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Hiring Errors Prove The Need For Thorough Background Investigations!

In the course of executive recruitment, many hiring companies have committed major blunders due to not properly vetting engineering, scientific, IT and technical candidates. This can create a very costly, time-consuming and painful experience!

This spotlights the need for our company’s main mantra, being thorough. We recommend extensive background investigations including checking criminal records, civil records (e.g. bankruptcies), educational credentials and references. As part of this process we have retained an ex-FBI agent, private investigator, who doesn’t just rely upon mass databases, which are often outdated and riddled with errors. Instead, he digs deep by going directly to the courthouses where key information is housed. He takes this extra care because past behavior is the best predictor of future missteps. We have even trademarked our unique process, which is called Accu-Check™. Please go to to learn more.

Background Investigations

This thoroughness has paid dividends many thousands of times over including during our 2012 search for a CEO of a venture-backed nanosensor company. During the vetting process we unearthed several DUI’s with one of the top candidates. Though he adamantly denied the infractions, I repeatedly quizzed him about this (Key: I learned from my investigator to ask and restate the same question in a variety of ways in order to “trip up” candidates). One version of my questioning was, “why would you agree to pay fines and do community service if you were not guilty of this infraction?” He folded under repeated questioning. As a result, my client was saved from the trauma of hiring the wrong candidate due to misinformation.

 criminal background check

So remember when involved in executive recruitment, make sure that both your internal management recruiters and external executive recruiting firms engage in very thorough background investigations. Do not rely upon the conventional and often outdated mass databases for candidate information. Instead, physically send one of your representatives to the courthouses in every municipality where the candidate has lived in order to check criminal records and civil records (e.g. bankruptcies). Also, do very thorough checks of educational credentials and references. Especially for scientific, engineering, IT or technical recruiting, the cost of not doing so will be astronomical and bog down your entire executive recruitment process!

Microsoft’s CEO Search Highlights the Need for Succession Planning

As I shared in my last article, trial by combat is a useful tool for companies considering promoting their engineering, scientific and technical talent. It can also be useful in readying a company’s next CEO in the event of a retirement, ouster or unexpected departure. Unfortunately, this point is underscored with Microsoft’s current CEO recruiting to replace Steve Ballmer.

Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates

Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates

Founded on April 4, 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen as a small company to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for Altair 8800 they have grown into a giant multinational with multiple businesses, countless management layers and a complex organizational structure. Also, unlike most Fortune 500 companies, Microsoft has had only two CEO’s in their history: Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

ALTAIR 8800 Computer

ALTAIR 8800 Computer

As a result, uncovering their next CEO will be a monumental recruiting endeavor for several reasons:

  1. They need someone who has a rare combination of countless skills including technology savvy, vision, turnaround expertise and the ability to manage a giant company. Few worldwide have such an amalgamation of abilities.
  2. This is one of the most critical decisions for Microsoft coming at a key turning point in their history. It impacts their brand, workforce, customer base and investors. All can be severely harmed by the wrong choice!
  3. Their past pay scale is considerably under market. MR. Ballmer’s salary was only $1.26 million versus one of their desired candidates; Alan Mulally earned about $21 million last year! Furthermore, the norm, for an outsider recruited to take over as CEO, is a 30-40% increase in salary.
  4. Many of the strong, internal candidates fled over the last decade. This means that the internal “cupboard is bare.”
Alan Mulally

Alan Mulally

To avoid being cornered in a situation like Microsoft finds itself today, it is extremely important to place your high-level engineering, scientific, IT and technical executives in impact situations that can quickly challenge their competences. Furthermore, these situations must be critical to your company’s success. Then judge how the candidate performs when deciding whether or not to promote them in the future.

Additionally, go to great lengths to retain star performers. Even if it means overpaying them, it is nice to know you will have a strong bench when and if one of your top executives unexpectedly departs.

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