Blog Post

Looking for executive talent in all the wrong places

Korn/Ferry International's Allen Delattre at GigaOM's Net:Work 2011You might think that tech companies are more flexible and resourceful in seeking out the best talent. But you would be wrong, said Allen Delattre, global managing director for technology for Korn/Ferry International, (s KFY) the executive recruitment firm.

The problem for most businesses — including high-tech firms as well as banks, oil companies, you name it — is they all tend to look for exactly the same attribute set whether they’re recruiting a CFO, a CPA, a creative director, or an application developer.  And that’s nuts, Delattre told attendees of the GigaOM Net:Work conference on Thursday. “You always hear it’s all about the people … the question is, do we put as much thinking into that as we do to our devices, code, tech? The answer is no.”

This cookie-cutter approach is not doing anyone any favors. The personality traits and talents needed for a great creative director will not be the same as those for a corporate comptroller, for example.

These pre-existing notions of what is needed for all these jobs leaves a huge gap between what companies think they want and what they actually need to do the best job possible, Delattre said citing Korn/Ferry research which looked at 54,000 executives across industries.

One unexpected finding was that the best high-tech executives tended to be those that did not fit this pre-conceived notion of what a successful exec should be like.

“If a company says it’s looking for small, light, lean, fast executives we found that the best execs were almost the opposite. In tech we have a lot of personalities. People whose rebellion spurred their growth,” Delattre said. Personalities often do not fit into any preconceived vision.

So obviously, when those sorts of people are brought in for their first interview, however, the initial reaction is invariably that they’re not a good fit.

“Of course not. If you’re looking to transform, you need something different.” he said.

The problem with most businesses  is that while they talk about the need for great people they spend remarkably little time actually figuring out what people they really need.

The lesson here is obviously that people are not all alike and they’re not computers. “We do not come with a restore CD and are not easily reprogammable.”

It’s high time that hiring committees realize that.

Photo by Pinar Ozger.

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