Two Top Contenders: Who Would You Pick?

Top ContendersFrom tribal chieftains to contemporary CEOs, they’ve earned the right to their position because of exemplary leadership. Throughout history and weaved into every culture, we turn to compelling leaders because they provide the guidance, clarity, and assurance we need.

Yet, when it comes to hiring direct reports – or plans for our next top performer, sometimes as leaders, we can feel “stuck.” Stuck deciding which candidate would be the best choice. Still, everyone is looking to us to make sure we “pick” the best one.

After all, our decision is going to impact everyone.

We all know how much work is involved in screening, interviewing, and deciphering a candidate’s genuine traits versus those he is putting on “for show.” As a matter of fact, it can get real old, real fast when all we want is some sign that the decision we’re making is the right one for our organization.

The Big Decision: Focusing on a Lot More than Meets the Eye

Our goal as leaders is to not have to go through this again anytime soon. We want – we need – to hire a good, solid top performer who will not only be a great addition to our team, but one that we could prime for sustainability with our company.

There is a primal component here that we shouldn’t ignore.

Whether or not we want to admit it we draw people into our emotional orbit. Knowing that up to 80% of the contributing factors for success revolve around emotional intelligence in the workplace, our decision will leave a lasting impression. It will also directly impact our existing employees and the relationships we have with them, insomuch as their future productivity levels (and could even impact their loyalty – if our decision is too askew).

As leaders, we recognize the importance of the health of our own emotional intelligence.

As leaders, we recognize the importance of the health of our own emotional intelligence. However, we should expect the same from our new hires. We should be looking for cues. Signs. Very clear signs.

We want (and need) the same from our direct reports. Our people depend on it. Our customers expect it. And our bottom line will prove it.

  • When a candidate is enthusiastic, emotions are escalated. What happens next? Performance soars
  • When we can truly tell where a candidate’s values reside, integrity mounts. Bringing that type of ethics and morality into our workplace and credibility ascends
  • When our front line workers are naturally ‘drawn’ to our new hire, we can rest assured that things like motivation, innovation, and the desire to come to work every day is going to be positively impacted

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” –Anthony Robbins

There is more truth to this than you might imagine when considering the finer points of the hiring process, too. As a matter of fact, the sole art of communication is far more encompassing on the process of talking and listening. But as leaders, we know that.

The stress associated with choosing between two great candidates can become so overwhelming that it isn’t uncommon that a leader will revert back to what is familiar.

But what is familiar isn’t always in our company’s long-term best interest.

Therefore, taking the time to assess some of the indirect qualities and traits of a candidate just might provide the answer you are in search of. Such indirect qualities are oftentimes sluffed off as what might otherwise be a given. Most of the time, as a matter of fact, they provide very clear answers.

Reflect a moment on your own experiences. What were the deciding factors that convinced you to choose one candidate over another?

Who Would You Pick?

Two top contenders were vying for a premium position at a renowned Fortune 500.

Candidate #1:

Recent Ivy league graduate, with a shiny new 4.0 MBA to show for it. Not only did he meet the minimum requirements for the position, but he exceeded areas of expertise that would likely get him promoted faster than what was considered norm at any company. His education is clearly an advantage.

Plus, he had served as an intern with a competitor, so that was another leg-up. He showed up in an Armani, carrying a very impressive, high-end briefcase (attaché). His portfolio (physically and experience-wise) could blow the socks off the decision makers.

He wasn’t shy about all of his accolades. He strived to control the interview by providing answers that were above and beyond what your company was actually “looking for.” There wasn’t a fleeting moment of doubt that his aggressiveness is what has earned him all that he is raving about.

As a matter of fact, the interview panel even sensed a bit of arrogance in the way he seemed to “look down” at some of your company’s other direct reports who were made mention of during the course of conversation. Though you and your interview panel didn’t react, you all know that you already have some of the best-of-the-best on your team.

Such comments [almost] rubbed you the wrong way, but you kept your lipped zipped to let him show his true colors. Clearly – no need to react to a candidate exuding such behaviors. We all know that there are lots of factors involved in choosing the finalist.

Candidate #2:

Also earned his MBA from a less prestigious university a handful of years ago. With a 3.7, his GPA was backed by five years of experience in the field. He earned promotions at his last position hand over foot. The work he accomplished at his previous position was extremely impressive.

Not only did he have the numbers to support the revenues generated by his work, but he also took the time to explain how he planned to integrate this skill into spiking revenues at your organization. Obviously, he did his homework because weaved throughout his conversation was tidbits of understanding and familiarity of your company.

This particular candidate was coming from a top competitor. He arrived in a nice suit – well pressed and conservative. He was dressed to impress, but moreover, what spilled out of his mouth knocked the socks off the interview panel.

Final Interview Rounds

So, the final interviews ensued.

Candidate #1 spent a considerable amount of time striving to impress the decision-making panel with his accolades. It was evident that his mere presence, he believed, was proof in the pudding. And for many organizations, this might be all they are looking for.

