Sources of evidence
The assessment of each candidate’s capacity to perform the role must be undertaken through careful consideration of as much evidence as can be collected. Each piece of evidence should be considered on the basis of what it says about the candidate and how it confirms or contradicts other evidence to create a complete picture of the candidate.
Common pieces of evidence include the following:
- The candidate’s work history
Consideration of the overarching narrative of their career including the nature of roles held, sequence of roles, time in roles, and the reasons for gaps in employment.
- Published statements
Including articles, social media postings (for example Linkedin, Facebook and blogs) and quotes accurately attributed to the candidate.
- Credible third party insights
These can be solicited (that is, referees) and unsolicited (for example, media reports or other comments made in a public forum about the candidate). The strongest insights come from people who have little to gain or lose by the candidate accepting the CEO role.
- The candidate’s conduct at interview and in other interactions.
- Formal background checks such as police checks and security clearances as required.
- Performance in tests
These include: cognitive ability tests, which provide information about thought processes; psychometric tests, which can provide evidence about capability and ‘fit’; and scenario exercises (such as in-tray exercises, ‘day in a life’ role plays, mock meetings, or asking candidates to create a business plan), which can provide information about a candidate’s work style and capacity to perform under pressure.
While formal tests for CEO recruitment are common in some industries, their acceptance is not universal and may be met with resistance by some candidates.
Conducting interviews is an important part of the recruitment process. Interviews provide the opportunity for the candidate to talk about their suitability for the role in terms of the key selection criteria. They also provide an opportunity for the selection panel to gain an insight into the candidates’ potential for ‘fit’.
In a recruitment process for the CEO role, strong candidates are typically interviewed at least twice. The initial interview is used to establish the extent to which a candidate meets the key selection criteria. Subsequent interviews are used to explore aspects of fit. They are also used to investigate evidence about a candidate’s capabilities that may be vague, confusing or in other ways are a cause for concern for members of the selection panel.
While a candidate’s record of achievement is important, past successes do not always guarantee future ones. It is important, therefore, to investigate a candidate’s record of achievement in terms of behaviours that can and will be applied to future tasks and challenges.
Behavioural interviewing is the approach identified through research as being the most effective. The primary focus is on transferable behaviours–how the candidate thought about the situation and acted in response to it–rather than on the specifics of the situation or results (although these are, of course, of interest).1
A common behavioural interviewing technique is ‘STAR’ questioning (situation, task, action, result). In this approach, the candidate is asked to describe a situation and the tasks required of it. They are then asked to describe the particular actions they identified and undertook to address the situation and the results they achieved.
Information and evidence obtained through interviews, while important, should not eclipse information and evidence obtained from other sources. Rather insights gained through the interviews should be combined with other pieces of information to create a whole picture about the candidate. Assessments of the candidate’s capacity to perform the role should then be made on the basis of this whole picture.
It is important not to accept or dismiss evidence about candidates at face value. The table that follows highlights some situations that, while they should not automatically exclude a candidate, warrant further investigation because they may impact the candidate’s capacity to perform the role, their credibility, their fit or their capacity to establish productive working relationships.
|The candidate has …||Questions to ask|
|had predominently private sector experience||
|had a significant period out of paid employment||
|been associated with a significant failure||
|been associated with comments criticising the current Government, the public sector and/or the organisation||
|refused a request for contact with a person not identified as a referee||
|been convicted of a crime||
|behaved inappropriately in the past||
|possible conflicts of interest (for example, commercial interests, personal affiliations or board appointments)||
- Information sheets prepared by the Victorian Public Sector Commission providing practical advice about conducting recruitment interviews may also be of assistance. These are available from www.vpsc.vic.gov.au