How do you verify in a few interviews how well an executive will get along with your team?

You meet a great executive-level candidate, and you think this person could help you get the desired results. You think to yourself, this person will get along GREAT with my team, too! While it is easy to verify technical capabilities (operations, fundraising, executive presence and communication, commercial prowess, regulatory, clinical, technology, etc.), it is not as easy to know how well someone will get along with your team. How can you verify what your instincts tell you about this person’s character, work ethic, communication style, and leadership?

First, let’s break down the components of character that are important to being an effective leader:


Communication Style

Ability to work with and lead teams

Work Ethic

Results Orientation

Ability to Influence

Proven ability to exercise good judgment

Proven ability to set and execute a strategy

Understanding Motivation – what drives them?

These are just a sampling of character traits we look for in candidates, and it can be a lot to evaluate in one meeting. Let’s not underestimate how easy this is to get wrong. According to Harvard Business Review, over 30% of executive hires fail in their first year and leave the company they recently joined. Most people want to simplify this part of evaluating people to “Values” – and that is a part of the whole picture. Calling “fit” – a values match is too basic and not deep enough to be accurate.

When you hire someone, you hire a whole person, including their family, network, experiences, etc. The candidate’s value system is one part of them. How a person is motivated to perform around values is how people “show up” at work. Understanding how someone is motivated and how the person “walks their values” will help you determine how well they will work with you and your team. It is more than a feeling or a sense that you get from a few brief meetings.

The only way to truly tell how someone behaves at work and in different situations is to perform in-depth reference checks. Speak with the people who worked with this person in the past and get the entire story, both the good and the “needs room for improvement.” you want to know both the person’s strengths and shortcomings. Then, you will know whether this person is a great fit for you.

One advantage of working with an executive search consultant is that we know many candidates over several years, and sometimes several different roles and companies. We know the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and we can speak to someone who knows (who has worked with them in the past) BEFORE you invest time and energy into meeting this person. We also verify through professional reference checking at the end of the search process to be sure you know who you are hiring – the whole person. This approach has contributed to our success rate of over 95% of candidates remaining in roles three years after they were hired. Our clients have benefitted from increased shareholder values and goals that were either met or exceeded.