He was well-versed and was not shy about presenting numbers – even before being asked. He was polite, but aggressive. He knew his background was impressive and he made no bones about it. When the final set of interview questions came – the ones where we ask real-world questions – this particular candidate rolled out the numbers, aggressively and pointedly explained the technical aspects to a tee.

He was spot on. He never wavered with his ability to impress the panel with his previous experience. He made it clear that with his background, that your company didn’t need to waste time with any additional professional development and he certainly didn’t need a mentor. As a matter of fact – he could be the mentor… or so he explained.

A couple of the interview panel members noticed that the comparisons he was making had nothing to do with how any of this was going to benefit your company though. It was almost as if the candidate was most focused on convincing the panel that they’d be lucky to have him on board. The review panel also noticed that denying additional professional development was against your company’s value system.

There isn’t a soul on this planet who can’t and won’t benefit by continuous improvement.

When questioned about some soft skills (but not directly using the term), this particular candidate turned his nose up at the idea. Soft skills he said, are an excuse. What this company needs is a real leader (were his words).

Candidate #2 was just as impressive with his presentation. He provided numbers and real-world examples. He was well-versed, polite, and assertive. He presented his expertise (i.e. MBA-related information, mixed with on-the-job experience) in a manner that appealed to your company, in particular.

He approached this interview with the company as the core topic of interest.

When the final set of interview questions came – this candidate artfully demonstrated numbers and approach in a manner that appealed to your company’s clients. Now that was impressive.

His demeanor was approachable; he invited inquiry. His eyes lit up when the review panel explained continuous professional development opportunities. He welcomed the idea of being allotted a mentor. He demonstrated genuine appreciation for the additional support and training. It was clear that he was a life-long learner and strived for continuous improvement.

Yes, his goal was to eventually become a leader one day, but he clearly knew that to get there… he must welcome the wisdom of those who have come before him.

This Happens to be a True Story…. So, Who Got the Job?

Candidate #2.

Candidate #2 may not have the ivy league MBA or the aggressive nature supporting all the accolades that Candidate #1 possessed, but guess what?

Candidate #1′s genius presentation isn’t going to do this hiring company any good if he isn’t open to the training required to become acclimated with this particular company.

Every new hire needs to learn the idiosyncrasies of our company. Why? Because no two companies are exactly alike.

No existing employees is going to accept command from this new hire if things like artful motivation, empowerment, and good listening skills aren’t part of his repertoire.

Both candidates possessed the experience, education, knowledge, and skill needed to execute this job quite well. On paper, Candidate #1 would probably be the top choice – hands down.

Until the hiring personnel had a chance to get to know him.

It’s amazing what a bit of humility, mixed with assertiveness can do; what attentive listening skills matched with a genuine interest in others can yield; and how our demeanor can make or break a deal. Soft skills are critically important … for a reason.

It’s also astounding to realize that we can literally destroy opportunities because of the way we present ourselves. What’s more — there is far, far more truth in the reality that soft skills are a leading requirement for a reason. Unfortunately, soft skills are also a skill or trait that can’t be learned if the candidate is unwilling to accept just how critical they are.

When we convert this into a pragmatic mode, when we focus on the bottom line, it might be worthy of consideration.

How much do your people want to come to work each day? How much do they really care about their job? About our company? How much do they care about their colleagues?

What lies in the answer to such questions are a very, very direct correlation to how much impact they are going to have on our company.

When we convert this into a pragmatic mode, when we focus on the bottom line, it might be worthy of consideration. How do you correlate reaching your numbers based on a candidate’s demeanor, skill, traits, and degree of emotional intelligence?

It might be worth it in the long run to protect your existing workforce while searching for the ideal candidate. Not always a fun process, but oh-so-worth the effort.

Originally published on Bizcatalyst360



Dr. Jennifer Beaman

Dr. Jennifer Beaman

For over 25 years, Jennifer has served as an executive consultant helping organizational leaders streamline processes and strategies by enhancing skills and practices. Serving as a strategic consultant to industry-wide businesses throughout California, she soon recognized the unparalleled value of human capital. In turn, she introduced leadership and executive development services, thereby providing a more holistic opportunity for clients. Cornerstone to helping leaders recognize the power of their actions and behavior, she weaves the art of emotional intelligence into all interactions, thereby promoting thorough value to the entirety of organizational systems. Joining ranks as a business owner in 2004, she partnered in a California-based sign manufacturing business. This business served a variety of clients, primarily larger corporations, franchises and Fortune 100-500s. In 2008, she participated in partnership in southern California specializing in project management and leadership development services. This corporation served clients ranging from Fortune 50-100s. The Association for Leadership Practitioners is a subsidiary of a parent company opened in 2010 and serves clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500s. Dr Beaman also serves as a partner at Chasing Limitless, Inc., providing strategic consulting and executive leadership development services to catapult organizational revenue and growth and primarily serves Fortune 500 companies. She holds a Doctorate in Management with a focus in Organizational Leadership; Master's degree in Organizational Management; and Bachelor's degree in Organizational Development. She is an active member is several professional affiliations and volunteers on a consistent basis helping entrepreneurs and doctoral students working toward publishing their dissertations.

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