Anne Lim O'Brien reveals how to find the right job and her methods for determining great candidates.
Who She is: Senior partner and practice leader, global consumer products, Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. Active in CFO and CMO practice, and works with senior chairman Gerry Roche on high-profile CEO searches.
Go-To Person For: PepsiCo, private equity firms Kravis Kohlberg Roberts and Forstmann Little.
What one piece of advice do you give the job candidates you meet?
This is all mine. I call it the five Cs and three Ts. I'm giving my trade secrets away by telling you! First, the five Cs. These are things candidates should think about, and then decide what's most important.
Challenges Is this new job going to broaden you? Is this setting you up for success or failure? How does this add to where you want to go? I look at this, too: If a candidate has already "been there, done that" in terms of the job duties, then the motivational level won't be there. Are they going for the glamorous title? If so, they may be reaching for failure.
Company This goes beyond homework on the company's financial performance. You see yourself in the mirror and think, "I am brand X." You have to be true to that. Do I feel more like a Procter & Gamble? Or do I feel more entrepreneurial?
Culture Within each of us is a set of values that charge us up every day. We want to believe that what we're doing is lined up with the values of the company. Is there integrity and good communication? Or is this a culture with a lot of toxic managers? When you're CEO, you get to set the tone. What are you going to do?
Chemistry A lot of people don't look around and see with whom they're going to be spending 12 hours a day. This is especially important the younger you are, where development really counts. What are you going to learn during the next three to five years? Does a manager just want to get the most out of you without giving you much in return?
Compensation Don't shortchange yourself. You'll look back and say, "Ugh. Was I too anxious?" I see this with people who've been out of the workforce for a couple of years and then don't know where to pin their value down. A company should always respect the value you bring.
What are the three Ts?
These are my tools, but it's important for a candidate to know them, too.
Track record It doesn't have to be clear-cut — P&G into maybe PepsiCo, and then boom, you're the next CEO of some consumer company. But you want to see consistency of achievement. Did she bring success? Can she show how she added value?
Trajectory You see a lot of Wall Street people go straight up. Whoa! How do you deal with that? Up fast, down fast. We're looking for a 45-to-60-degree angle moving up, not 90 degrees. Because people have to be emotionally equipped to handle their success. You have to be able to relate to people, not just be good at what you do. Plateaus are okay. If I can understand a reason behind each one, for balance factors, it doesn't put you out of the game.
Transition Where do you ultimately want to go? When you say what the endgame is, I try to track your transition from point A to point B. Why did you move? I am trying to understand motivations.
A version of this article appeared in the July 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.