recruiter Harvey Wigder still remembers a charming financial whiz
who quickly emerged as the lead candidate for a top-level job. But
then Wigder began finding glitches in the candidate's resume and
references. "It turned out he was a con artist who spent time in
jail for mail fraud," Wigder says. "He was so slick that
one person he swindled out of a half-million dollars still liked him."
Such near disasters are
rare, of course. But Wigder says any time a company hires the wrong
person, "the consequences are very serious." His advice on
how to spot the real winners:
charm for competence: Candidates with strong people skills
tend to interview well, Wigder points out, but they may lack the
specific experience and skills that a company needs for growth. A key
part of every job description should be "a concise, clear
statement -- in writing -- of the training and background the
position requires," he suggests.
Don't talk too
much: Before describing the job in detail, says Wigder, it's
a good idea to ask open-ended questions that reveal as much as
possible about the candidate's own career goals and personality.
Never get drawn into long-winded discussions about yourself or the
company, he adds. "A good interviewer should talk no more than
20% of the time."
Don't ignore test results:
Personality and skill tests are controversial, especially for senior
executives. But Wigder argues that objective tests "keep
everyone honest and objective" and can raise "red
flags" about potential performance problems.
Don't jump the gun:
"It's always tempting to settle for the first person who can do
a job," Wigder says, but the recruiting process almost
invariably works better when a company compares at least two
candidates. "When in doubt, do not hire. In hiring, patience is
Don't neglect a
reference check: "The single best way to learn what a
person will accomplish," says Wigder, "is to learn what he
did in previous situations." Peers, subordinates, and customers
can all provide useful insights, but the best references are usually
the candidate's ex-boses. "Always talk to supervisors,"
Harvey Wigder is
principal consultant at The Enterprise Group, Newton, Mass. (617/964-1855).