When it comes to recruiting for executive positions, ideally, it all goes down to finding the right person for the job, or that “perfect fit”. Especially when you recruit for a top position, this idea of the perfect candidate – as rare as the Holy Grail – seems to be the objective of ambitious companies. But if the Holy Grail was just a myth in the Middle Ages, so is the perfect fit in the 21st century when recruiting top professionals.

It’s not difficult to understand why. In a changing business context, what seems to be the right profile today, might not be so next year. The world is changing at astonishing speed, especially when it comes to doing business. At the beginning of the 1950s, the average lifespan of a company was around 65 years. Now it’s 18.

To put things into perspective, seven decades ago, you could join a company in your twenties and retire from that same workplace forty years later. Tell that to a millennial, and they will laugh at you: nowadays, you’re lucky if you spend a decade in a company. The company itself is lucky if it’s still in business twenty years after its launch: it is estimated that half of the S&P companies will no longer exist due to digital disruption in ten years.


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Therefore, the question is: do you still need to recruit the perfect fit for the current context? Do you need to spend time and energy trying to find the person with the right skills, the right experience, the right credentials for your current needs?

How about finding a person with the right mindset, the right stamina, and the right vision to tackle tomorrow’s challenges? Perhaps it’s time for companies to stop thinking in terms of “fit” and start adopting a “fitness” mindset when recruiting top professionals. Fitness-oriented recruitment will be essential for the 21st-century economy.


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Fit-oriented recruitment tends to be more static, while fitness-oriented recruitment is essentially dynamic. Needless to say, fit-oriented does not mean “unsuccessful”. On the contrary, in a static environment, tradition and track-record are valued, meaning that you have a very solid ground to build on. In a fitness-oriented context, people look more towards the future, cultivate mindsets and habits, and anticipate new opportunities (or threats).


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How can you implement fitness-oriented recruitment?

First, you need to focus on future, emerging, ever-changing contexts. Prefer empathetic, tech-savvy candidates who are well aware that the world of tomorrow will not be the same. During interviews, these candidates can talk about future trends and throw in a few ideas about transitioning towards a more digital way of doing business (from expanding your client base online to conducting virtual board meetings).


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Then, you need to choose candidates who prefer to work in teams and are willing to delegate, allowing other people to express their ideas and bring new perspectives. They are not afraid of losing power, and they value teamwork. During interviews, these candidates do not come across as geniuses who can save you from disaster, but as apt communicators who can bring people from different backgrounds to the same table.


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You also need to look for candidates that are energetic and make decisions fast. As things tend to change quickly, there might not always be time for a detailed analysis of all aspects involved. Obviously, in an ideal world, companies have time for thorough evaluations, but time is of the essence in a swift transition process. Too much hesitation might cost a lot of money.


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Finally, a fitness-oriented candidate is context-oriented, while a fit-oriented one is more focused on the job. During the interview, the latter talks more about the job profile and how s/he can adapt to and deliver top performance. On the other hand, the fitness-oriented candidate might talk about the wider context, how it will affect the business model and the overall performance of the company. If current technology has a potentially disruptive effect on the company, they will talk about possible solutions.


Read more: VUCA, or how to do business in interesting times


To sum up

It’s important to keep in mind that things will change. Those who will adapt will survive, those who won’t have their days numbered. It’s not cruelty; it’s the reality of any innovation. If the leader you are recruiting today can see tomorrow’s world, perhaps your company will celebrate its 60th birthday and defy the current statistics. After all, age is just a number when your company’s spirit is young, energetic, and innovative.

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