The right candidate in the right position: the skills needed for an executive profile
The search for the right executive is a long process of weaving many threads together that starts early, well before starting to examine profiles and interview candidates. Not just candidates for any position, but executive profiles, executives who will cover a key role within a company and on whom, in many cases, the fate of the entire company will depend. “The selection of the right profile is a process that is shared with the client, and not incidentally it is preceded by a long phase of study and listening to the company,” explains Luigi Oddi, Senior Partner of Horton International, a global leader in executive search services. We asked him how a good headhunter searches for the right profiles for his clients.
Mr. Oddi, what does it mean to “share” the search with your client?
“It means, when possible, defining together the characteristics and skills of the ideal candidate, outlining the right profile based on the company’s features and business objectives.
An executive for all seasons doesn’t exist. A company that is preparing to confront a project of internationalization has different needs from one that is undergoing reorganization. And the headquarters of a multinational firm is organized according to a different logic than a company, albeit large, that is guided by a single ownership. In the initial phase, all these factors must be considered.”
Given this, are there particular skills and qualities that “design” the ideal executive profile?
“There are transversal characteristics that an executive must possess, regardless of all the rest. Consistency, interpersonal skills, flexibility and the ability to adapt to different contexts, also re-modulating the strategy if necessary: these are essential elements. Also, having demonstrated that he has values is also an important component for us. When you select high-level profiles, you deliver the company business or business area into the hands of a single man, so the behaviours and the self-possession he has demonstrated in his previous experiences are factors that we evaluate carefully. The ability to create value for the company is also very important. Instead of someone who in the past limited himself to simply managing the existing situation, we prefer those whose guidance allowed them to make their own contribution to the growth and development of the companies where they worked, although in different ways.
How do you pick the right candidate?
What makes the difference is not so much the scouting techniques and methodologies, though they are certainly useful, as much as the depth with which the candidate is examined. The first meeting, for example, cannot be reduced to just the interview in which we ask about his prior experiences, but it must become an opportunity to go more in depth, one in which we try to establish a relationship with the candidate, investigating his context of reference, trying to understand what his ideas are about certain development policies. And we also talk about his relationships, information that will be useful for requesting feedback in his network. Once we have arrived at this phase, the candidate’s professional skills have already been verified, so they are expected.
How much does the psychological factor count?
Very much. In fact, there are many clients who ask headhunting companies to assess candidates using systems of evaluation that also include psychological aptitude tests, administered with the support of qualified professionals.
What qualities does a good headhunter need to have?
Experience, first and foremost. Understanding corporate organization and logics, having in-depth knowledge of the reference markets in terms of contexts and dynamics, knowing how to interact with the client and the candidate, and having a good network of relationships that allows you to easily obtain feedback and further information and to acquire references. It is no coincidence that many headhunters come from previous managerial experience in industrial companies or management consulting firms, although for some years now successful recruiting professionals have come from professional employer organizations and/or service companies for middle management.