What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for when trying to fill a top executive position for a firm?
First and most important is displaying that you are able to walk in a fellow executives ‘moccasins’ (empathy not sympathy). Long-winded executives that cannot make a point will never make it to the ‘real’ top. Communication skills, whether verbal or written, are critical.
Integrity and honesty are well received. Even well seasoned executives sometimes cannot answer this question “what is the biggest mistake you have made in your life and how did you rectify it?” Executives must also be aware of their development areas.
When it comes to qualifications, it very much depends on the industry. It is highly unlikely that the group CEO of a mining house would not hold a relevant mining degree from a reputable university coupled with an MBA. On a lighter note I cannot imagine the CEO of a well known wine, beer and spirits company not having a keen interest in wine tasting and not knowing the difference between a good or mediocre wine.
A solid basic university degree or a good B Tech degree from a technikon is only an entry point not a guarantee to success, similarly a prestigious MBA might raise your profile, but at the end of the day if it cannot be applied optimally in the work place then that prestigious qualification is only good on paper.
Work history and a proven track record are very important when considering candidates. Good executives are not ‘job hoppers’. Executives that have steadily climbed the ladder with the same employer is a positive. To change jobs just for better remuneration is a no go. Hard core competencies are non-negotiable.
It is not the number of years that is important, but the knowledge you have gained during those years you worked and what change or turnaround record you have to offer to a prospective employer. One can have ten years experience, but in fact only have one year repetitive experience.
Officially age should not matter, but it would very much depend on the retirement age policy of the organisation at the older age spectrum. The pendulum is returning to where companies would consider a 55 year old for executive level employment.
At the younger end of the scale it would depend on the position requirements. The determining factors being qualifications, competencies and most importantly emotional intelligence.