To an outsider it may appear that executive search processes lack scientific rigor, being based on personal relationships and the classic interview. With mistakes being costly and potentially damaging to an organization, a combination of art and science is needed for C-suite hires.
A recent AESC report found that more than half of executive candidates were dissatisfied with assessment procedure because they distrusted the process, were intimidated by tests and felt “they’d reached a point where this wasn’t needed”. The search firm plays an important role in balancing the need for scientific measurement alongside the personal relationships they have with the C-suite executive.
“What makes a leader successful is a bit more art than science,” agrees Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at University College London (UCL). He adds, however, that this doesn’t mean companies should simply throw their hands up, as many currently do. “People often say ‘if it isn’t an exact science I shouldn’t even try to do it in an organised way’. But there is a big universe between those two extremes, and we should keep pushing so our mistakes are reviewed and we de-risk the future hiring process.” But just what might such a de-risked, more scientific approach look like? And, in a technologically-driven age where the executive search firm’s little black book of contacts looks increasingly obsolete, what role should these third party providers play in adding greater rigour?