How the best leaders get the (right) job

A FEW years ago, I completed a pre-hire psychological assessment of the three finalist-candidates for chief medical officer with a large healthcare system. The three candidates were experienced, competent, generally proven, and each brought fairly unique leadership assets (and liabilities, of course) to the table.

The organization hired one of the two candidates that received my highest recommendation based upon my assessment of their fit for the role, team, and organization/culture.  12-15 months later, one of the candidates who did not get the position contacted me and asked me to help them prepare for an interview in another role with a different organization and different state.

The leader’s email request is pasted below leaving out personal details and the niceties of the greeting:


Dear Tom,

. . . (niceties, greeting, personal details, and context deleted) . . .

It is my understanding that you can/will help me:

  1. Prepare for the interview (i.e. Help give appropriate answers to the most likely questions and help you frame things in such a way that you are ‘the only choice’ for the search committee)
  2. Help draft your executive summary- bus plan etc

I would love to find out more about what we can do together and the cost.

Dr. X


There are several assumptions that underlay this leader’s short request that are logically and practically impossible. Most importantly, that it is possible to be the “only choice possible” based upon how one answers interview questions. Suppose three candidates each hired someone who promised to help them “frame [responses to interview questions] in such a way that [they] were the only choice possible.”

Should we expect that the organization would have no choice but to hire all three?

I come across leaders fairly often who believe that the hiring process (and in particular the interview) is a game won by the person who plays it best. These candidates do not understand the mindset and goals behind a professionally-run hiring process, and therefore do not have the mindset and realistic goals that will guide them most successfully through the hiring process.

In the spirit of being helpful to this leader, I responded openly and honestly about what could and could not be done, along with a few points to help frame their thinking.


Dear Dr. X,

. . . (niceties and greeting deleted) . . .

I can certainly help you prepare for the interview, though I don’t think that I can help you frame things in such a way that you’re the “only choice” for the job–you need to prepare yourself to be the best candidate that you actually are, learn to convey that, and if you are the right “fit” for what they are looking for, they will select you. Neither you nor they would want to work together if you’re not the right fit.

If you decide to move forward, there are several steps that I would take you through to help you prepare. This will involve us talking directly (assume via Skype or call), and items that you would work through on your own in preparation for the next call and the actual interview.

Your investment would be $X per session, and I think that 2 sessions would likely do it, 3 at the most (and as noted, you’d have some prep work and homework to do).

Let me know if you’d like to proceed –




The leader never did get back to me.

This is the first in a short series of posts on the subject of getting the (right) job. To start with, here are several things that the best leaders do to get the (right) job.

  1. They have a very clear sense of who they are, are comfortable with it, and how to convey that to others.
  2. They intuitively know that their best chance of getting a job is to focus on the right job.
  3. They have figured out how to identify organizational cultures where they can be most successful, and target those companies.
  4. No matter how badly they need a job, they look for the right fit–just as much as the hiring team does.
  5. They approach interviews and other pre-hire evaluations openly, honestly, and authentically.
  6. They interview and evaluate the company as much as the company evaluates them.

For what it’s worth, I recently checked to see if the leader did, in fact, get that job.




4 thoughts on “How the best leaders get the (right) job”

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