Although written from a French perspective, the themes covered have increasingly enhanced global relevance and value.

Professional achievements and emotional intelligence should be key elements in the executive search decision process.

Recently, I had a lunch with one of my friends who works at a top French IT company. He told me the following story which made me think about the way in which we still approach search assignments.

executive_search_diversityThe story goes as follows:

Discussing the requirements for a new position, a manager from the HR department said: “For this position, I would think the ideal candidate will be a male in his forties with a qualification from X, Ecole Polytechnique, which is one of the top French engineering schools.”

My friend replied: “You have just given us three parameters which are irrelevant: age, gender and academic background. The ideal person you will recruit must only have the specific competences which are required for the job.”

This example stresses the French idiosyncrasy which tends to assess people by considering their initial academic achievements and does not take into account any achievements or on the job learnings that may have occurred after the academic achievement.

We need to adapt the way we search and recruit.

Although the example that I have given you is a very French one, it is not however a uniquely French situation. In fact, this is a common occurrence across many countries and is not specific to one industry or sector.

To get rid of this approach, we need to adjust the way executive search selection and recruitment is done. We should not look to clone our current employees or look for an expertise in a silo. Today, it is vital to promote diversity, which means the representation of all parts of a business community, with men and women, people of all ages from varied backgrounds being considered. It is the addition of talents in their “otherness” which allows a company to match the economic life in its complexity and actually remain successful in business. The traditional boys’ network will not keep a company relevant or profitable.

To my mind, cloning, when it does not take emotional or cultural intelligence into account, leads to a greater risk of sterility in the company. Cloning may cope with business as usual, but is not capable of mastering the permanent sweeping change. And today, change management (technological, cultural or generational) is essential for survival for most companies.

The capacity to get people with different abilities working together is vital for the growth of a company. What Americans describe as emotional intelligence, i.e. the aptitude to initiate fruitful relationships with others, and which is not learnt at French schools, is an essential factor for success. It is this shift away from seeking uniform skills and talents, and rather focusing on enhancing diversity of people and skills and perspectives that will work well for candidates and job seekers.

Candidates’ ideal way of being is not widespread in France.

In order to answer these new executive search requirements, candidates have to change the way they present themselves. They must put forward their professional achievements and experiences instead of only their academic background. What they have done during their career is much more important than their initial diploma. An academic background was an important opportunity to prepare themselves for a work experience, but the ultimate test comes from their capacity to draw on and benefit from their professional experiences. Candidates must also show that behavior or attitude is more important than professional aptitudes, i.e. financial, HR, etc. It is the ability, both to join teams by combining different know-how and to motivate them by making company strategic goals obvious which are vital for success.

Candidates must develop the ability to communicate specific on the job experience and how that experience has taught them valuable new skills that they now use in their current situations. These skills are not only limited to the technical skills, but also must extend to the very valuable so-called soft skills, such as delegation, conflict resolution, leadership of teams, communication and presentation skills to name just a few. The ability of candidates to proactively and positively position each work experience is essential as it will show the search consultant and the company that they have continued to learn, grow and develop in their career; companies seek candidates that do not stagnate and that will be active in driving their company forward!

Last but not least, candidates need to prefer facts instead of ideas and must be able to challenge the old French motto: “In France, we don’t have oil, but we have ideas.” Obviously, we need ideas, but ideas must not be a priority. Ideas are the result real-world analysis. Boldness does not primarily result from ideas; it comes from our ability to implement them.

If candidates follow these rules when presenting their profiles in an interview, they will not always be understood and or successful as this approach challenges the current norm. But they will discover that recruitment is a mutual decision; to be selected, but also to accept the offer, because both the candidate and hiring manager/recruiter must be willing to work together. So when you introduce yourself at the beginning of an interview, be yourself instead of being what you think the recruiter is looking for. Present not only the technical skills you have acquired, but also the softer skills that you have learnt on the job. This will show the recruiter that you have the ability to learn, adapt and grow.

Understanding the set of skills you possess, and how this diversity of approach sets you apart from other candidates is part of the recipe for success.

Generally with executive search, you will have been chosen from a talented pool of individuals that possess many similar attributes and skills to you. It then becomes a case of cultural fit and your ability to show the company how you will enhance their company.


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