Hiring exceptional leaders is one of the most crucial investments an organization can make.
At Y Scouts, we have perfected a proven methodology for hiring leaders that focuses on the alignment of values over skills and responsibilities.
However, the traditional resume-driven hiring process often falls short in surfacing the leaders who will truly thrive and find success over the long-term. This begs the question – how can you improve your recruiting approach to identify leaders who genuinely align with your company’s values, purpose and culture?
In this blog post, we’ll summarize this methodology so you can find and attract leaders who authentically share your organizational DNA.
Start With Your Values Blueprint
The process should begin by clearly defining your company’s Values Blueprint, which includes a detailed articulation of your core values, overall purpose, and unique culture.
With this Values Blueprint in hand, you can assess from your very first conversations with a candidate whether they naturally align with your organization’s core identity, or if they would require a major shift in their values to fit in. Too often, evaluating the alignment between a candidate’s values and the company’s values is merely an afterthought briefly discussed at the end of interviews.
The Y Scouts method seeks to put values-fit first when identifying the right leaders.
Initiate an Informal Values-Focused Dialogue
When you identify an interesting leadership candidate based on their background, resist the urge to immediately pitch them the specifics of the job.
Instead, initiate an informal, open-ended dialogue centered on their purpose, motivations and values. Ask thoughtful questions about what truly fulfills them in both their work and life. The goal is to establish a genuine connection and get to know their authentic self before their “interview persona” kicks in.
This approach allows potential red flags to surface early while also building a relationship of trust that enables deeper, more meaningful discussions later in the process.
Probe Their Real Behaviors and Motivations
Rather than limiting conversations to surface qualifications and responsibilities, go deeper to understand how candidates have led and delivered impact in prior roles. Here’s how to do that:
- Inquire about concrete, real examples of successes they’re proud of, complex challenges they navigated, failures they learned from.
- Avoid hypothetical “what-if” scenarios in favor of actual experiences. Listen for self-awareness, a learning mindset, character strengthened through weathering difficulty.
- Exercise caution if someone seems prone to embellishing accomplishments or deflecting responsibility when things went wrong.
- Take time to grasp their core motivations – are they intrinsically fueled by the meaning and impact of the work, or extrinsically swayed by titles and compensation?
The goal is to move beyond the superficial to explore the deeper values, principles and sense of purpose that drive them.
Perform Reference Checks Early
Most companies what until the end of the interview process to do this, but making reference calls EARLY in the process allows you to uncover any potential issues or concerns before investing significant time conducting additional interviews.
When conducting reference calls, ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to get candid insights into the candidate’s work style, motivations, character and leadership impact from those who have worked with them. It can also be worthwhile to reach out to successors they left behind at prior companies, as they may have valuable perspective even without directly working together.
To overcome potential future obstacles, consider asking references to proactively raise any reservations they may have rather than waiting to be asked direct questions.
Have Transparent Compensation Conversations
Address the subject of compensation early in the process so there are no major surprises late in the negotiations that could derail an otherwise promising candidate. Too many companies try to dance around this topic until the very end of the interview process, but that’s a major mistake.
When discussing the compensation package, take time to understand their personal priorities around salary, benefits packages, work-life balance, and other factors important to them. Keep in mind that the compensation package should ultimately incentivize and reward the achievement of the specific results you need in the role.
As far as “who” should have this conversation, hiring managers are often best positioned to handle the final stages of negotiation, bringing it to a close in a way that sets the new leader up for success.
Look Beyond Doers to True Leaders
Avoid the common mistake of equating leadership merely with being a strong doer or subject matter expert. The skills presented on a resume are just the bare minimum qualifications. In the interview process, go beyond skills to actively probe for the presence of broader leadership abilities like the capacity to inspire, empathize, exercise sound judgment and think strategically.
Remember, a candidate’s past behaviors and demonstrated leadership impact are ultimately the best indicators of their potential for future success in this role.
Take a Relationship-Based Approach
The most effective recruiters treat candidates more like buyers in a complex sales cycle…not merely as order-takers to be screened out.
Invest significant time upfront in building genuine rapport and trust through candid, meaningful two-way dialogue. Make an effort to learn about their lives and priorities beyond work as well, which ultimately enables you to support them better once hired.
A relationship-first approach requires more effort but pays dividends through improved long-term matches and engagement.
Hiring exceptional leaders who align with your company’s values and purpose requires moving beyond the limitations of the traditional resume-driven approach.
By clearly focusing on this methodology, you can identify and attract leaders who will thrive in your organization:
- By defining your Values Blueprint upfront
- Initiating open dialogues focused on purpose and motivation
- Thoroughly vetting past behaviors and leadership impact
- Having transparent compensation discussions
- Building genuine relationships
This values-first methodology takes more effort but is well worth it to land leaders who fit your culture and drive results the right way.
With the right insights and a relationship-based process, you can find leaders who will align perfectly with your company’s DNA and take the organization to new heights.