Helen Horn –
Executive selection: how to make better decisions and inform development.

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Executive selection; how to make better decisions and inform development.

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Author: Helen Horn


There is currently a mixed employment picture in the NZ market. The latest NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion showed an increase in business confidence over the December 2023 quarter.  There was an easing in labour shortages, with firms reporting that it is easier to find both skilled and unskilled labour.  However, budget constrictions in the Public Sector have led to a reduction in recruitment activity.

Regardless of the climate, matching the right people to the right roles matters. Most of us have seen and directly experienced the significant impact of a bad hire on culture, productivity and delivery of outcomes.

Increasing trend to move quickly

We saw an increasing trend last year for executives and boards wanting to move quickly in selection processes to ensure they don’t lose great applicants by being slow. This sees decision-makers limiting the tools they use in the selection process and expressing great relief when they land someone in a tight market. However, as discussed in our previous blogs - we are notoriously bad at making objective, unbiased decisions especially when under pressure.

The risk is that choosing the wrong tools in a selection process can lead to decreasing diversity in the pool and choosing the person with the least potential. All too often we are seeing Chief Executives and Boards choosing to rely solely on interviews, often unstructured. They are falling for commonly held assessment myths and relying on what ‘feels’ good rather than what predicts performance.

Don't rely solely on interviews

We love data and research, and therefore it’s probably no surprise that we recommend using the most robust and predictive measures in selection and development. That includes the use of personality assessments to improve the quality of decisions and subsequent executive performance. When personality assessments are used well (and with informed consent) they can improve outcomes across the employment lifecycle, not just the selection decision.  

Personality assessments can improve outcomes

As an example, the transition to a Chief Executive (CE) role is particularly challenging. Our research into executive development indicates that three quarters of first time CEs describe the role as differing from their expectations, despite almost 100% of them saying that they felt prepared for the role prior to transition. In other words, they are confident prior to transition and are surprised after transitioning.

CE roles are by their nature complex, ambiguous, and involve long time horizons. The experiences leaders have prior to their first CE role are unlikely to be the same as those they experience once they transition into a CE role. That’s where personality tools initially add value. They provide a valid prediction about potential, including factors that may underlie the ability to learn and adapt to future demands that are not possible to adequately define at the time of the assessment.

Importantly, they also provide key information to help shape development for a CE transitioning into the role and beyond, to enable them to fast track to being effective. For a Board, this is particularly important, when on the job engagement and support for a CE is typically more limited than with most manager / employee relationships.

Play the long game

We strongly believe that making the right hiring decisions is a long game. The insights derived from personality assessments can lead to more tailored development and on the job support for your CEO. And this means we may be able to reduce what we found in our research; that over half of CEs report becoming lonely in the role. If you’re interested in learning more about our assessment tools for executives, reach out - we’d love to have a chat!

Need more information? Contact the Winsborough Team:
winsborough.co.nz | 0800 222 061 | support@winsborough.co.nz