Interviews Aren't Enough

Understanding Lonergan Partners' F-18 Process

Michael Cunningham, May 17th, 2019

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.

Michael Cunningham

Partner, Lonergan Partners

Specialties: Big Data, Cloud, IoT and Health-Tech


[email protected]

Michael Cunningham Portrait