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Dec 26, 2015 | The ON Experience


Smart Business
Seth Harris interviewed by Adam Burroughs



Data is driving the executive search process, helping companies reach the right decision point faster and with confidence.

“Hiring the best candidates today involves more than just reviewing resumes or searching LinkedIn,” says Seth Harris, a partner at ON Partners.

“It’s about optimizing your hiring process by pairing your institutional knowledge of fit with data-driven insights. It’s about understanding the culture of your company and that of your competitors, and situational leadership competencies.”

Smart Business spoke with Harris about the data-driven search process.

What does an executive candidate search involve today?
Not long ago executive searches were reliant on in-house research or connections within a market. Today, the nature of a search has become multidimensional, combining interviews, behavioral and experiential assessments, online testing, thorough reference checks and validation of a candidate’s previous successes.

These data points are combined to create analytics that can be leveraged to identify the characteristics of the right person for a job.

Popular websites such as LinkedIn and Hoovers have commoditized how source environments, which are the collection of candidates available to be searched in the public domain, are built.

But it’s the application of a company’s own research and knowledge that’s needed to assess the experiential competencies — the acquired skills and experiences a person must have to do a job properly — and the behavioral competencies — those that focus on character traits — that lead to a tremendous hire.

How are data points captured that are used in a search?
Information is being gathered and tracked through proprietary systems that quantify experiential and behavioral traits linked to the key attributes of successful leaders, creating unique source environments of pre-qualified candidates.

For example, there are search firms that have identified a core set of leadership competencies for C-level and top functional executives based on decades of research. This enables companies to zero in on their own talent gaps to address their ideal future state relative to human capital and leadership.

What are the starting points for a data-driven candidate search?
To get started, it’s important that a company assess the leadership qualities necessary for the different stages of its growth.

Within each stage — be it startup, turnaround, realignment or sustaining success  — a company must understand what leadership competencies are most critical and then map the business situation to the competencies needed. Each business situation requires a leader with a different set of skills.

For example, a startup requires a leader who can make tough calls early without the benefit of infrastructural support or data. Conversely, a company or division that is already successful and needs to sustain that success requires different skill sets to succeed.

Companies must then determine the baseline qualities that define successful leadership attributes at their company. Enroll as many people cross functionally in this mission.

The companies that have the strongest hiring track records are able to draw good results statistically because they have clarity of those attributes, which they can measure and coach to. Once it’s clear what success looks like for a position, then determine how to test for those behavioral and experiential competencies.

What should companies keep in mind as they approach a data-driven search process?
It takes time. Companies that struggle with making quality executive hires are typically treating each search as an exclusive event and fail to look back at what’s worked and what didn’t to get smarter about making better hiring decisions.

Create a talent strategy that looks at those leadership attributes that transcend the different functions and best represents your company’s culture.

Look closely at your best people, draw conclusions regarding your talent gaps, build your leadership competencies, integrate your process with your in-house talent acquisition team, and measure your success in identifying, attracting and retaining top talent. This will lead to a better flow of qualified candidates. ●

Resources: Smart Business Online

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