Finding the right candidate for a key role is a mix of science and art. You need to find someone with the right education, experience, and other qualities needed to be successful in the role, often just over the span of a few conversations. You have to quickly sort through a group of potential candidates to determine whether or not they have the right mix of soft and hard skills for your role, whether or not they will be a good cultural fit for your company, and whether or not the candidate has been honest about their past experience.
The good news is that you can help this process along. By outlining the skills that you are recruiting for ahead of time, and keeping an eye on important personality traits, you can quickly shortlist candidates based on your pre-determined checklist.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills – Which are More Important for a Potential Candidate?
Soft skills, such as strategic thinking, communication ability, leadership potential, conflict resolution, organization, and other personality traits or skills that are developed over time are usually more important than specific hard skills necessary to perform well in the given position. As long as a candidate is familiar with similar processes to those that your role will involve, a smart person can learn a lot in 30, 60 or 90 days. On the other hand, someone with the wrong soft skills can poison the atmosphere of the workplace.
Especially when you are hiring for leadership positions, soft skills are crucial. You will want to understand how the candidate behaves, how they deal with others, how they lead a team, and other variables that are important to your specific role. You want to choose the right person, with the right personality for the role, to lead your team or else the result could be potentially disastrous not only to the team or department but to your organization.
How to Identify Desirable Candidate Traits from the Candidate Pool
Before even posting the role, determine the list of relevant behaviours and skills the successful candidate needs to possess. What skills are teachable vs. “must haves” from the start? What is the team currently lacking and in need of? What are some potential areas of conflict or tension that this new person would need to resolve? Once you answer these questions, you can build out a list of hard skills, too. But some of those hard skills can serve as more of a “nice to have” rather than a “crucial to have” because the right candidate can likely learn some of them on the job.
- Look for The Right Traits in the Résumé
From among the candidate résumés, each should give some indication of the type of person you are dealing with. A résumé full of numbers and results likely means this person is good at executing and is results-focused and goal-oriented. A résumé that lists accomplishments, highlights their projects, and focuses on managing a team, is likely someone who can lead a team. The résumé also provides insight into a person’s level of organization and ability to communicate in writing.
2. Ask Behavioural Questions in the Interview
Once you have a shortlist of candidates, the next step is to see if your candidates really do have the soft skills that you need for your position. One way of doing this is by asking “behavioural questions”. These types of questions move beyond the “what did you do” way of answering questions, and dive into the “tell us how you did it” or “what would you do”. As the candidate talks about their actions and “how” they approached or would approach various projects or situations, you will learn a lot about them. Listen closely to how they deal with conflict, approach complex projects, manage their teams and what their overall leadership style is. Dig deeper to get to know more about their personality.
Unlike regular interview questions, candidates cannot hide behind behavioural questions, since they are taking you through their steps and thought processes for handling a situation. Even simple questions such as “Tell us about a time you had to give tough feedback to someone close to you” can tell a lot about someone and how they approach situations. This will show you what they will be like as a leader.
Top Traits of Good Talent
Now you may be wondering – how do I spot good talent? Here are a few of the things that will set apart a top performer from the rest of the pack.
- They Focus on Results and How to Achieve Them
Star performers are people who can visualize the desired end result, outline the steps to get there, and deliver the result in spite of obstacles. There is a huge difference between people that will go above and beyond to achieve results, and those who are happy just going through the motions and putting in a reasonable effort. You will notice that a candidate who focuses on results will have a lot of hard numbers and clear results on their résumé and can talk about them in detail in the interview. Take note of these candidates and dive deeper to hear about the processes that they follow.
2. They Communicate Clearly and Professionally
From the first point of contact to the thank-you note they will (hopefully) send after the interview, the candidate should be professional and polished the entire time. Any red flag that you notice in the beginning stages can be tested during the interview by forming a hypothesis that this particular concern may be true and then asking questions that more clearly prove or disprove it.
3. They are Curious
Star performers are always curious, challenging the status quo and wanting to know the “why” behind decisions instead of taking information at face value. Find someone who is a problem solver, who asks informed questions, and who is inquisitive and excited. Talented candidates come to the table having done their research, with a list of informed, good questions.
4. They are Open to Feedback
The best candidates have a willingness to receive feedback. By that means information can be shared freely and the entire organization can improve and move forward. Test this during the interview by asking candidates about mistakes they have made and what they learned from them. What would they do differently?
Top Talent Will Make Themselves Known to You
Talented candidates have a way of naturally rising to the top of the pile! Chances are, they will have a polished résumé, will stand out to recruiters or the HR hiring team in the pre-screen, and will stand out in their interview. It will be hard for you to miss, as talented candidates are used to making sure they are noticed.
The most important thing is to have a good understanding of the kind of person that you are looking for from the start so that you can more easily sort through candidates for your role. The more you can understand the specific hard and soft skills you need for the role, the more likely you will be able to find that person.
Kathbern Management is an executive search consultancy based in Toronto, helping companies find the executives and senior managers who not only have the experience and credentials to fulfill their responsibilities, but also have the emotional and “fit” requirements that will enable them to be successful in a particular environment. We simplify the process and, through our deep research, are able to bring more and better candidates forward than would ever be possible through a do-it-yourself passive advertising campaign.
Contact us today for a free consultation about your key person search.