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  • Wes Burwell

Thoughts from a Headhunter

As an Executive Recruiter, one of my primary tasks is to identify top performers, and to present the “best of the best” to our clients. In this process there are two stages. The first stage is what I call the determination stage. This is the stage where I determine whether the candidate has the required skill set for the position for which he or she is being presented. In other words, the candidate has demonstrated that they can perform the requirements of the position for which they are being considered.



Once that has been demonstrated, there are several items I consider when determining top performers. One of these items is self-awareness. By this I’m referring to whether the candidate has stepped back and done a thorough analysis of themselves. Individuals who have performed this function are able to discuss their strengths and weaknesses at a deeper level. These candidates have a keen awareness of their strengths, but equally important are aware that none of us are Superman. In other words, we all have areas where kryptonite can reveal our weakness.


With this background, the optimum candidate does not give a canned answer when asked about their weaknesses. Often when I ask candidates about their weakness they will give a response along the lines of “sometimes I’m too much of a perfectionist, but this is actually a strength because I don’t make a lot of mistakes.” Even though this may be true, when presented this way it often seems like a canned response recommended by some book.


On the other hand, a candidate with true self-awareness can communicate something along the lines of “I’m very accurate, probably more than is necessary” “ With this disposition I’m aware that I may not be able to get projects finished as quickly as others and am aware that this may cause some delay in terms of potential timelines/deadlines being met.


In other words, they have a more wholistic view of their weakness and how it may impact the organization. With this information a prospective and mature boss will be better positioned to lead them.


In conclusion, whether you’re open to a career move, or want to move up within your current organization, constantly seek feedback. Once received, seek to determine the overall effect of your shortcomings.


Wes Burwell is the Founder and President of Precision Placements, Inc. an Executive Search Firm located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He has been in the Executive Search business for twenty-seven years, and is available for speaking engagements and career advisement, and interview training.

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