How Can Candidates Prepare for Recruiters Investigating the Topic of Fit?

I have heard many times the importance of fit at the executive level. How do recruiters evaluate candidates for a good fit with the other members of the C-suite? How can candidates prepare for recruiters investigating the topic of fit?

Ann-Z-newAfter recruiting at the C-level for 24 years, I can attest to the fact that when filling executive roles, it is critically important to make a match based on both hard skills, as well as soft skills.

During the strategy sessions when creating a search profile, we are evaluating the skills required for the role, as well as the current strengths and weaknesses in other members of the executive team.

There is a certain magic that can be created when teams are appraised with an eye to determine what would be the perfect ingredient to make it an award winning troupe.

Exceptional teams typically have a mixture of personalities, that not only blend well, but bring out the best in each other.

If the other key members of an organization are relatively laid back, bringing someone in who is more high energy can have dramatic, positive results. Conversely, if you have a bunch of highly animated individuals, having someone join the group that is more methodical in nature can be a terrific asset. A group of hard charging individuals benefits greatly from having someone added who is a consensus builder.

After conducting strategy sessions to decipher what we need in both technical as well as cultural fit, we start the search.

You can easily see what technical knowledge we are looking for by reviewing the mandatory requirements listed in the job description. When preparing for your interview, be sure to jot down talking points, highlighting how your particular background and skill set has given you the tools needed to be successful in the role.

Soft skills are obviously much more subjective to ascertain. We always encourage clients to utilize some of the amazing personality profiling tools that are now available. These tests can reveal intrinsic motivators, and some will even go so far as creating a model based on the current executive team, offering suggestions as to if an individual that is interviewing would successfully assimilate into the team.

Situational interviews are also extremely helpful in seeing how a potential applicant deals with various scenarios, and most important, how he or she interacts with the team.

Research shows that melding into a team, especially at the C-level, is paramount to job satisfaction, so you don’t want to fake it. However, you can certainly prepare for these types of questions by employing the following four methods:

  1. Simply asking the recruiter or HR contact for a brief overview on company culture and the personalities of the management team can often times provide valuable information. Getting a heads up that the CEO is generally very taciturn and quiet can certainly be beneficial when trying to read body language. This has an added benefit in giving them the opportunity to broach the subject. Internal HR in particular may be hesitant in mentioning to a candidate that their CEO comes across as markedly doer in interviews, but when queried into the personalities of who the person will be interviewing with, this gives them an often times welcomed opportunity to share that while their CEO may come across as standoffish, he is actually a wonderful boss. Be sure to actively listen to the responses you get to this question, because its value cannot be over-emphasized.
  2. Go into LinkedIn and reach out to any mutual contacts that you may have. You can also reach out to former employees, asking for any insights they’d be comfortable sharing into the company culture as well as the individual personalities of the management team.
  3. Check out the company on Glassdoor. This is a terrific website that offers both current and past employees an opportunity to anonymously shed light on a company’s culture and practices. Obviously with any information provided by anonymous sources without knowledge of ulterior motives or the back story of the individual reporting, you want to give the most weight to common themes and consistent issues.
  4. Be sure to simply ask ideally both prior to your interview the person who is arranging the meeting, as well as during the interview, what type of personality would best be suited to working with the executive team. The response to this question will provide fantastic information. As they say, 99% of the time, if you simply ask, you will be given the answers to the test.

By being cognizant that having a good cultural fit is important to making a successful long term match, for both the candidate as well as the company, you are ahead of a large number of applicants. Keep your eyes open, ask open ended questions, and actively listen to what you find out. Many a job seeker has dodged a bullet by doing their due diligence on the culture of a company prior to accepting an offer. Equally important to investigating a company’s financial stability and reputation within the industry, is investing time to learn about the dynamics of the executive team prior to joining.


Ask Ann,

Have a question you’d like a recruiter to answer? Write to me at AskAnn@execunet.com



Ann Zaslow-Rethaber

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber

A recruiter since 1996, Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is the president of International Search Consultants, a global executive recruiting firm launched in 1999.

ISC has become one of the country’s most reputable search firms, earning more recommendations on Linked In than any other 3rd party recruiting agency in the entire country. With a team of 15 talented recruiters, utilizing the very best high- tech tools available, ISC can produce highly qualified candidates for companies with hi-volume recruiting needs.

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