Picking the right talent when hiring can save you a lot of trouble and money in the future. When you’re looking to onboard your next leader, tweak your recruiting by establishing a set of deal-breakers and giving your interviews an extra twist.

We tend to think of job interviews as unpleasant experiences. Interviewers weigh and measure job candidates, then cast judgment over them.

If job interviews are evil, however, they’re a necessary evil. Organizations must know whom they’re hiring. Since every potential employee is a possible future leader, the selection process should be thorough and rigorous.

Pick your potential future leaders carefully. 

There are certain types of employees you may not want on your team. And when you know you’re looking for your next leader, you want to exclude those unfit for the position as early as possible.

Deal Breakers

Organizational leaders understand the behaviors and competencies that align with their company’s purpose. Though they may make mistakes, they can spot deal-breaking tendencies as early as the hiring process.

As I have made it clear in my leadership coaching books, inner and outer-core leadership competencies determine how much leadership talent an individual has. Three such basic competencies are:

  • Hunger. You need motivated leaders who do their best to pursue goals and uphold values.
  • Humility. A true leader holds the organizational interest in higher regard than his/her interests. Intelligent leaders understand that selflessness is a cornerstone of trust and act accordingly.
  • Emotional intelligenceHigh potential employees are good at controlling their emotions. They understand how emotions impact their actions and how other people’s emotions factor into a conversation.

Ideally, your future leader should possess every one of these three basic competencies. Candidates who have these competencies respond better to leadership coaching and evolve faster into the leaders you need.

Consider it a deal-breaker if your candidate fails every one of these requirements. In many cases, you can consider it a deal-breaker when your potential hire lacks two of the three competencies.

How can you spot deal-breakers during an interview?

Being Late

A job candidate who doesn’t respect your time is a future employee who will probably cause you problems and cost you money. When someone is late for the interview and doesn’t bother apologizing or acknowledging the situation, you have a deal-breaker.

No executive coaching can turn an unwilling candidate into a good leader.

Checking the Phone During the Interview

Your future leaders have to buy into the purpose and values of your organization. They have to invest their time and efforts into making your company more successful.

Lack of commitment should be a deal-breaker. 

Someone unable or unwilling to grant you their full attention during the first contact with your organization does not fit this bill.

Being Underdressed

Arriving at an interview in flip-flops and shorts denotes a lack of respect. A candidate unwilling to show your organization respect is unlikely to respect its values and purpose.

Bad Mouthing Past Employers

Someone complaining about a past employer will turn around and complain to someone else about your organization. Such candidates prove beyond doubt that they lack emotional intelligence.

Being Unprepared

Candidates showing up for the job interview unprepared are not “hungry.” They haven’t taken the effort to print out a copy of their CVs and bring along some references.

They are not committed to getting the job. They’re not motivated.

How Can You Assess a Candidate’s Personality? 

You can take the interview out of its usual setting. Take the candidates out for a meal or shopping. Observe their interactions with the world.

Often, you can glean more information about a person’s character from how that person interacts with a waiter than through a formal job interview.

Don’t be afraid to apply other unconventional tactics. Come up with company-specific tests to probe for the values that matter for your organization. You may value loyalty or a sense of humor. Devise a test focusing on these traits.

Be honest and blunt. Let the candidates know how serious your organization is about its values.

Insist on finding out the truth about your job candidates. When they skirt around questions, push them until you get an honest reply. Don’t be afraid of making the interview feel like an interrogation.

Any business coaching professional can tell you that getting the right talent on board can save you a lot of money and pain in the future. Tweaking your interviews and establishing a well-defined set of deal-breakers can improve your recruiting process by leaps and bounds.


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