With so much discussion about the evolving interview landscape, we often get the question, how do recruiters evaluate if CXOs are truly qualified?
In our market I do see value in the classic interview dialogue, but more for judgment of personal characteristics, communication style and chemistry. These soft attributes matter, because if boards and management teams don’t form cohesive teams, they are going to fall short architecting and executing company strategies.
At the end of the day, however, I believe ‘interviews are not enough.’ At Lonergan Partners we’ve trademarked a process called F‑18, which has become particularly impactful for CEO recruitment. This process mandates that the top 2 – 3 CEO candidates have a working session with the board, presenting their thoughts on operating strategy for their first eighteen months in the role — hence the term F‑18. Obviously, it can also be applied to CXOs presenting to members of the management team as well.
Here is why F‑18 is so impactful:
- Putting talk to work: Most senior execs can talk the talk, but F‑18 forces people to articulate how they would tackle company challenges. CEO and CXO roles call for very specific market knowledge and operating experience, and that gets exposed when one must lay out a plan
- Commitment level, both for the hiring committee and interviewee. You cross a threshold when candidates go through an F‑18. Candidates have been through referencing and background checks before F‑18 happens. Hiring committees are bought-in to making a decision and candidates won’t be ‘kicking tires’ when asked to impart valuable knowledge.
- Insight into operational style: F‑18 is the best way to simulate how someone functions at work. The intense back and forth during the meeting provides the hiring committee further insight into a candidate’s communication style, how quickly s/he acts on their feet and perhaps most importantly, how s/he reacts when challenged.
In the end, F‑18 is a lot of work and time committed by a lot of people. How do we know it’s worth it?
One telling metric: in around 40% of the F‑18s we have done in the last ten years, the winning candidate was not the perceived front-runner going in. The process often results in the hiring team developing a new forced ranking of their options, demonstrating very powerfully that the perspective coming out of an F‑18 boosts the insight coming out of traditional interviewing alone.