Selection Approach for Corporate Executives

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Every job family is unique and dynamic in its way with regards to the job requirement; task functions; knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs); contextual factors; individual differences in the form of variability among applicants; etc. Besides, there exists variability and complexity in skills and competencies among different horizontal cuts or job-levels. As “assessment centres have been a major focus of Industrial and Organizational Psychology and have stimulated a wealth of research, thinking and applications” (Hollenbeck, 2009a, pg. 132), it is essential that the Industrial and Organizational (I/O) assessment expertise is well integrated and married to the realities inherent in specific job families.

Corporate executives are individuals who occupy top-level seats within any organization. “Executive selection is one piece of a broader and more complex talent management system” (Day, 2009, pg. 160). This complexity factor is further heightened in “today’s turbulent global volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment” (Smith & Howard, 2009, pg. 144). Hence, it is imperative to view executive selection as a “holistic, dynamic process” (pg. 145) rather than a “simple linear system” (Smalley, 2009, pg. 174).

This can be achieved by taking into consideration the “opening-centric fit approach” that “explicitly evaluates the particular environment that exists” around the executives’ job opening (Bank, Crandell, Goff, Ramesh, & Sokol, 2009, pg. 153). The themes that can be considered in this approach include – “analyses of experience and past successes, and how they relate to executive job opening success; transferable leadership skills; corporate culture and micro-culture of the job opening; personal goals and motivation; and competencies required to handle specific business challenges associated with the opening” (pg. 153). In other words, using “executive integration perspective” will support “assessing, evaluating, and controlling a full range of possible outcome drivers alone and in combination” (Baughman, Dorsey, & Schalm, 2009, pg. 157).

The above approach can be a foundational blueprint of the selection model for executives. The selection system comprising of assessments including leaderless group discussions, simulations, interviews, and the like must be built into a business context, competencies, character, competence, business context (BCCCB) cycle (Smith & & Howard, 2009). As “executive selection is best viewed as a strategic business decision” (pg. 145), the selection process must encompass “the bottom-line business challenges” and candidates need to be assessed on their “readiness for specific and sometimes volatile business challenges” (pg. 145) including strategic challenges.

It is imperative to assess the three C’s – competencies, character, and competence – as a “logical composite” (pg. 145). It is prudent to evaluate and assess candidates if they demonstrate the observable behaviours (as required at top leadership levels); have the personality traits and emotional/social intelligence to navigate through the nuances of people resources and business challenges; the experience and knowledge prerequisites to accomplish results and achievements within the organization. The selection process must evaluate “how to” and “how do” candidates (in executive position) make good leadership judgments – “people judgments, strategy judgments, and crisis judgments” (Hollenbeck, 2009, pg. 140). Thus, the BCCCB approach “can provide a business-relevant framework for rich consideration of multiple candidates in an efficient, consistent manner” (pg. 148).

In a nutshell, the opening-centric fit approach and the BCCCB cycle has the advantage of taking into consideration the business-relevant insights, competencies, personality traits, and competence as a holistic-dynamic selection process. This process in turn can provide a “comprehensive interpretation of the situation – that is, articulate how each candidate (for the executive position) is equipped to perform in the open job, project how they might interact with potential future peers and bosses, and describe what could derail the candidate” (Bank et al., 2009, pg. 153-154).


Bank, J., Crandell, S., Goff, M., Ramesh, A., & Sokol, M. (2009). Executive Selection: Yes, We Can Do Better. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2(2), 151-154.

Baughman, W. A., Dorsey, D. W., & Schalm, R. M. (2009). Executive Fit Is Negotiated, Not Selected. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2(2), 155-158.

Day, D. V. (2009). Executive Selection Is a Process Not a Decision. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology,2(2), 15-162.

Hollenbeck, G.P. (2009a). Executive selection—what’s right…and what’s wrong. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 2(2), 130-143.

Smalley, M.D. (2009). The executive job is a kaput. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 2(2), 173-176.

Smith, A.B., & Howard, A. (2009). Executive selection as a strategic business decision. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 2(2), 144-150.