Executive Selection Assessments in Action: A Real Life Case Example

The Situation: Mark was the CEO of a mid-size manufacturing company. He had been in the role for seven years and was starting to think about succession and retirement. His Board of Directors were eager to identify the next leader for the organization, and begin the transition period. After a review of their internal talent, the Board determined that they would have to go outside the organization to find their next CEO. They started working with several executive search firms to identify candidates. The task at hand was to get the best candidates possible, and put them through a rigorous interview and selection assessment process.

The Intervention: I met with Mark to discuss the process for conducting CEO succession executive assessments on their top candidates. We discussed the components of the assessment program: a) building a CEO leadership competency framework against which each candidate would be evaluated; b) having each leader complete a series of psychological assessment instruments to assess cognitive ability, personality, and leadership effectiveness; c) conducting a four-hour selection assessment interview to focus on the candidates work and life experiences that contribute to the leaders they are today, and assessing them against the CEO leadership competency framework; and d) resume and background benchmarking against other potential candidates in the industry sector. Mark was excited to use this process with his external candidates, and we began the work as the search firms were narrowing down the candidate pool.

To start, we interviewed every member of the Board to get a sense of what the next CEO would need to accomplish. We focused on the top leadership competencies that the next CEO would have to possess, but we also covered areas such as: strategy, execution, culture, people, external relationships, Board relations, risk management, and integrity/ethics. We also spoke with several key members (e.g., CHRO, COO, and CFO) of the current senior leadership team to get their perspectives. Once we had completed all the interviews, we aggregated the data and developed a leadership competency profile that would be used for the selection assessment interviews. We also created behavioral interview questionnaires that the Board members could leverage when they conducted their individual one-on-one’s with each of the candidates. This allowed for consistency between Board members when asking questions against the leadership competency profile. Once the search firm had identified the top three candidates, we requested their updated CVs, and had each complete the psychological assessment instruments. The on-line assessment instruments consisted of a cognitive intelligence inventory, a personality-based inventory, and the Bandelli Leadership Competency Inventory™ which assesses the ten universal leadership dimensions that every leader needs. Upon completion of the on-line inventories, we reviewed the data and prepared for the selection assessment interviews.

The executive selection interview is one of the most powerful assessment tools for getting a full picture about a leader. A good executive assessment will cover many areas. Some of these areas include: a) the candidate’s background, upbringing, and educational experiences – what early life experiences shaped their leadership style? How did their education impact their early career decisions? What did they learn about themselves and others through relationships; b) a full review of their career history – what accomplishments are they most proud of over their career? Where did they struggle or fail in their leadership? How do they impact others? What lessons learned did they acquire over their career; c) structured interview questions against the CEO leadership competency framework – what is their approach to developing strategy? How do they drive results and hold others accountable? What’s their approach to building and aligning teams? How do they motivate and inspire others? What is their approach to driving creativity and innovation; and d) their leadership style – what are their top strengths as a leader? What are their development opportunities? What do they need to work on moving forward to become a world-class leader? What developmental feedback have they received from others over their career?

After completing the assessment interviews with each leader, we reviewed the multi-sourced data including the background experience data from their CVs. An executive assessment report was put together for each leader highlighting their strengths, opportunities, and ability to take on the CEO role. Of the three candidates, one was superior in his leadership compared to the other two. We made our recommendations to the current CEO, and then shared the assessment feedback with the Board. Given that the Board members had also met with each candidate, there was some back and forth as to how we came to our conclusions, and how our data aligned with their perspectives. After a ninety-minute discussion the Board was aligned with our recommendation, and moved forward with hiring their next CEO.

The Outcome: Mark, and his Board of Directors, were able to leverage the executive selection assessment process to hire the company’s next CEO. Through his diligence and efforts, Mark was able to get his colleagues to find alignment on what the next CEO would need to deliver for the organization. He had built a strong legacy with the company, and his successor would have to take the company to the next level. By leveraging the executive assessment process, they were able to pick the best possible leader for the future.

For more information on executive selection assessments and the Bandelli Leadership Competency Inventory™, contact Bandelli & Associates at abandelli@bandelliassociates.com.

Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.