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Recruiting: How Corporate Business Leaders Practice
the Art of Picking the People They Need

A panel of senior executives from diverse backgrounds shared their advice on recruiting at a special session of EMTM's Emerging Technologies Seminar moderated by Jim Senior, corporate speechwriter at Unisys.

    Patricia A. Bradford
    Senior VP, Worldwide Human Resources and Training
    Unisys

    Michele C. Heid
    Managing Partner
    Heidrick & Struggles International

    Jan Maiden, EMTM'03
    Global Director of Product and New Market Innovation
    Federal Mogul, Systems Protection Group (SPG)

    William H. Morgan
    CIO
    Philadelphia Stock Exchange

    Brian P. Tierney
    Chief Executive, Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C.
    Publisher, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News

Candidates for management positions generally have the technical and business skills necessary for their work. What makes them stand out are other qualities such as passion, the right fit, team orientation, emotional intelligence and integrity. "At a certain level, we have to assume you can do the job. What is going to set you apart from those other ten qualified candidates that we just saw is cultural fit and emotional intelligence," said Patricia Bradford, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Human Resources and Training at Unisys, during a panel discussion on recruiting sponsored by the Executive Master's in Technology Management (EMTM) program. "When we are looking at a candidate, we are asking how well will they fit in? It is not just technical and business acumen."

The panel on the Penn campus in January — which included chief executives, business unit leaders, chief information officers, human resource leaders and executive recruiters — offered insights for managers seeking to be hired or making their own hiring decisions. Panelists stressed the power of joining business and technological knowledge, but also emphasized the importance of bringing leadership and other "softer" skills and qualities to the table.

Raising the Bar for Business and Technology Knowledge

Companies are seeking managers who understand both technology and business, particularly as the role of technology has become more strategic. Two years ago, the responsibilities of William H. Morgan, Executive Vice President and CIO of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, were expanded to include both IT and Market Operations. This was a reflection of how technology has become central to the business.

"If you go back 15 to 20 years, technical positions such as programmer/analyst were growth positions because businesses were building many of their own applications," Morgan said. "Today software has become more of a commodity with businesses buying or outsourcing their applications. As a result, soft skills are becoming more important. Positions in project management, business analysis/functional requirements definition and quality assurance will continue to be growth positions in the future. Knowledge of the business is the key."

Michele Heid, Managing Partner of Heidrick & Struggles International who leads searches for CFOs and other financial executives, said leadership is becoming more important. "Companies want executives who have technical acumen. That is a given. What we really need are leaders and business partners. CEOs are looking for CFOs who can be an integral part of the management team. Leadership is at the top of what they need."

Qualities of Leaders: Fit, Chemistry and Emotional Intelligence

This larger role for technology leaders means that they must have a much broader set of skills beyond technology and business. Panelists identified a variety of traits that they look for in candidates, including:

  • Emotional intelligence: Unisys is a matrix environment, so skills in managing relationships and other aspects of "emotional intelligence" are crucial. Bradford said the company uses "behavioral-based interviewing" to assess these qualities of candidates, which might not show up on their CVs. "We are a services company that is technology enabled," she said. "We are looking for people who can drive our solution sets, with an understanding of technology and keen ability on the business side."

  • A good fit: Morgan said that the pressure-cooker environment of the financial exchange is not for everyone. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange handles peak volumes of 154,000 messages per second in its options business and more than 400 million messages per day. Any downtime is measured in seconds and takes a huge toll on the business. An IT executive may have all the skills needed for a particular role but lack the ability to work in such a high-pressure environment. "You need a lot of passion, to be stress-resistant and willing to work a lot of hours," Morgan said. "Similar positions in other businesses may not have those challenges."

  • Integrity: Heid said integrity is also important. Some 230 of the Fortune 1000 CFOs are under investigation for back-dating stock options. "They may be very young but their careers in public companies are basically over," she said. "Make sure that whatever action you take, you take it with courage. Don't do something you wouldn't be proud to see on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer or New York Times.

    While it may be hard to gauge integrity, there are some objective measures, starting with the resume. Heid said 5 percent of candidates lie about their educational background, and even more fudge their experience. She recently interviewed two candidates a few days apart who claimed to be in the same role at the same company at the same time. It turned out that one of them had been given a severance package, keeping the title but not doing the job. She refused to present him as a candidate.

