Hiring leaders is a tricky business. Recruiters also need to keep in mind that the leaders they recruit will also need to ably adapt with the team they’ll be leading in a timely and effective manner.
The only problem is how to successfully spot candidates with leadership potential in the first place.
A study in 2016 showed that 39% of recruiters considered the quality of hire to be the most valuable metric for recruitment performance. This is doubly so for hiring leaders.
Employees leave bosses, not companies. Hire the wrong leader, and you’re inviting disaster in the long run.
So how do recruiters find candidates with leadership potential?
They Focus on Finding Leaders, Not Subject Matter Experts
Or in other words, they focus on finding subject matter experts in leadership. There’s a nuanced distinction between an expert and a leader. Unfortunately, it rears its head most often on two occasions: internal promotion or external leadership hiring.
On both of these occasions, the problem is always that the people who made the decisions found a subject matter expert and not a leader.
They promoted or hired the leader on the grounds of their expertise on the functions and processes of the team they’ll be leading, and not on the merits of their leadership capability.
Subject matter experts have an important role in any department, but an expert isn’t a leader and vice versa. And it would be a massive error to put one in the place of another.
It leads to especially convoluted situations when an expert with all the hard skills and next to zero soft skills is placed in a position of leadership.
The team breaks down, inter-departmental cooperation slows to a crawl, and the work environment could potentially become toxic.
This is why international recruitment agencies worth their mettle always keep in mind to hire leaders for leadership positions and not be too impressed with industry hard skills.
They Don’t Skimp on Background Checks
Regardless of how many trick questions you can throw at a potential recruit, you can only find out so much about their combination of hard and soft skill sets.
You need to reinforce your picture of the talent in front of you by performing due diligence and in-depth background checks.
Interviewing references and checking previous employment performance needs to have as much effort as the process the candidate goes through.
As a recruiter, you need to match answers to experiences. Ask about specific experience points your candidate discussed during the interviews with the relevant references.
You need to perform in-depth due diligence to get the full situation from people who were there aside from your candidate.
This makes the entire process a bit harder on your candidates, but they actually think that’s better. Making an interview process harder by 10% actually correlates to a 2.5% higher employee satisfaction later on.
They Bring Forth the Perfect Mix of Traits During the Recruitment Process
There are tell-tale traits that point to good leaders or potential leaders. Usually it’s a mix of solid industry hard skills with a breadth and depth of soft skills that either occur naturally to the candidate or were molded by experience.
Aside from these, another critical facet is the culture fit. Regardless of how good the candidate’s skill sets are, if they’re not a good culture fit, they simply won’t work well with the team and the company.
And finally, these three traits are nearly perfect indicators of a good leader:
- Social awareness
- Emotional and cultural sensitivity
Leaders need to manage both people and projects, and these three traits combined are perfect for that.
Recruiters need to make their candidates showcase these traits throughout the processes and interviews and assess how well they work with the candidate’s other skill sets and cultural fit.
And that’s how the best employment agencies do it. It definitely sounds simple, but is much more difficult to execute.
What’s important is to use these three hallmarks as guiding principles to check your every action against. Do that and you’ll successfully spot candidates with leadership potential.
How Do You Find Leadership Potential?
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