The five essential criteria you need to know before your next executive hire


By Connor

13 Sep 2017

A bad hire always costs an organisation. Speaking at the In-house Recruitment LIVE! event last week in London, Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, highlighted that employers don't realise the impact of a bad hire and underestimate the associated costs.


He added that 85% of HR decision-makers admit their business had made a bad hire and that one in five admitted to not knowing how much a bad hire costs.

To be fair, the numbers floating around the web vary greatly. Tony Hsiech, CEO of online footwear and clothing brand Zappos is quoted as saying it that his bad hires have cost them over $100 million. Kevin Green emphasised that the cost calculated should include:

  • Wasted salary
  • Increased sickness and absence
  • Compensation and salary settlement
  • Additional training costs
  • Replacement costs
  • Impact on rest of team and staff morale
  • Loss of business and revenue
  • Impact on reputation and branding.

Those costs can only be multiplied when hiring key strategic players. It’s easy to see how the leadership appointment can make or break an organisation and seeing as so much rides on it, it's scary to consider how much is left in the hands of the interviewer, who may not be trained or experienced enough for such responsibility. Yet there is a wealth of expert research out there which can be adopted to make your process more robust.

Dr Dave Ulrich the world-renowned university professor, named the most influential person in HR of the decade by HR magazine, has conducted such research. Along with colleagues, Norm Smallwoo and Kate Sweetman, he undertook a study to crack the leadership code. They reviewed 2,000,000 leadership assessments and focused on answering two questions:

1. What percent of effective leadership is basically the same? Are there some common rules that any leader anywhere must master? Is there a recognisable leadership code?

2. If there are common rules that all leaders must master, what are they?

The results are well documented in their book The Leadership Code - Five Rules to Live By an essential read for anyone identifying leaders.

They identified five rules:




These rules help us identify the criteria we can explore through the interview process.

1. Strategist

Answers the question: "Where are we going?" 

When interviewing, you could pose the question: "How have you translated your company vision into your organisation, team or department activities and objectives?"

2. Executor

Answers the question: "How will you make sure you get to where you're going?"

This can be explored by asking: "Top priorities can change and change suddenly.  Can you think of a situation where you had to remain effective despite changing organisational priorities?  Describe how these changes influenced your behaviour?

3. Talent manager

Answers the question: "Who goes with us on our business journey?"

Good questions to ask here are: "Where are the biggest skill shortages in your industry right now? How did you learn about them? What is your approach to ensuring you have that skill within the business currently?"

4. Human capital developer

Answers the question: "Who stays and sustains the organisation for the next generation?"

Try asking: "What is your view on the future of work in your industry? What new roles will be created in the future? What current roles may become obsolete in your opinion?"

Of course, you can then explore, with their answers in mind, how they have developed individuals within their teams.

5. Personal proficiency

Ulrich emphasised that leaders are learners. They learn from failure and success and reiterate.

Questions to ask your candidates are: "What is the toughest piece of feedback that an employee, manager or peer has given to you regarding your behaviour or actions? What did you do? What changes did you make? How did it affect your relationship with that person?"

If you've found these questions useful, to save you more time, I've complied a free guide featuring over 50 probing questions that you can use when interviewing potential leaders. Is there anything missing? Do you have any additional criteria that you believe is essential when looking for a leader?

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