Executive recruiters consistently hear from clients – “we chose the candidate because we felt he had the right chemistry.” While this sounds good, how do you define Chemistry? Our clients seem to know when the right candidate is interviewed instinctively and usually assign the description to chemistry or fit.

Is chemistry the butterflies in the stomach feeling when you meet someone and know they are the right person? “That’s the one!” How do you explain this to your board of directors and your CEO? “I just know,” in today’s work environment, and speaking solely of feeling, not fact, might just get a CEO terminated for exercising poor judgment.

How can you define chemistry, then? I define chemistry as a combination of can do, will do, want to do, and compatibility within the current company’s team– whether your company is a Fortune 100 or a start-up. All businesses have systems, and these systems operate on top of “values,” “moral tenants,” and “viewpoints of senior management.” It has also been explained as “the way we do things.” Every company has systems influenced by the CEO and Board of Directors. How does the CEO conduct business? How does he/she prefer to communicate? Does the CEO manage with integrity and grace, or are they more directive? Does the CEO communicate their intentions clearly and drive for results openly? How is influence managed in the organization? Is the CEO’s work style dominant or collaborative?

Let’s compare a couple of my clients – both CEOs. One CEO is what I consider a people gatherer – he creates a positive work environment, employs humor, has high integrity, is a transparent communicator, and is very upbeat. I have another very bright CEO client who likes to feel in control, and sometimes has difficulty managing his emotions. Both CEOs have exceptional success track records and are now running successful companies. As you can surmise, both companies have very different cultures due to their very different leaders. Both companies have highly talented yet very different cultures and, consequently, different personality types working for them.

Determining chemistry depends on who you work with and is defined differently by different people. What is important to remember is to learn as much as you can about people, their workstyle, their communication style, and their ability to execute in different environments and not to rely on a feeling of mutual admiration alone.

Our recruiting process is well-defined and has a skills and cultural fit assessment component. It ensures we look for candidates who inspire chemistry as a feeling for our clients and can perform well in their businesses.