Scout's Honor

Recruiting expert Joseph McCool earns a merit badge for ideas on staying afloat in the global talent pool.

Who he is: Joseph Daniel McCool, editor-in-chief, Executive Recruiter News

Head-Hunting Guru Wisdom: If you're not getting calls from executive recruiters, put yourself on the map: Increase your visibility within your organization and expand your network.

How do you stay competitive in this global economy?

To some extent, American executives may be handicapped in the global talent market of the future. Many of them haven't worked outside of the United States and speak only English. Leaders of the future will need to be able to communicate and point to experience that they have some cultural sensitivities and can be leaders for employees and shareholders around the world.

In addition to cultural sensitivity, what other qualifications do today's executives need?

The desire to be a lifelong learner is a huge attribute. Too often, leaders are closed-minded, resistant to change, and that's usually because they've had incredible experiences and they think they've figured everything out. True leaders realize they can't do it all by themselves, and they have the ability and the desire to surround themselves with other people who can educate them.

Speaking of the people surrounding you, how do you assess if an organization's culture will be a good fit?

It helps to know whom you're going to be working with on a daily basis and what it is that motivates the people around you — your colleagues, your subordinates, and the people who would manage you. Few things are as debilitating as coming into an organization and working next to people who aren't feeling fulfilled or performing, and nobody's doing anything about it. You really want to try to find whether the prospective employer has created a real center of excellence.

In an interview, what questions best explore company culture?

They should focus on what you're likely to experience within that organization. Is there a culture of talent development from within? Are there mentoring opportunities? What's the vision for this organization three to five years from now? What is it about working here that I should be attracted to? You want to determine where this organization meets the test and where it doesn't.

What's a red flag here?

You want to ask about who has been successful in that position previously and what it was about that person's performance that was considered exemplary. If you find out that the two or three people previously in the position you are interviewing for lasted only a short while, that's a bright red flag.

Define strong leadership for us.

It can be boiled down to something as simple as the Scout Law, as voiced by Boy Scouts during every meeting. A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. If every executive followed those simple prescriptions, our culture would be scandal free.

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