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Hire and higher

Building better teams through smart recruiting

Regular readers of Sales & Marketing Management know that we’re big fans of the “Corner Office” column in the New York Times. Adam Bryant interviews CEOs, corporate presidents and other business leaders on their leadership style, lessons learned on the way up and other insights.

This collection of recent answers from interview subjects focuses on building better teams through smart hiring.

Girish Navani, CEO of eClinicalWorks, a provider of clinical information systems:

“I look for the heart first. I don’t ask for direct experience. We draft, and then we make stars out of them by creating a work culture that says to an individual, ‘We’re not going to stifle you. If you can think out of the box, you will. If you want to jump between teams, you will.’ ”

Eileen Martinson, chief executive of Sparta Systems, a maker of quality-management software:

“I’m always curious if they’ve ever played any competitive team sports. I also want to know. ‘What is the most inspirational thing you’ve done in your life outside of work? What are you most proud of?’ And then I ask them for a tough situation — what did they do, and what did they learn? I’m mostly looking at their body language when they answer that question. I wake up every day and I’m happy. I’m just not capable of staying down. So do people look like they’re spiraling down when they’re describing a tough situation?”

Michael P. Gregoire, chief executive of CA Technologies, a software maker based in Islandia, N.Y.:

“First, I’m looking for experience. Walk me through your experiences, and I’ll really get granular. I want to know what you did. Second, I’m looking for pure, raw mental horsepower. Our business changes so quickly. You may be highly skilled at one thing, but it will probably be irrelevant two years from now. You have to have the ability to adapt. Third is, how do you get along with others? I don’t want to build a team of ‘A’ players. That’s a recipe for disaster and a lot of drama. I want to build an ‘A’ team. You want people who are like glue — they just make everybody else work better.”

Karen Abramson, chief executive of Wolters Kluwer - Tax & Accounting

“I look for a balance between strategy and execution. Can you be strategic and can you get the job done? If you can spin me a great story about what the strategy should be and you can’t execute against it, that’s not of much interest to me.

“I’ll also ask people to tell me about something they did that was unsuccessful, and what their role was, because that tells me how they plan a strategy. Why weren’t you able to execute the strategy? It also lets me know how introspective they are and whether they’ll blame problems on everything around them or take ownership and learn from problems. You also get a good idea of how they’ll fit with the team, because if they come from a blame culture, it’s not going to work. If they can say, “It was a problem but we made lemonade out of lemons, and here’s what we did,” that’s someone who finds the “yes,” and is going to fit better with the team.

“After I interview someone, I’ll send them along to the team to get their feedback. It’s interesting what someone will tell a team member that they won’t always tell me during an interview.”