My Hardest Executive Assessment

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to start my own company and control my own destiny. Like most people who envision leaving the corporate world behind, I have always questioned when to finally take the jump. What could I do to finally give myself the confidence to chase my dream?

As an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, I have conducted many executive assessments for clients to use data as part of the selection process. Empirical methodology helps make decisions objective and provides insight into how to best onboard and develop employees. In deciding when to take a leap in my career, I realized it was time for me to take my own medicine and find out: Would I hire myself?

Competency Modeling and Role Definition

The first step in any good assessment is to establish the criteria vital for performance in the role. What is the target that all aspects of the assessment should be aimed toward? By identifying the key behaviors necessary for success in a role, a customized assessment process can be developed.

This forced me to take a step back and think about the type of firm I wanted to build and the key behaviors needed to lead my organization in the right direction. Obviously, competencies like the ability to network and develop business are important, but I also wanted to emphasize an ethical approach to doing business – ensuring that all of my work is supported by empirical evidence and fit to meet the needs of the client regardless of personal profit.

Standardized Assessment

I like to start any executive assessment with a previously validated measure based on how well it meets the requirements identified in the competency model. It is important to define the role before selecting an assessment and ensure the tool is appropriate for identifying the key criteria for performance.

For my assessment, I found the two best tools were the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) and the Hogan Developmental Survey (HDS). The OPQ provides insights into key personality tendencies and can be leveraged to best understand my desired environment. The HDS measures how others will perceive me while under stress, which can help me understand potential derailers that may be masked as blind spots. Increasing my self-awareness will help me avoid the pitfalls that may arise from the regular stressors of entrepreneurship.

Behavioral Interview

The next part of the assessment is to conduct a structured interview targeted to measure the background of the candidate as it pertains to the pre-established competency model. Research has shown that interviews are great predictors of future performance when the questions are focused and anchored to evaluation guidelines. As silly as it sounds, I wrote out an interview guide as I would for a full assessment and what my responses would be. I would like to acknowledge that answering my own interview questions is not void of bias. Do not try this at home!

Inbox Assessment

The final phase of data collection is role play to simulate a real-world situation. Many traditionally think of this as the old “sell me this pen” exercise, but there is a lot more to it.  My experience has seen biostatisticians manage a cross-functional team conflict, a manager coach underperforming employees, and executives manage a visionary difference within a leadership meeting. These exercises are additional opportunities for candidates to display their competence in the selection criteria, as well as give assessors insight into the candidate’s style.

Hearing me put myself through a role play exercise from the other room may lead my wife to have me examined for multiple personalities. Luckily, I have saved every performance evaluation I have gone through since I was an intern in graduate school. I used these previous reviews to see where feedback could be mapped to the competencies (weighting more recent reviews and progress higher). While an inexact science, I was able to add some useful data.

The Results

While I would not defend the validity of the introspective executive assessment, the exercise served its purpose. Creating a competency model helped me establish a philosophy and direction for my firm. The standardized assessment provided insight into personality preferences and tendencies. My high Caring score shows that I will take on my clients problems as my own, and the Tough Minded score shows that I will not be easily discouraged by the difficulties of business development. The behavioral interview allowed me to think about times I have been able to display each of the competencies. I thought about the most difficult projects I have worked on and how I have managed clients through precarious political situations. The role play via reviewing previous work samples allowed me to see the growth and progress throughout my career, as well as acknowledgement of displaying competencies in the real world.

The results did not come back perfect – but they never do. I know there are strengths and developmental areas I need to work on. Knowing this up front allows me to create an environment where I focus on harnessing these strong points and supplementing the weaknesses with partners, virtual assistants, and accounting help.

Overall, results show that I am out of excuses for not taking that next step. Everything I have done throughout my career has put me in a position to be successful. Most importantly, I have been blessed with an amazing wife, family, friends, and network of people who have encouraged and supported me through my journey.

I am excited to begin this next chapter of my life and look forward to providing clients with bespoke solutions for managing their human capital.