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Big Brain Squeeze

Don’t bother listing your strengths and weaknesses

BC Business
July, 2005

Sometimes it’s not enough to sport a superb CV and spotless track record, flaunt gushing references and then ace the interview. Many of today’s CEO-hopefuls have to visit a shrink – and emerge with a passing grade – before getting a shot at the corner office.

An interview, as we know, is a learned skill. You can get good at it – learn how to impress your potential employer without actually being suited to the job. It’s much harder to fake it during a daylong, sometimes grueling psychological assessment, fast becoming the norm in high-level executive hiring.

“We have to get below the fa├žade of someone who is a well-trained interviewee.”. “You want to get into their motivation for doing what they do and a lot of it is repetitive – that’s the way to get at contradictions and inconsistencies.”

Obviously, a candidate won’t knowingly admit to shaky ethics, subtle prejudices or a tendency to fiddle with financials. But after being grilled on the couch for a day, the truth may seep out. “It’s the inconsistencies you’re really looking for – that’s the scary thing,” says Jellinck, who placed BC Ferries boss David Hahn and most of the executive team heading the 2010 Olympics. “There are people out there who have behaviours that aren’t appropriate and the cost of making a bad hire is so great.”

In light of this new trend, employers are doing bit of their own soul-searching on company time. Some recruiters say there’s no point getting inside the heads of potential hires if you can’t match it to the inner workings of the company they will be joining.

Geoff Dzikowski, an executive recruiter with David Aplin Recruiting, subjects applicants as well as clients to a web-based psychological assessment that examines personality traits, experiences and beliefs. “For a lot of companies, how they see themselves and how they actually are is different,” he says.

The online in-depth quizzes cost clients up to $300 a shot, compared to $2,000 all-day sessions with an industrial psychologist. When you add up the costs, and the nasty repercussions of a CEO’s unethical ways surfacing on the evening news – it’s a steal.