The Top 10 Qualities of a Successful Candidate

Everyone’s looking for that seemingly indefinable “something” that will make a management candidate stand out from the pack. I sat down with John Rodenburg, Managing Director of Gunderson Partners, LLC, a premier recruiting firm in New York City and together we hammered out the top ten list, below. Find a candidate with even 6 or 7 of these traits, and we guarantee he or she is well on their way to cementing their future success—and yours!

  1. Presence- There’s a fine line between confidence and over-compensation. You don’t want a candidate who sucks all the air out of the room. You do want one whose self-possession ensures you’re comfortable putting him or her in front of your best clients– their balance of energy and experience should guarantee your clients take them seriously immediately.
  2. Connect the Dots- One proven common denominator among many successful people is their grasp on numerous, seemingly unrelated, topics. The best leaders can find parallels between disparate subjects and demonstrate how the ‘success factors’ of one discipline can inform another.
  3. Confident Enthusiasm- Hope and enthusiasm are not strategies.  A leader must have enthusiasm based on facts and knowledge.  He or she must not only be committed emotionally, but must also be committed intellectually.
  4. Strong Vision– David Gergen was an Advisor to several Presidents including Reagan, Clinton, Ford and Carter.  In his book “Eyewitness to Power” he observes that within this group of executives, Reagan was masterful at identifying his central goals and articulating a vision that was rooted in the core values of the country.  As a result, his entire team knew exactly what he wanted and were able to move forward the goals of his administration.

    Leaders must have a strong vision that resonates with their staff and customers.  This eliminates the stress of indecision within an organization, and allows people to move forward with a like-minded mission.

  5. Ethics- Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.  You candidates must share the same high ethical values that are practiced in your corporation.  It affects the standards and culture within an organization.
  6. Evolution verses Revolution- Revolutions are rarely successful– change brought about by thoughtful “evolution” is always more productive. The best leaders appreciate what is working well, and identify the issues that are holding a company back.  Then they implement their vision in a thoughtful manner that engages the entire organization.
  7. Power of Sharing- No one wants to work for someone that has all of the answers.  They want someone with a “strong vision” and an open mind on how to execute that vision. Look for someone who actively solicits others’ opinions, and is quick to praise others’ contributions to the initiative.
  8. Be in the Moment- Someone that is too wired has a difficult time connecting with people in the workplace and in social settings.  Picking up your BB or phone while having a conversation sends the message that…”whomever I don’t know is on the phone is more important than the person sitting right in front of me”.

    Ignoring interruptions and distractions strengthens the relationship you’re in, and rarely diminishes others.

  9. Sense of Urgency- Although this might sound like something you would talk to your Urologist about, it is one of the most important traits to look for in a candidate.  You can hire the smartest person in the world, but if they can’t move an idea, initiative, or organization forward then NOTHING happens.
  10. Consistency- Simply stated, if someone has had a lot of jobs then you cannot rely on that person’s commitment.  Don’t hire them.  You have to admire people who have built careers and run businesses where they have had to live with their decisions and results.  I have seen too many executives that come in and reorganize a division, only to leave after fifteen months and never have to explain why the results didn’t meet management’s expectations.

Frances Cole Jones is the author of The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World www.thewowfactor-thebook.com

John C. Rodenburg, a former senior executive and Time Inc. and American Express publishing, is currently a Managing Director of Gunderson Partners, LLC www.gundersonpartners.com

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2 responses to “The Top 10 Qualities of a Successful Candidate

  1. This is the best piece I’ve read on how to stand out as a management candidate. It’s always the tangible intangibles that make the difference and you have presented them so beautifully here, Frances.

    Your last point about consistency is particularly powerful. I have witnessed the debris left by revolving door executives who take high level positions to bolster their resumes and then move on after a couple years. Interviewers need to ask about the results they achieved and the measured sustainability of those results.

    Thanks, Frances, for this fabulous post which I intend to share. I’ll watch for others. Well done!

    ~Dawn (@businessfit on Twitter)

  2. As a person who has evaluated hundreds of candidates, I can say that these 10 extremely-well articulated points perfectly translate the intuitive factors that have worked wonderfully for me during my career in selecting ideal people to fill important roles.

    It’s also a great reminder for me, as an unemployed professional, readying myself for next week’s important interview!

    Thanks for the wonderul summary.

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