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Unconventional Recruiting Strategies Determine Job Hopefuls' Character

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In the wake of Enron, Adelphia, and other corporate scandals, the issue of character continues to be a priority for companies seeking management level executives.

Companies are looking beyond the resumes, the references, the psychological tests, and the performances during interviews.

As a candidate, be aware of some unique ways that search firms, in-house hiring managers, and human resource executives are looking at potential employees. Sometimes, the process of zeroing in on the right candidate can inspire employers and recruiting personnel to be a little more creative. In many instances, those in charge of screening candidates are employing unusual strategies to find out information not readily available during a typical interview.

Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to a golf or tennis game or dinner at a fine restaurant. It might sound great, but what may seem like a fun night out or relaxing day on the greens may cost you that coveted position. A dazzling resume won’t help if your personality doesn’t match your credentials and all your hard work.

Here’s some insight into what we, as recruiters, are looking for in an executive:

Take note when you’re asked, “Tell me about your mother or father.” It may seem like an ice breaker, when in fact it can possibly cost you the job. In many cases the values of a parent are also the values of the candidate — which is what we and the employer are looking for. Complimenting a parent’s work ethic and integrity, for example, can also provide a good picture of your values. Your answer can highlight qualities that help you stand out from the rest. An individual’s upbringing and relationship with a parent frequently has a major impact on performance at the executive level.

“Tell me who you are.” This is another question that can reveal a lot about your personality: an extremely open-ended question, it offers the recruiter great insight into how you see the world. The way you answer will identify the important aspects of your life. Do you speak about family, education, professional achievements? The amount of time you take talking about different aspects of your life will reveal what is important to you.

Warning: If the recruiter is riding with you in your car, pay attention to your driving style and behavior while on the road. This can quickly reveal your reaction to a stressful situation. Courtesy, patience (too little, too much), and aggressiveness are qualities that become quite obvious behind the wheel. Weaving in and out of traffic may reflect a bad temper or lack of consideration for others. Just remember that your passenger is watching you closely.

We often like to take the candidate out to dinner with our spouses. Many things will be accomplished here, but most importantly we want to see how you will relate to other women or men and the service personnel. How you treat others, whether with respect or in a demeaning manner, will become apparent in this setting. Respect is the key issue to be learned here. If you are impolite or rude to servers and others at dinner, there’s a good chance you will act the same way towards lower level employees in the organization.

A restaurant setting can also reveal your drinking habits and other personality traits. For example, do you salt your meal before tasting it? If so, a recruiter may read this as an impulsive act or regard it as an inclination to react in a programmed manner when faced with certain decisions. That’s something you may not have thought about before, but it can make or break your chances for the job.

Recreational venues offer great opportunities to gain insight into a person’s character. For that reason, pay attention to how you’re reacting to competition. Don’t lose your temper, curse, toss the golf club or tennis racquet, or otherwise act inappropriately. This is not a typical game with your friends. Most importantly, cheaters never prosper. Don’t even think about tipping the scale in your favor. Such issues of character won’t surface during a typical interview and could very well hurt the company somewhere down the road.

Anyone can do a background check to find out if you have ever been arrested (and why), your driving record, previous employers, and references. While this information is definitely very important and will hopefully check out favorably, the employer is still left wondering who you really are. Will you lose it when put under stress? Are you going to turn into a liability? Do your values match those of the company’s?

These are all key issues when hiring an executive. As search professionals, it’s our responsibility to learn as much as possible before the candidate takes control of an organization. And, it’s your responsibility as a candidate to prove that you can control that organization.

In the past few years, we’ve seen too many instances where a candidate’s dark side has surfaced when faced with temptation or poor stock performance. The outstanding leaders, on the other hand, have always acted the same in down times, boom times — and on the golf course.

About the Author

Daniel Casteel is managing director in Nashville, Tennessee, for Stanton Chase International, a retained executive search firm. The 450-member organization conducts local, regional, and international executive search campaigns for many top companies worldwide. Stanton Chase currently has 57 offices in 35 countries. There are 15 offices in North America. For more information, visit
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