Applying for a CXO job? Watch your step


MUMBAI: It is no more exceptional performance alone that will guarantee a job at the top. The behaviour track record of top executives is under intense scrutiny. A violent temper, a pair of roving eyes or a loose tongue could spoil one’s chances of bagging that coveted position.

It is not just global multinationals, promoterled Indian companies, too, do not want to run the risk of a bad selection at the CXO level.

Take, for instance, the case of a senior technology executive, who had to return to the US to settle a petty traffic violation. The large Indian conglomerate he was about to join as CEO refused to sign on the dotted line till he had cleared the pending dues.

“A small violation can reflect on your attitude and cost you a job,” said Ajay Trehan, founder of background screening firm AuthBridge.

The tech executive’s offer was held back until he had paid up for the violation committed several years ago.

“At the CEO position, even a minor blotch will come up for screening by other western country regulators and companies are not ready to take any risk,” Trehan said.

Profile screeners look for sexual harassment complaints, flirtatious behaviour, abrasive demeanour, criminal cases – big and petty, violation of local law, summons by regulators, visa rejection, corruption or bribery cases, and hardline political connections, among others.

Companies expect people to be candid in their disclosures, and executive search consultants and background screeners are increasingly getting requests for deep reference checks from large business houses, startups, entrepreneurs etc.

An increasing number of Indian companies are also putting senior leaders (external CXO hires) through psychometric assessment.

“Whenever we hire at CXO level, the cost of any such hire going wrong is huge. When we are hiring vice-president level and upward, at least four-five people meet that person separately. We tend to see whether there is consistency of behaviour,” said Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG. “We also assimilate data through independent and industry reference checks by talking to colleagues from the previous organisation.”

Some companies even conduct meetings in “different settings” such as office, coffee shop, five-star hotel to check the professional’s behaviour and attitude.

If someone is rude to the waiter serving coffee, then that could be reflective of the person’s nature and companies take note of such conduct during the hiring process.

“Indian companies these days want to replicate the best practices of global companies and when it comes to talent, particularly at the senior level, they are extremely careful,” said Trehan.

A senior executive of a large multinational IT company in India was warned for “consciously timing” his overseas office trips with a female colleague. “We were in the process of hiring the guy when this came up during the reference check. Though he was a good performer, he was denied the job,” said the head of an executive search consultant, who did not want to be named.

“Foreign trip is an area we are looking at. Some people raise their hands for everything; plan their meetings invariably on a Thursday or Friday so that they can have the weekend away,” said R Suresh, founder of boutique search and consulting firm INSIST Executive Search, which specialises in CEO and CXO level recruitment.

“In large companies, sometimes people fabricate reasons to go abroad. This is not really appreciated by prospective hirers,” he said.

In the past, many Indian businesses relied mainly on performance while selecting a candidate. However, the boards now have a fiduciary responsibility and are involved in top management appointment as corporate governance norms get stricter.

“If there are instances of socially unacceptable behaviour at any point in the reference process, companies would not go ahead with the appointment even for a high performing candidate,” said Navnit Singh, managing director of India for Korn-Ferry International.

“A candidate’s alignment to organisational culture is an important factor that is evaluated,” said Satpreet Arora, co-founder, Talent Litmus, which builds game-based assessments (leveraging neuroscience, data analytics and game design) to better understand behaviour of potential and existing employees.

Source: The Economic Times

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