The Five Factors for Successful Recruitment

Are your current recruitment strategies providing your business with a steady, future-proof leadership? Here are five musts if you want to do so.

When recruiting, instead of looking for candidates with specific competencies, try searching for those with a high potential for success, matching them with these five key criteria designed to identify the most promising recruits.

Global leadership is Claudio Fernández-Aráoz’s strong suit: he is a senior adviser at the Buenos Aires-based executive search and consulting firm Egon Zehnder. He has worked in executive recruitment for many years, making recruitment decisions on behalf of many prominent corporations.

But when looking for the right candidate for the job, as he would tell you, the number of years of experience in a field and even their past performance sometimes means very little. What matters most is their potential future performance, especially in a rapidly changing, global environment.

In his second book, titled It’s Not the How or the What but the Who (Harvard Business Review Press), he outlines five key criteria by which to judge a candidate for a leadership position within a company: their motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement and determination.

The Five Factors

The five factors used by Fernández-Aráoz to judge the suitability of a candidate for a position are: motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement and determination.

A person’s motivation, in the opinion of Fernández-Aráoz, is not about their ambition, but their desire to make an impact. “Selfish people never make great leaders,” he notes.

Curiosity: does the candidate show a history of seeking new experiences and challenges? If so, this shows someone with a tendency to explore more possibilities and miss fewer opportunities.

Insight often comes to those with a multi-disciplinary background and extensive experience. They usually have a tremendous range of ideas and are able to make valuable connections between concepts that other people might not.

The ability to engage is essential in connecting with and motivating others to succeed. A candidate’s previous mentors are less important than the fact that he or she has mentored others.

Resilience comes from determination, and a determined leader knows how to recover from failure quickly. Tough assignments and changing markets are not a deterrent to success.

High Potential

High potential candidates are something businesses and recruiters are searching for more and more.

By focusing less on candidates’ competencies and more on the qualities that will help them to adapt to changing times, companies give up having to predict the future by hiring those they think will fit the current roles right now, but rather focus on employees who are able to adapt quickly to the current job and any future circumstances that bring change. This is especially important for CEO positions.

He was quoted in Business Week as saying that, “The skills that make you successful today might not be so important tomorrow.”

Fernández-Aráoz does warn, however, that focusing on high-potential employees can lead to the neglect of candidates older than 40, and that those labelled as high potential are too often judged on their competencies and what they have done, rather than why or how they have done it.

Video Recruitment

When carrying out interviews, it’s important to ensure you can further delve into the candidate’s personality and determine whether they are a good organisational fit. The recruiter’s skill and the tools he has to carry out the process are the determining factors in a successful interview.

Although face-to-face interviewing is a good way to find out a little more about the candidate, it’s time consuming and in the early stages, unnecessary. Video interviewing allows you to gauge the potential hire’s values and personality by targeting the right questions at them and allowing you to view the video whenever is convenient for you.

As a recruiter, asking the right questions is crucial to determine the quality of the candidate you are interviewing. The first round of interviews is no less important than the later stages, especially as you may eliminate your greatest potential candidate by neglecting to ask the right questions, or failing to allow them to display their best qualities.

Companies have come to be dependent on hiring outside of their own talent pipelines when promoting internally fails. With the forthcoming talent shortage, however, this won’t be so easy – and these normally failsafe options may be exhausted more quickly than imagined.

With global opportunities expanding and the supply of young, skilled managers shrinking, companies might be more willing to hold on to their top managers. But the people who make real waves — the risk takers — will move on to where their ideas are taken more seriously.

Employee Age

Of course, age should not be determining factor for potential, but many companies disregard employees that haven’t been dubbed “high potential” by age forty. Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), is cited by Fernández-Aráoz as being a role model of potential.

He displays an openness to growth by challenging conventional wisdom and engaging his critics. Many young graduates, brilliant as they are, completely lack these important attributes.


“A lot of great leaders don’t start out wanting to become one,” says Fernández-Aráoz. “They’re most excited by things other than their own careers. That gives them the potential to pivot when the world changes.”

Looking for the right skills in employees is crucial, but even more importantly, employees must have the ability to learn new skills and adapt to changing circumstances. “The question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones,” said Fernández-Aráoz in HBR.

Harver Team

Harver Team

Updated on:
May 9, 2023

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