Why do they fail to recruit Champions?

Why do some companies fail at recruiting the Champions?

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, 40% of all new executive hires fail within 18 months.

For various reasons, inadequate requirement assessment, lack of preparation, unrealistic expectation and blind mismatch, companies have difficulty in accurately predicting future performance of prospective executives.

Lack of Self-Awareness

Everybody wants to hire “A” players, even the “B” and “C” companies. If you are not an “A” company, act and become an “A” company before searching for “A” players. For example, a “B” CEO cannot and will not hire “A” players.

Being Reactive instead of being Proactive & Perpetual

Most openings are the results of a firing or resignation unless you are entering a new market, or you are a start-up. You would think they would not fail in the second marriage, but they do. Why? People focus the search on the familiar personality and effective competencies of the predecessor rather than on the job’s requirements going forward. The previous officer was constantly disagreeing with peers, so they hired a “team player” that agreed with everything. He too was fired later.

Lack of Commitment & Preparation

What do all CEOs say? “People are the most important asset of our company.” But how much time do you spend on scouting and keeping champions? How much resources do you invest in scouting and retaining champions?


Have you ever met interviewers that did not have your resume? There are lots of them. How much time do you think they spent reading your resume? 10 minutes? Do you think they thought through on candidate’s objectives, skills, expertise, experience, quality, expectation, challenges & results?

Unstructured interview sessions and process that take up too much time of the candidates, back-to-back redundant questions, different questions and different standards that leads to inconsistent judgments and the company and produces no coherent or consistent results for accurate selection.

Need assessment is generic – one size does not fit all – customize each position, situation and stage.

Un-trained – Repeating Old Mistakes

Interviewers overrate their interviewing skills and developed their own theories on what works best even though their track record on hiring and retaining is poor. They equate interviewing with the ability to judge character and hire people they like.

Unstructured on questions, process, people, environment and criteria.

Talking too much and not collecting valuable information for selection.

Many interviewers search for a reason to reject the candidate and look for evidence to support their decision.

Winging it and hiring on “gut instinct” and impression.

Turning off top candidates by tedious and repetitive back-to-back interviews with irrelevant questions. Insulting by having the subordinates do the initial screening.

Being proud of selecting within 5 minutes.

Asking familiar questions that have no correlation to performance: “Tell me about yourself.” “What’s your plan in 5 years?”

High Hope – Unrealistic Expectation

Have you read the job descriptions and candidate requirements in the papers and on the Web? Do you ever wonder if they are looking for a Superman, Bat Man, Spider Man and Peter Pan, all in one? Their job descriptions are full of contradictions: a forceful leader and a team player, a high-energy “doer” and a thorough analyst.  Have you ever seen a decathlon gold medalist with gold medals in 100m sprint and the marathon? Those kinds of ads turn-off good and smart candidates because they know you will ask for the moon but you won’t provide the necessary resources and support.

Why is it that they require you to accomplish the impossible and be uniquely outstanding but the only thing they will provide is the generic – “We provide competitive salary and comprehensive benefit”?

Start-ups expecting people to live on “stock options”. You get what you pay for.

It’s amazing how mediocre and risk-averse executives want to hire superior, entrepreneurial and proactive managers.

Over-promising and setting unrealistic opportunity – “We will be going IPO next year.” or “You have tremendous opportunity to grow.”

Assuming no need to provide orientation and integration since the new hire is a self-managing and highly paid superstar.

The most dangerous thing in business is a newly qualified MBA with a notebook full of software and an attitude of “What can you offer me?”

Specify what the top priorities are instead of compiling a long list of wish items that is not directly linked to successful fulfillment.

Relying Too Heavily on Extrinsic Motivation – $$$

Salary, bonus, stock options, benefits, parties, memberships and other perks are important, but competitors can easily match these rewards.

Relying heavily on extrinsic motivational tools will not keep good people, the intrinsic motivation will.

