, what caused them, what they did to correct them, what they learned from the experience and what they do to make sure they are not repeated. Explore how they run projects. What they do to lay out the plan, how they communicate and operate during the process and how they recognize and reward the team when finished – is it about what they did and their leadership and do they understand they are part of something greater?  

A Tailored Search Process That Will Result In a Successful Executive Placement

With 25 years of corporate HR experience and another 15+ years in leading an executive search practice, we’ve just about perfected our process. While we take a different approach than other executive recruiting teams, it’s what we do differently that we feel makes the difference. During initial conversations with your executive search firm, pay careful attention to how invested they are in understanding your specific needs and wants, your business’ core values and culture, and what makes the successful executives within your company successful.Take time to feel out their search process. At Kinsley Sarn, we take the information gathered during our initial conversations and use it to customize a search profile. We use this detailed document to identify and evaluate potential candidates. How does the search firm go about recruiting candidates? Do they have a network of highly qualified professionals? What types of interviews and assessments does the search firm put candidates through? These are all important aspects of a search process which could ultimately lead to the success or failure of your new hire.

Transition services further the likelihood of success

Bonus! Does your executive recruiter offer new employee assimilation? Transition support is proven to reduce executive failure by 80%! Your onboarding strategy and process is critical to the success of an individual in their new role. Finally, in the case of a poorly fit candidate, does the firm offer any sort of guarantee? As a premier executive search firm, the quality of our service is our highest priority. If your new hire doesn’t work out within the first year, we’ll search for a replacement to fill the original position at no additional fee – it’s our guarantee.Next time you’re hiring a senior executive or C-suite level employee, be sure to keep these candidate qualities for success in mind.  

We want to be your executive search partner. Learn more about what sets our search process and services apart from the rest.

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