Most firms have experienced this at some point: the candidate looks great on paper, they interviewed well, had all the right skills and seemed to fit in well with the team. But a few months down the line, you realised their heart wasn’t really in it. So they leave, or lose motivation then leave or lose motivation and stay (which can be worse) – leaving you in the lurch for months before you find a replacement.
In this economic climate, search firms and employers need to be especially diligent in finding candidates with the right motivation for joining them. At the moment there are candidates who are more likely to want any job, rather than specifically the job with your firm.
So how do you find a “Mr or Mrs Right” – how do you hire the right candidate who really wants to work for you (for the right reasons) and will stay with you?
There are a number of ways in which you can screen for the right candidate.
If you are working with a search firm, it is massively helpful to allow the Consultant working on your role to meet with at least one member of your team. This enables the Consultant to find candidates
· whose long term career goals or aims are approximately aligned with those of your firm
· with a close fit in terms of the skills required to do the job
· and with the desired personality traits which are likely to fit into your company culture.
When you start interviewing candidates, there are a number of questions you can ask to ascertain whether candidates truly want to join you.
Example question 1: ask the candidate “If you were offered a role with company A, company B or company C, which would you choose and why?” Make sure that one of the companies is similar to yours. If the candidate states that the company they would prefer is the one that is most similar to your firm, then this is a positive sign. If the candidate hasn’t heard of company A, B or C, it’s an indicator that they may not be committed to private equity as a career.
Example question 2: ask the candidate “Which other firms have you applied to and which have you interviewed with?” If they don’t want to disclose the names of the companies, ask them what other types of roles they are considering. If the candidate says that they are also considering a wide range of other roles (such as equity research, teaching, advertising), then dig deeper to understand their motivation behind each choice. They need to have good reasons behind their choice of private equity.
Example question 3: ask the candidate what they know about your firm and why they want to work for you. Ask them who your competitors are. How is your firm different or similar to others?
A lack of detail when answering such questions can be a giveaway that the candidate has not done much research on your firm and the role, and hence is less interested in it/you. A slight caveat here is that if your firm publishes little or no information about who you are and what you do, and generally keeps a low profile, then a lack of detail in a candidate’s answer can be understood, to a degree.
Example question 4: ask the candidate where they want to be in five years time.
If the answer is “I want to run my own business”, for example, then dig deeper, they are less likely to stay with your firm, and could potentially be distracted by other projects.
A note about body language: If you ask the candidate why he or she wants to work for your firm, it’s worth noting their body language. Look out for whether their body language is congruent with the words they are saying. For example, if a candidate says in an upbeat tone of voice “I would love to join your firm”, but is leaning back in their chair, slightly slumped, he or she might be tired or have a back problem, but it’s more likely they didn’t really mean it. Bear in mind that when reading body language the context needs to be considered; just because someone scratches their mouth or touches their face after saying something, doesn’t necessarily mean they are lying – they could just have an itch. Natural introverts may not display enthusiasm in such an animated way when compared to someone more outgoing. Take the context into account.
Look out for gestures that are incongruent with what the candidate says. Specialist interrogators use a technique called “baselining” whereby they observe someone’s natural behaviour (ie ‘natural’ clusters of gestures displayed by a person in certain situations) and look for deviations from this. Whilst we don’t recommend you go this far, you might, for example, observe how they react and the level of enthusiasm they display when talking about their personal interests and compare this with their reaction to questions about their motivation to work for you. Trust your intuition or gut instinct about whether a candidate truly wants to join your firm for the right reasons. You will unconsciously pick up signals when a candidate is being honest about his or her motivation and if they are right for your firm.