Hired by Skills, Fired for Attitude!

Written by Thomas Kollmar & Klaas Koolman on May 31, 2023

An article by Thomas Kollmar and Klaas Koolman, partners at EO Executives

If you're still haunted by the last hiring mistake ...

You cannot afford another such failure. The profile of the new vacancy and the required skills are clear. This time, the new leader must fit into the team. Otherwise, the success and image of the company are at stake and you personally risk your reputation.

Every day, companies worldwide search for the best leaders for various tasks in different fields and industries. They search, interview, select, and hire. However, in the first few weeks after the candidate starts working, disillusionment sets in. You realize that the new leader doesn't fit into the company. In the end, you have to let go of your once-promising candidate. Or, equally frustrating for decision-makers, the initially perfect candidate leaves the company voluntarily. And the search starts anew.


Fear of bad hiring in executive suites

A high turnover rate in critical positions has become a persistent problem for executives and HR professionals. In the past, they had a surplus of candidates to choose from to fill a position.

Today, it is the candidates who have the power to choose their employer, supervisor, and new leadership position from a variety of options. In a candidate-driven market, the expectations for one's future workplace and employer have significantly increased.

The upcoming generation of leaders place great importance on cultural and team fit within an organization. They want to know if they fit into the team/company and if the new work environment aligns with their values and needs. This puts increasing pressure on companies.

Thomas Kollmar

»Having the right skill profile, gut feeling, and a firm handshake are no longer enough to consistently identify suitable leaders. It is crucial to consider the personality of the candidates. Today's applicants approach job searches more attentively and critically than before. They want to fit into the company.«

Thomas Kollmar

Hiring manager and the consequences of wrong decisions

According to estimates from Harvard Business Review, the costs of a bad hire can amount to up to three times the annual salary of the position.

The costs of a new hire consist of direct and indirect expenses. Direct costs include administrative expenses for advertising the vacancy in the media. Financial expenses for selection processes such as interviews and management diagnostics, as well as travel expenses for candidate presentations, are also included.

Indirect costs include those associated with onboarding. The new leader needs to be integrated into the company, which takes time and affects the team. It can take up to 24 months for a new leader to reach the full performance level of an experienced manager.

Klaas Koolman

»From my perspective, the statement by British-American Simon Sinek hits the mark: 'You don't hire for skill, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.' It's all about behaviour, personality, and values – a single bad hire can shake the entire team.«

Klaas Koolman

As executive search consultants, we encounter two types of clients

  • Some are already aware that soft skills, attitude, and emotional intelligence are crucial for the success of a leader within a team and the entire organization.
  • Others have not yet realized this. They still hire leaders solely based on their technical knowledge. However, in most cases, technical skills are not the problem when leaders fail in their new positions. The cause usually lies in a mismatch between their motives, values, and behaviors and those of the hiring company, especially the existing team.

Especially in turbulent times, it is crucial to have the optimal composition of a company's "crew." To keep it on course, the leadership team must run smoothly. However, if conflicts frequently arise between team members, missteps add to confusion and danger in the team. And if the talented ones move elsewhere, energy, time, and costs need to be invested in onboarding new leaders.


Causes of hiring mistakes are clear

The personality of leaders plays a fundamental role in a healthy company culture. In selection practices, the focus on clear and immediate aspects and factors of emotional intelligence are largely overlooked. They need to receive greater awareness and consideration during the hiring process to avoid hiring mistakes.

Neglecting personality traits

The personality of a candidate is still often neglected during the selection process for new leaders. The question arises: What makes the candidate tick and do they fit into the team and the company? If a person's motives and behavioral preferences do not align with the behavioral and motivational requirements of the position or the company culture, failure is almost inevitable.

What should the leader fit into?

Often, decision-makers are not clear about what the person being hired should actually fit into. Is it them personally, the team, or both? What is the team's culture like? How well do they work together? And what are the personal traits of its members?

Am I aware of my own perspective in the selection process?

Another point to consider is the hiring manager's blind spots. We all have them. These can be our own biases, preferences, and dislikes that we are unaware of. They influence how we see the world and interact with others. In the hiring process, unconscious motives, behavioral preferences, and motivators can be misleading in the selection of a candidate and lead to wrong decisions.

Particularly these last two categories of reasons, from our perspective as executive search consultants, are given too little attention in the selection process of leaders. However, they are becoming increasingly important.

