What is the best way to assess candidates when recruiting?

by Margaret Harris

Sandra Burmeister, the CEO of consultancy Amrop Landelahni, speaks to Margaret Harris.

What is the best way to assess candidates when recruiting?

In a complex, uncertain world, the hiring and promotion of talent and leadership development decisions that rely on candidates' past performance are of limited use.

Future-orientated tools can identify the leadership attributes needed for long-term success. Simulation-based tools such as assessment centres are emerging because they fulfil this requirement.

How can you determine their long-term success to avoid disappointment?

Simulations allow companies to "test-drive" candidates and observe their skills levels in a future role. These demonstrate high reliability in determining the long-term success of candidates.

For example, an organisation whose strategy is fast growth through mergers and acquisitions can identify the future leaders most capable of leading the organisation through a period of dynamic change.

In a virtual simulation, a candidate might lead a fictitious organisation for three hours or a full day.

The candidate is bombarded with e-mails, telephone calls or online meetings with co-workers, prepares and presents a strategic plan to a board, coaches a resistant colleague, conducts damage control for a new launch, or makes statements to the media about a corporate social responsibility issue.

Can leadership skills be taught or are they innate?

Simulations are used extensively in executive development to assess the potential for the next level of management and pinpoint gaps in competence.

Custom-designed coaching can then be developed to help the individual try out new behaviours.

Creating a leadership pipeline depends on the ability to identify people with the motivation and potential to become future leaders, accelerate the development of these high-potential candidates and prepare them for major change.

Are there different styles of leadership or just one?

The basis of the assessment is to determine core competence in seven key areas:

  1. Strategic thinking, which includes broad, visionary thinking that focuses on long-term business goals;
  2. Entrepreneurship, which means having the ability to seize business opportunities and manage risks;
  3. Business acumen, or being able to understand the business world as well as formulate solid business decisions and identify strategic priorities;
  4. Emotional intelligence, which is the self-awareness of and insight into interpersonal interactions based on empathy, active listening and consideration;
  5. Executive presence, or being confident, poised and engaging and having a charismatic presence that radiates credibility, commands respect and inspires trust;
  6. Building strategic relationships, or being able to build strong relationships with internal and external business partners, create buy-in and navigate organisational politics; and
  7. Developing talent, or championing talent development by promoting continuous learning, creating strategies to attract and retain superstars and mentoring and coaching others.

The weight given to each of these areas varies, depending on the environment in which the company operates and its organisational strategy.

Useful resources:
Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is South Africa's biggest-selling national newspaper. Includes Sunday Times Magazine, Lifestyle, Business Times and Metro sections.
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