This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
A few months ago, my wife and I had dinner at Farm & Table in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The restaurant adheres to the “slow food” philosophy as it sources much of its products locally, uses seasonal ingredients, and even boasts its own farm, which is located right behind the restaurant. My wife is not a picky eater. However, the dish she desired contained garbanzo beans, which she doesn’t like. She asked the waiter if the dish could be served without the beans. The waiter said that he’d ask the chef to see if this was possible. Much to our surprise, the waiter came back to tell us that the chef said the dish would not be worth it without the beans, and encouraged my wife to take a chance and order the dish as it was meant to be cooked. The waiter told us that the chef insisted that she would enjoy it, beans and all. So, my wife took a leap of faith and ordered the dish the way the chef had envisioned serving it. And, the chef was right, he knew what he was creating, and knew that it would be satisfying, and my wife truly enjoyed it.
You might be thinking right now, ‘What does a farm to table meal have to do with executive search?’ The answer to this question is not complicated. The experience at the restaurant resonated with what I do when I work with my clients. When an organization engages me to help them search for the right talent for their team, I need to act like a chef, even if the organization is used to dealing with waiters. There’s nothing wrong with being a waiter, especially those who listen and bring customers exactly what they are asking for, however, a chef knows his dishes best, and knows that serving them as designed will give his customers the most delicious experience they can have.
When I begin the search process with a client, I ask them to provide me with a job description and a list of criteria they are looking for the candidates to have. But finding a great fit is not an ala carte endeavor. Each search requires that I deeply understand the organization’s needs and culture, as well as the hiring team’s communication style. My team and I at BSG have a tried and true process for doing this, and the information we gather helps us definitively find the right candidates for the positions. Often, our work and expertise will significantly change the search requirements that were initially submitted with the “order.”
My wife is not the only person who’s good at taking suggestions; my experience has shown me the C-Suite leaders are as well, especially where interviewing techniques are concerned.
On more than one occasion I have worked with a CEO that was great at asking candidates qualifying questions. The CEOs would come away from these interviews having a complete sense that they understood what each candidate might bring to their respective organization. Interviews like these are only one-sided; organizations benefit from a holistic interview process, and must embrace the reality that they are being interviewed and need to put their best foot forward as much as the candidate. All businesses want A-player talent, so they need to conduct themselves as A-player companies. To find the right fit for your organization this is what I recommend to CEO’s:
- Change your mindset, don’t look at the interview as a means of extracting information, looking at it as a buying and selling exchange.
- Remember that every exchange someone has with your organization is their experience with your brand, and your interview process is a definitive extension of this.
- If you present your most professional, organized self during the interview process; from first communication, to phone calls, to live meetings, to follows-ups, and continue to set and meet clear communication schedules your candidates will understand that this is the way you run your whole business.
Here is what you can expect in return for using this interview approach:
- With a back and forth conversation style you’ll be able to see if you connect and easily communicate with the candidate and if they’d make a genuinely good fit.
- Sometimes a candidate is not a right fit, you feel it, or they feel it, or due to some outside circumstances, it’s just not the right time to work together. If the interview process is clear and enjoyable, the candidate will become your advocate and a resource to recommend someone they know to your organization.
- Once a candidate is chosen, contract negotiations and terms are agreed upon more quickly.
So, like my wife’s experience taking the chef’s expert approach to making a dish, consider my expert approach to finding the right A-player for your team.