  • Intuition: Jan Maiden, a 2003 EMTM graduate and Global Director of Product and New Market Innovation at Federal Mogul, Systems Protection Group (SPG), said it can be hard for technical people to let go of data. "Ambiguity is something that exists and you have to deal with it," she said. "Sometimes you have to trust your gut."

  • Team orientation: Heid also said she looks for people who are able to work as a part of a team. Managers need to demonstrate that they have successful experience in leading and managing teams. "If I interview someone and their ego is not in check, I will not advance them," Heid said.

  • Diversity: Heid said the companies she works with are looking for global experience and diversity (just 7 percent of Fortune 1000 CFOs are ethnic or gender diverse).

Best Practices

Panelist also highlighted a variety of best practices for interviewing and hiring new employees:

  • Align hiring process with business goals: Brian Tierney, Chief Executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, who is turning an old newspaper company into a new media company, has looked for rebels. "This industry has marinated in its own juices," he said. "I've brought in folks who are renegades. We can't be the best in the country at what we do if we are willing to accept people who are not a good fit for the current organization."

  • Referrals rather than resumes: To get a good job or find a good candidate, network. Heid said she receives 200 resumes a week and most go to India to be put into a database without a second thought. A referral from someone she respects will get immediate attention. Bradford noted that an average of 35 percent of Unisys experienced hires have come from employee referrals. These new hires tend to have the best fit and highest retention rates.

  • Conduct multiple interviews: Candidates for senior positions have generally researched the company and will tell interviewers what they want to hear. Wearing through this facade and testing true fit with culture takes time. Tierney said they conduct 10 to 12 interviews with candidates for senior positions to get a true picture. Another way to get to the truth faster is to ask candidates for specific examples and details of what they are discussing.

  • Ask the right questions: Among the favorite interview questions: What is your greatest failure? (A manager with 30 years of experience who cannot identify a single failure is not a learner.) What is the best way to manage you? Morgan said he is always concerned if candidates don't have questions for the interviewer.

  • Hire for the next role: Bradford said that when hiring a mid-management or senior level candidate, they look not only for their ability to fill the current position but their potential to rise to higher challenges or their flexibility in moving laterally. "We are always looking to see: What can that person do next?" she said.

The right hiring decisions can make or break the company. "People are the main factor in your success," said Jim Senior, Corporate Speechwriter, Unisys, who moderated the panel. "Their love of the job or neutrality about the job all make a difference in whether you can align their energies with your business goals. That is why the art of picking the people you need is so crucial."

Maiden agreed. She said the right people have allowed Federal Mogul to achieve significant profitable growth annually. "The reason for our profit growth is that we have been able to add value to our products, and the reason for that is because of the people we have brought in," she said.



An executive panel on recruiting strategies was part of EMTM's Emerging Technologies Seminar, which brings expert guests to EMTM throughout the academic year. Each year, 12 seminars focus on new and emerging technologies and their business implications, as well as issues relevant to executive leadership in managing technology and innovation.

EMTM's 2006-07 Emerging Technologies Seminar series also hosted special executive panels on:
> Raising Money
> Renewable Energy


“At a certain level, we have to assume you can do the job. What is going to set you apart from those other ten qualified candidates that we just saw is cultural fit and emotional intelligence.”

Patricia A. Bradford
Senior Vice President, Worldwide Human Resources and Training
Unisys


“If I interview someone and their ego is not in check, I will not advance them.”

Michele C. Heid
Managing Partner
Heidrick & Struggles International


“The reason for our profit growth is that we have been able to add value to our products, and the reason for that is because of the people we have brought in.”

Jan Maiden, EMTM'03
Global Director of Product and New Market Innovation
Federal Mogul, Systems Protection Group (SPG)


“Today software has become more of a commodity. Soft skills are becoming more important. Knowledge of the business is the key.”

William H. Morgan
Executive Vice President and CIO
Philadelphia Stock Exchange


“This industry has marinated in its own juices. I've brought in folks who are renegades. We can't be the best in the country at what we do if we are willing to accept people who are not a good fit for the current organization.”

Brian P. Tierney
Chief Executive, Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C.
Publisher, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News

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