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Interviews: Getting Them Right (Part 1)

As search professionals, our work is a little bit like a scene from the novel “Holes”, by Louis Sachar. Each day we reach for our tools and get digging through the soil of people’s work, lives and character to determine the strength of what lies beneath the surface. Our meetings are planned, methodical, nuanced and detailed.

Interviews: Getting Them Right (Part 1)

Digging deep

That’s what interviews are like.

As search professionals, our work is a little bit like a scene from the novel “Holes”, by Louis Sachar. Each day we reach for our tools and get digging through the soil of people’s work, lives and character to determine the strength of what lies beneath the surface. Our meetings are planned, methodical, nuanced and detailed.

But everyone “knows talent when they see it”, don’t they? Is it really worth spending significant time and other resources to get interviews spot on?

Time for talent

Securing and retaining the best talent is a common theme to all stories of success. One well-known headhunter specialising in tech suggests a rebrand of the CEO as CTO or “Chief Talent Officer”. On attracting the cream of the crop, he writes: “that is your number one goal as a leader: to get as much talent to your side as possible.”(1)

It would appear that many business leaders agree, both in theory and in practice. A 2018 Harvard Business Review study found that successful CEOs in US-based public companies commit 25% of their time to developing leadership pipelines – their joint largest single investment of time along with functional and business unit reviews. (2) Anecdotally, Bill Gates was said to spend half his working hours travelling to and conducting interviews with future Microsoft leaders. Jack Welch, the controversial former CEO and Chairman of GE remarked that at heart the success of his organisation lay in:

“…the global recruiting and nurturing of the world’s best people... By finding, challenging and rewarding these people… we have seen them make us better and better every year.”

The consensus is clear: spending careful time selecting and retaining talent should be a top priority for all organisational leaders – not just the HR department. Though the criteria for what talent looks like vary according to sector, it follows that effective and thorough interviews which unearth top candidates are a key part of a successful talent strategy at any organisation. Lots of successful leaders develop long-term partnerships with trusted search professionals who spend time getting to know the needs of their organisations and can bring particular wisdom, experience and expertise to the interview process, ultimately contributing significantly to overall growth and impact.

Simple first steps

Celebrated leaders value talent, working carefully and extensively on interviews. I’ll elaborate further on the details of effective interview technique in the next post, but for now here are some summative thoughts for charity and ministry leaders:

Leaders lead: don’t abdicate responsibility for recruitment of leaders within your organisation. It’s an organisational priority.

Take your time: do spend significant time on interviews and other parts of talent strategy to effectively steward leadership growth throughout your organisation.

Take trusted advice: a good search firm or professional will function as trusted advisor on leadership recruitment and will be able to demonstrate their interview expertise. It’s worth finding the right one.

Pt 2 to follow.

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(1) P69, Jeffrey E. Christian “The Headhunter’s Edge”.

(2) How CEOs Manage Time (hbr.org)

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