The Desk

October 13, 2008

Candidate Face Off

Filed under: Hiring — Yvonne LaRose @ 9:17 PM
Tags: , , ,

These presidential debates and Town Halls are starting to move me back into Total Immersion. Everything I see has some relationship to job search, sourcing, recruiting, candidate development, retention, and promotion. They have me thinking quite a bit about diversity and legitimate qualifications. And they’ve got me thinking a lot about interviewing.

I’m at the stage where I’m thinking what if we had a face-off between the last two or last three contenders for a C-level position. Instead of keeping the candidates away from one another and their responses to our many questions about “what if” and “how would you” or “where would you” we did things much differently. We would put them in a conference room with the members of the Hiring Committee, the full Board, and the Officers. The members of this auspicious audience would pose questions to the candidates. The questions would be based on specific topics that are pertinent to the governance and welfare of the company. A la Town Hall style debate, the candidates would respond to the questions and also be allowed additional time to respond to or refute the answer their opponent gave.

I’ve been frustrated this election year with the fact that I’m not able to easily take in the debates. Even more frustrating is the fact that it appears the candidates are falling back on speechifying and spouting rhetoric rather than delving into talking about the difficult issues and coming up with projected plans and workable designs for this nation and its people.

The frustration is exacerbated by the overwhelming amount of dysfunction impacting us due to the fascist regime under which we’ve labored for the past eight years. It is a regime that feels it is answerable to no one and is completely privileged and untouchable. It’s use of the many economic tools is without knowledge and appreciation of the inevitable outcomes from mismanagement. We shouldn’t be surprised and shocked at the pervasive amount of fallout impacting us at this date.

Why would we do something that’s this far off the traditional path of interviewing and screening? These types of debate interviews or face-offs would allow the stakeholders to see the full strengths each candidate brings to the table on a pro rata basis. These face-offs could have the advantage of showing which candidate has the strengths the company needs at this time and provide insight into how those strengths would actually be used to get the desired results.

Aren’t interviews and their content supposed to be private? That’s what we’ve been told for centuries. Perhaps it’s time to break the mold. No one has given us solid reasons why the types of responses we seek from these candidates should be obscure and occult. In fact, this is the level at which the enterprise needs to know from the outset whether the potential leader is one who is ethical and how well they articulate the goals and agenda of the company.

There are so many times when the same question is not posed to all the candidates. Therefore, how they would have answered compared with their competition is still a mystery. Yet decisions are made based on what was said, who seemed to provide the best answers, and recollections that strive to retain what was said by the other candidate some three to five weeks before. And these recollections are beside the point that there have been many unrelated meetings and negotiations and other business that has overriden this minor step in the hiring process.

Additionally, this alternative interviewing style affords us with a new perspective of the candidates. C-level workers are the leaders of the corporation. They are the vision of not only where the company is going but the best way to get there. They set the tone for the style and manner in which things are done. They are the role models. How they handle challenges, pick up theirselves when there’s a misstep, their communication strength, and graciousness are all part and parcel of what we’re trying to get right. Having these candidates face one another is a true test of how well they can handle the challenge of facing any opposition.

This is a time when the stakeholders can get a very accurate picture of what the candidates see as the major emphasis and focus for the company. It is also the time when everyone can see and hear how well the candidate has prepared himself with knowledge of the company, its standing, and other important aspects that relate to making decisions on behalf of the company.

Does the candidate play to his or her own strengths or does s/he use denigration to gain position over their contender? How solid is the candidate’s knowledge of the issues facing the company? It’s important to know whether the person appreciates the competition’s brand compared with that of the company as well as whether they have ideas about how to enhance that image. Having them discuss these matters on a page for page basis is much better than getting caught up in something that takes us off in another direction that simply does not compare.

If nothing else, having these simultaneous interviews does something very important for the company. It allows the contenders to know who the other is. Wherever the also ran goes, there also goes a new contact and a relationship and respect that was built on clear and open communication.

Perhaps this proposed final interview of C-level candidates is over simplified. Maybe it wouldn’t work because the human factor in any situation is always the one that simply cannot be predicted. It is always possible that between the two final contenders, one is more ruthless and unethical and will then turn back to their competitor’s company and let the word slip that they met the other candidate while having talks with the company about a mission critical vacancy.

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