Selecting and Hiring Senior Managers Part 1

February 16, 2012

This is the first of a two part article on how to overcome challenges involved with selecting and recruiting senior managers. First we address selection and fit and in Part 2 look at how to avoid post recruitment surprises.  

Terry looked at the file of "Candidates" on his desk. "This time I hope we have better luck finding the right person".


Finding candidates for senior positions was not the problem. The mining sector is a small community and well connected. A few calls to former colleagues usually resulted in several candidates emerging. Terry had a large network that had gladly referred people for the Chief Geologist position. Terry had a good reputation as a leader and people wanted to be part of his projects.

The challenge was really how to make the right choice.

Being a junior money was tight and time even tighter. There were only a handful of people in the corporate office with no budget for an HR department or need for an external recruiter. When the team needed a new player, the word went out. 

More than ever, Terry needed a stable senior team . The board and the market needed to have confidence in the organization and that it could make the next big leap. Terry had seen senior folks come and go - technically sound and well referred but there was always something that went off the rails. The CFO that wouldn't play nice with the bankers, the Business Development guy that wanted to push integrity limits to seal the deal and the last Geologist knew his stuff but intimidated the operations staff. Making the wrong call was also expensive. 

Without recruiters or an HR expert how do we put more discipline into the selection process and minimize the risk of making a poor selection?

To state perhaps the obvious, selecting a new team member can be an inherently subjective process. Here are some basics tips to minimize the risk:

  1. Know what you're looking for before you start. Create a document that describes both technical AND non-technical candidate criteria. Characteristics to look for such as decisiveness, ability to influence, relationship building etc. These qualities should be written down and thoroughly investigated during interviews and with referees.
  2. Be systematic. Create a score card to use with ALL candidates. Avoid numeric ratings and averages. Being calm in a crisis is NOT a skill you want to lose sight of by lumping it in with an average numerical score in a mine safety manager for example!
  3. Collect responses to these questions in a consistent manner. There are many inexpensive tools designed to explore personalities or you can develop your own data collection tool.
  4. Every interviewer should take notes during every conversation. That way you'll remember who said what and the impressions people had of the candidate.
  5. Use a whole picture approach.  Tools are great and so is good old fashioned face to face interviewing but neither is perfect on its own. Review all the notes from interviewers and the data collected and develop a complete picture before making your choice.

Following these guidelines won't make the selection process infallible but it should help reduce bias and subjectivity AND hopefully, costly hiring mistakes.