Dan was pleased to get the job. It was a promotion in title, scope of responsibility, more base salary, a larger bonus potential and much better benefits. He began with confidence, he had all the whistles and bells his new employer was looking for, plus a solid book of experience.
So, he was more than a little stunned when, on a Friday afternoon before he left for a long weekend, he was fired. This train wreck, which occurred within 16 months of arriving at this wonderful new career opportunity, was pre-ordained.
That his now former employer offered him a very generous severance package, which provided for financial security was beside the point. He felt humiliated, defeated, and so very sad.
As Dan drove home, he began to cry. Guilt entered the calculus.
His wife had, very reluctantly, left close friends and a house she adored. She was still having trouble connecting in her new community. The kids still missed their friends. Everything was going to be OK but, in retrospect, Dan had some nagging concerns. Later he admitted that he was stunned but not completely surprised, a subtle difference lost on his wife and children. The marriage has suffered since his termination, or at least Dan feels that it has. Everyone is unhappy.
In truth, Dan could not have been further from what this organization was really looking for. He read the position summary from the recruiter, he felt connected and focused during the interviews. They complimented him on his probing questions. But all was not right and, in retrospect, Dan had to admit he had talked himself past some serious concerns.
It was another classic example of “don’t ask, don’t tell” recruiting. It is one of the executive search industry’s deepest and darkest secrets.
Dan just did not fit in. Later, a team building consultancy brought in to focus on the organization’s nagging (and costly) turnover problem, found that most of the senior leadership were very similar in terms of their DiSC behavior and values profile. For the consultant, it was no surprise that Dan did not fit in. In technical terms, they were high C (a focus on accuracy, facts, details) and above average S (they were not overly comfortable with change management). They were all mid-range on their D dimension. Dan was much higher. These dimensions reflect other aspects of compatibility, but were the key issues for Dan, a gregarious, strong personality kind of guy, and an outgoing people person who embraced change, excelled with financial and operational metrics but needed a strong assistant to help him with the details.
The executive team focused on accuracy and detail and, all things considered, would just as soon avoid any ambiguity or change. They also were, to a person and a fault, non confrontational. Dan’s big personality grated on the established order.
Dan was passively, aggressively, sacked.
The search firm partner did not return his calls. The partner was in a state of high service recovery. An associate cautioned that the partner was too angry with Dan for screwing things up. “Don’t push it. Maybe it will fade away,” the associate said, probably knowing better.
That is rich since it was the partner who obviously did not have a clue about the culture and the personality of the team — or if he did, did not feel it was his responsibility to share. He was close friends with the CEO and wasn’t about to disclose anything other than what Dan later concluded was a five-star smoke-job designed to close the deal and maintain the client relationship, which can be a dangerous combination for an unsuspecting candidate.
All anyone had to do to avoid this disaster was to go beyond the “filling the order” mode and dig a little deeper to find out what type of personality could, or could not, fit in this organization. However, many recruiters apparently do not feel that is their job. It takes too much time, it adds costs, and makes their job more complicated. It is all so transactional. Sort of like selling a used car.
Candidates be forewarned, if a deal sounds too good to be true — seems like the perfect fit — it may be too good to be true. It may not be the perfect fit.
You have to ask the tough questions, not the polite, politically correct ones.