Ignoring Emotional Intelligence

“Hired on experience, fired on personality”

Many so-called “leaders” lack self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill.

Every job requires different emotional intelligence.

It’s difficult to measure because people are trained to behave cool, calm, collected, friendly, collaborative and kindhearted when meeting people who will decide their fate.

Hiring in Mirror Image

Psychologist Robert Cialdini writes in his book Influence, people like to deal with people who are like them. So even in shopping for corporate talent, executives hire people from same industry, same functional background, same hometown, same school, same colour, same culture, same hobbies and same intelligence etc. Just take a look at the executive team profiles of companies on the Web sites. Young people hiring young people, old people hiring old people, men hiring men, Harvard MBAs hiring Harvard MBAs, whites hiring whites and incompetent bosses hiring incompetent reports. They call this their “culture”. Well, it is not only on the border of being illegal but these companies are not reaching their optimal performance because they fail to have the best available people they preach about.

Fishing in a Pond not the Ocean

So many companies preach about promoting ‘diversity’ but how many women and minorities do you see in the management teams? There is the glass ceiling and then there is the glass-wall. When you see women in the appointment notices, why is it that they are mostly in human resources, public relations or corporate communications? Why is it that they are mostly in advertising, cosmetics or insurance industries? Why is it that most appointments of Asian descents are in engineering, accounting or computer divisions? Even at the top 100 companies that are voted as one of the best companies to work for, the number of women and minorities are miniscule at the management level.

Believing the Claims Made in the Resumes

Resumes are edited to highlight successful experiences and to show candidate’s best angle. Who would put “failed at M&A deal due to stupid founders”?

Coached by books, gurus, coaches and consultants, candidates claim 200% increase, turned around a sinking ship, generated $Millions and saved $Millions.

No one individual can turnaround a company. 200% increase from what? Did you generate sales during the recession or took orders during the boom?

John Doe sold $1M but what about others? 2M or 0.5M?

Top seller? Top among two or two hundred? Did he generate profit or highest revenue with lowest profit?

Probe further to clarify the action verbs they used: developed, directed, installed and controlled. How? Why?

In responding to a question on comfort with risk, if a finance/banking candidate says “I truly enjoyed raising funds for gutsy little start-ups”, how many did he do and what percentage did that represent? 2 out of 200 is only 1%.

Evaluating People in an Absolute Terms

John is a good manager and Jane is a hard worker. Under what circumstances?

Good manager of process or people? Hard work but any results? The results or performance depend highly on the systems and situations.

The common questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, “Where do you want to be five years from now?”, “What is your ideal job?” The interviewers have their own opinions about the answers they want in absolute terms but these answers are rendered in a vacuum. Taking them as facts is dangerous.

Strong in motivating people? How strong? Stronger than who?

Believing References

Former bosses and peers are usually generous with praise. We trust their words even though we have not even established their credibility.

3 references for someone with 15 years of experience? Get 3 references from each job – boss, peer and subordinate. Ask tough questions.

Focusing on Tangibles/Visibles Only and Neglecting the Intangibles/Invisibles

If it’s not measurable, it doesn’t count? How do you measure someone’s common sense?

How do you quantify the improvements in culture, which does not happen overnight or at a particular point in time?

In the Name of Speed & Efficiency

Screening candidates based on same industry background and same functional role or title.

Resumes seldom reflect the true candidates and the unstructured interviews seldom pick the right candidates.

Look at the existing talent pool and supplement the missing qualities.


Why stick my neck out?

When too many people are involved in a decision-making, compromises are made.

When it comes to making an offer, they usually choose the easy option and hire a safe candidate.

Even the top industrial psychologists coach executives to work on their weaknesses because people are hired and promoted based on the visibility of the weaknesses not the strengths.

People like to hire friends.

Relying on the Past Does not Mean Having Done it.

Very few top players will make a lateral move.

The newly elected presidents of the USA did not have “President of the USA” on their resume.