»When a decision-maker asks me, 'What can we do to ensure that employees fit better into the leadership team?' I'm happy because it shows me that the leadership is on the right track.«

Thomas Kollmar


Preventing failures quickly, modernly, and efficiently

We live in a time of societal and economic change. The working world is undergoing agile transformation and is grappling with a shortage of leaders. It is more important than ever to sustainably solve "homegrown problems" and remove the "sand from the gears" of companies in order to continue to succeed in the market.

For human resources, this means avoiding mistakes in filling vacancies and providing employees with an environment in which they can contribute their work optimally. Both require a high level of awareness of one's own behavior and motives from those involved.

Awareness of behavior and motives of those involved in the hiring process is important

This is where the leverage of innovative and finely tuned procedures during the selection and hiring phase comes into play. They provide a clear picture of individual characteristics of people, such as their communication style and behavioral patterns.

For example, it becomes possible to pair an extroverted manager with a leader who is not seen as competition but as support. While the extroverted person needs the spotlight, the expert feels comfortable in their role behind the scenes.

The customer's desired profile

At the beginning of the hiring process, it is useful to create an ideal customer profile for the new addition to the leadership team. It helps the decision-maker/hiring manager to determine the factors that are crucial for the successful long-term performance of the new leader. It provides information on how the customer envisions the ideal candidate.

The candidate's personality profile

In contrast, a personality profile of the potential candidate is created. It provides insights into the candidate's motives and preferred behavior. Both are informative for talent recognition in the candidate selection process. At the same time, the profile provides information about the optimal environment for the candidate to successfully contribute to the company.

»The best fit for filling critical key positions can be achieved when the hiring manager also creates their own personality profile. This is a sign of absolute trust. And in this case, the consultants at EO also put their personal profiles on the table.«

Thomas Kollmar and Klaas Koolman

The hiring manager's personality profile

During a recent lunchtime conversation, a board member shared about constant friction among the members of their leadership team. "They're constantly at odds with each other, and things aren't running smoothly. Didn't you mention a tried and tested approach with a personality profile that you've been successfully using for years? I'd like to give it a try myself."

The initial situation for this desire was a highly diverse leadership team that was assembled based on the members' skills, without considering their personalities.

What followed were ideal conditions for establishing consistently successful teams:

Practical Example

  • Firstly, the board member determined their personality profile. We thoroughly discussed the results together, thereby creating a foundation and understanding of management diagnostics.
  • Ideally, we managed to persuade the other members of the leadership team about the benefits of the process. We openly discussed the outcomes of individual analyses within the team.
  • In the following period, understanding grew regarding one's own behavior and the behavior of other members in the leadership team. The defined and implemented measures to reduce conflicts within the team began to take effect. The conflicts no longer dominated the team's everyday life, and the energy previously consumed by those conflicts was now available for achieving common goals.

And if a conflict arises now, it can be resolved more swiftly. At that point, you might hear lighthearted remarks from team members experienced with diagnostics such as, "I understand your reaction; you're a Red/Yellow/Green/Blue." These colors or their combinations represent specific characteristics of personality.


Recommendation to all hiring managers and decision-makers of TOP experts in Executive Search

Don't risk your success and reputation in the process of selecting new leaders. Ensure clarity within yourself and your candidates. Alongside creating a tailored profile for the new position holder, we recommend:

  • Obtain a personality profile of the candidate under consideration for the position and
  • Include a profile of yourself

Thanks to innovative and proven management methodology, it's possible to piece together the relevant puzzle components for an optimal leadership team when filling critical positions. This ensures that, alongside the required skills and professional suitability, the mindset and attitude of its members align – so that later it won't be said someone was "Hired by Skills, Fired for Attitude."

Only companies with forward-thinking leaders can respond resiliently and flexibly to external challenges, triumphing over them.

Take the first step and invest in your performance when selecting leaders. After 12 months, 96% of all candidates placed by EO remain successful in their new positions.

You are warmly invited to discuss the topic of management diagnostics with us and share your experiences. We look forward to hearing from you.


Thomas Kollmar

Thomas Kollmar

Thomas Kollmar is a partner at EO Executives and a consultant in Stuttgart specializing in Automation & Robotics. His areas of expertise include automotive, battery production, digitization, assembly automation, and startups.

Profile of Thomas Kollmar.


Klaas Koolman

Klaas Koolman

Klaas Koolman is a partner at EO Executives and a recruitment consultant in Berlin specializing in Consumer & Retail. His areas of expertise include consumer goods, FMCG, and consumer electronics.

Profile of Klaas Koolman.

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