Hiring the best – What kind of people do you need?

Stephan Breitfeld
Stephan Breitfeld


We all need good people for our companies. The higher up the level goes the more crucial it becomes to not make expensive hiring mistakes. And if you’re interested in making your company grow and thrive (and chances are fairly high that you are) you’ll likely be interested in hiring the best. Since I’m assisting my clients with that for more than 18 years now, it’s time to shed some light on „the best“ and who they are.

Assess your needs

Of course there is no general “the best” because hiring needs are profoundly different. The first step therefore on the way to hiring top talent is to assess your needs. What positions do you need to fill and what for? What are the core skills necessary for that? What do you want the team to look like and how does the position complement that team? What are your visions for your company’s future and what part does the new hire play there?

Which qualities really count

Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s time to really picture the person you need. What are the deciding quality assets? Do you need someone that can be agile and grow with your company’s challenges? Most of the times the ability to work in a team is essential. What kind of teamwork should that be?

Leadership abilities are in growing need, especially in management positions and on C-Suite level. There people need to solve problems. They need to stay focused and have and express enthusiasm. Never underestimate the passion-factor.

How essential are hard skills for the position? Is it really necessary to have someone with all the special knowledge or is it rather more important to find the right soft skills and more of a general understanding of the processes in your industry? All I hear sometimes is “industry knowledge is a must” – think carefully about it: There are circumstances where a certain skill set is needed to set your firm in front of your competitors you will not find in your market. Don’t underestimate the value of someone who can really manage failure instead of someone who always wins.

„On paper“ people, interview performers, etc. – what to look out for

I’ve come across many different “types” of candidates and there

are a couple of things to look out for that I’ve frequently encountered. One type of situation that can lead you to a wrong decision is to decide on what looks good on paper. That obviously doesn’t mean that people who look good on paper are the wrong ones – not at all – what I mean is to always look behind the portfolio and closely at the human being.

Another thing to be aware of is what I call the “interview performer”. There are people that are just really good in interviews. It’s almost like a performance. They bloom in interview situations and blow the panel away. That certainly can be a useful trait for a position where you frequently have situations like that or need to present a lot. But sometimes candidates who are good at interviews don’t equal good candidates.

The questions you need to ask

Other than having a great and experienced headhunter who eliminates all pitfalls before hand there’s a couple of things you can do to find the best people for the job. For one: change up the environment during interviews. Take people outside, walk with them, see how they talk to other people, observe their behavior and take them out of the classical interview situation. Make them meet others and try – as much as you can – to include the team in the decision process.

You can also work hard on your interview questions. Make the candidate leave their comfort zone without making them feel uncomfortable and try to avoid standard questions. Try to pinpoint what really matters for the position and how to get that out of your candidate. And not to forget, listen carefully to the candidate’s questions. That usually says a lot as well.

By Stephan Breitfeld, Partner Life Sciences – ingeniam

Tel.:+49 (0) 69 / 959091989
Mobil: +49 (0) 172 / 6685350

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