An Insider’s View of Executive Search and the Hiring Process


Some say the economy and job market are bright for 2016. After an extremely rocky start to the year on Wall Street, the experts’ views on the economy are mixed.

But one thing is certain: hiring good, capable people is always a challenge. When times are good, more jobs are available and more people are thinking about improving their situations; when times are not so good, even the strongest performers tend to be more cautious about leaving their jobs and risking their security.

One truism is hard to dispute: Good people who fit well are hard to find. Whether for entry-level jobs or senior executive roles, getting the right people in the right jobs is a continuing challenge.


Engaging a search firm can speed up the process and increase the likelihood of success. In this age of technology, computerized accessing of massive data bases (LinkedIn is only one, and most people have heard of it) and traditional methods such as cold calling, direct sourcing, professional networking, strategic job postings, and discreet following up by phone are utilized.

Parrish Partners provides search services, and time after time has been able to:

  • Reduce the time to fill from inception to completion
  • Generate a strong pool of candidates
  • Narrow down the list of candidates to 3 viable finalists
  • Add capacity and expertise to the client’s HR Business Partner and hiring manager
  • Assist in the on-boarding of the candidate
  • Follow up during the first year to most effectively support the client and new hire


If you are directly involved in the hiring process and have two or three final candidates, what are some interviewing tips (perhaps not always thought about) you can use to help ensure a win-win for the company and for the candidate?

Start on time. Punctuality conveys a welcoming attitude—one of, “We have anticipated your arrival today, and have been looking forward to meeting you.” Being late or placing candidates in awkward circumstances, such as waiting for several minutes in a lobby or empty conference room, is off-putting, and may lead them to think, “If this is how they treat candidates, I wonder how they treat employees?”

Remember, you are recruiting top talent, and your role is critical in helping the company put its best foot forward. Less seasoned candidates may conclude that whatever style and behaviors you exhibit are typical of the company as a whole.

Be aware of first impressions. All of us tend to rely on our intuition in forming quick impressions of others. A person’s appearance, his/her handshake, mannerisms and attire are all factors we react to. Once you identify your intuitive first impression, set it aside and get to know the candidate more deeply.

As interviewers, it is important that we take whatever time is needed (perhaps 45 minutes to an hour) to formulate a well-balanced perspective on whatever are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes such as behavior, traits and motivation, that are “beneath the tip of the iceberg.” In addition to the hiring manager, having other colleagues interview the candidate can add to this perspective.



Most candidates come to interviews with prepared, perhaps well-rehearsed answers to questions they believe you might ask. Some typical interview questions are: What is your leadership style? Are you a team player? What motivates you? How do you handle disagreements in the work place?

Candidates will do their best to provide perfect answers, hoping to impress you. But does this really tell you how candidates operate in real life, as compared to how well they anticipate and answer stock questions? Utilizing open-ended questions and follow-up probing ones can help elicit a broad, deep and balanced sense of the candidate.

An effective interviewing technique that has become widely used as part of a structured interview process is Behavior Event Interviewing (BEI). How this works: reframe your interview questions so as to focus on real-life situations and events. The underlying idea is that how someone acted or performed in the past is a good predictor of how he or she will act or perform in the future. BEI is a technique used to design interview questions that focus on past events in order to draw out job-related knowledge, skills and abilities (see the chart below).

Using open-ended, BEI and probing follow-up questions can engage more conversation and dialogue, as opposed to somewhat stilted Q and A sessions. Establishing open dialogue   will allow BOTH you and the candidate to consider fully whether or not this is a good “fit” for the candidate himself/herself, the job and the organization.

The BEI approach:

Class Interview Question BEI Question Follow up Probing Questions
What is your leadership style? Tell me about a time when your leadership skills were put to the test. What made it so challenging?

How did others respond to you?

What was the end result?

Are you a team player? Tell me about a time when you felt truly part of a collaborative team effort. What was your role?

How did this relate to others?

What made it so collaborative?

What motivates you? Tell me about a time when you worked your hardest to achieve a desired result. What was the situation?

What actions did you take?

What was the outcome?

How do you handle disagreements in the work place? Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a disagreement with your boss, a peer, or co-worker. How did you go about it?

How did it impact your working relationship?

What was the result?


Few things have a more profound effect on a company’s future than finding good people who will fit in both immediately and for the long term. We encourage you to consider investing in your talent search and hiring process by learning more about professional executive search at:

© Copyright Christine Jeffreys, 2016.  Editorial Contributions by Norm Lanier, Ph.D