Applying Science to the Search Process

Since the early 1900s, scientists have sought ways to separate substances into their individual parts for identification. This developed into a technique called chromatography.  It finds the substances “true colors”, as the process delineates the traits by color. When compounds such as ammonia, water, bleach or alcohol are subjected to chromatography each of their elements are separated and produce a spectrum of different colors based on the composition of the ingredients.

Chromatography.jpeg.2Similarly, the process of differentiation is applied during the executive search process. It begins with understanding the needs of the client, the culture, the goals to be obtained and the workplace dynamics.  In lieu of finding a “true color”, it is a matter of identifying the “unique gifts” and talents of a candidate who will be able to perform and achieve the goals.  In addition, there is consideration for the compatibility factor within the culture and the degree of integration with various levels of peers, superiors and managers. At times, achieving homogeneity can be a challenge within an organization.  Keep in mind, diversity is not necessarily right or wrong.  It may be more relevant to understand whether the organization possesses cognitive and emotional intelligence along with initiatives to manage the differences effectively and also look at the historical pattern of success.

An article by Boris Groysberg in the Harvard Business Review discusses the Seven Skills You Need to Thrive in the C-Suite.  The list of skills includes 1.) leadership, 2.) strategic thinking and execution, 3.) technological skills, 4.) team and relationship building, 5.) communication and presentation, 6.) change management, 7.) integrity.  These are very generic and most applicants already in executive and senior management positions will possess many or all of them to some degree.  Separating qualities can allow employers to make insightful hiring decisions, especially when confronted with critical challenges in the organization.  Hypothetically, a firm may seek an executive who has specifically navigated an organization through an economic downturn demonstrating remarkable effectiveness in realization rates, pricing, professional hires, and integration-the result: increased profits without a loss in morale.  The principles of chromatography are utilized during a search to identify specific knowledge, expertise, achievements, behavior patterns, and intelligence-cognitive and emotional.

Humans look to science for observable physical evidence, as the basis for understanding.  People are infinitely more complex than liquid compounds, so how can science meet the human perspective in discerning the true qualities of a candidate?

  • Develop a systematic method of observation. Just as a scientist is required to eliminate all bias while performing an experiment, it is important for a recruiter to be present without prejudice or a predisposition—this often requires practice and emotional self-awareness. As humans, we are subject to blind spots, which is why feedback that is transparent and collaborative serves as a control mechanism.
  • Engage in an intellectual activity designed to discover information as well as the ways in which this information is demonstrated in meaningful or repeated patterns.  Performing an organized inquiry can target what you need to know and gain a deeper understanding of the person.
  • Collect facts and discern the order of priority amongst the facts.  Notably, one includes the education, experience, accomplishments, references, and verifications, which are some of the data obtained and weighed accordingly.


Karen Sadowski

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