In the executive search profession we are always comparing candidates as we decide who “makes the cut” and gets sent to our client and who does not. We look at many factors in making our decisions, I want to talk about 2 factors that will bring clarity to your group of candidates fairly quickly.
We look at potential “ceiling “ a candidate may have. This is how high do we think this candidate can rise? This is easier for a candidate whose performance can be measured : sales, sales management, department head, CEO are good examples where their performance is fairly easy to measure.
You can also use this concept when looking at positions that may not have such measurables. Example : You are looking at Accounting Manager candidates. After interviewing the candidates you begin the final selection process. Who in the group looks like they have the “higher ceiling” ? That is who may have the ability to become a Divisional Manager? Corporate Controller? CFO?
As an example, let’s assume you are looking at your group of good Accounting Manager candidates: all have degrees, good work experience, good references, interviewed well etc. – those with the “higher ceiling” may be more attractive to your company.
In a search we completed earlier this year for a CEO of a midsize automotive company, we had several very impressive candidates that ownership and the search committee liked. They debated candidates for several days then in a conference call they asked me what I thought . I told them I will ask 1 question and I think your answer will emerge immediately after. They were intrigued!
I communicated that the finalists are all very good candidates with terrific experiences, accomplishments, etc. Now, which candidate has the highest ceiling ? All agreed on 1 candidate right away! Conversation then moved to putting an offer together.
There is a balance to “highest ceiling” that needs to be factored in and that is what will it take to get this candidate up to speed for your open position? As an example, let’s assume you are looking for a Regional Sales Manager over a 12 person sales force spread over 7 states.
The candidates with the highest ceiling may look like they possess the potential to be a National Sales Manager or VP of Sales and Marketing someday. However the job at hand is Regional Sales Manager and you cannot look past this fact! What will it take to get the best candidate “up to speed for your position?
– what is the cost and time to getting this candidate trained and “up to speed?”
– product knowledge?
– learning more about your industry ? your customers?
– your corporate technology?
– is this a much larger sales force than he has ever managed ?
– do you have the time and ability to get this candidate “up to speed”?
Very often companies need to pass on the candidate with the highest ceiling and focus on the candidate that can do the very best with the position they are hiring for now.
This is the Ceiling Vs. “Getting them up to speed” decision you sometimes need to make.
TAKE AWAY: Go into each interview looking for clues to a candidate’s “potential ceiling” and what will be needed to get the candidate “up to speed” with your open position.