The “most wanted employee”:  skills, competencies, recruiting manners

The “most wanted employee”: skills, competencies, recruiting manners

Ana Ber, Managing Partner P&P Romania: During these tough times for economy, companies must still thrive to recruit and retain the best candidates while keeping costs down.

The war for identifying talents and transform them into the „most wanted employee” is a never ending story but more actual nowadays than ever in light of the increasing complexity of markets, industries, jobs, hierarchies in organizations and the increase of matrixes and multifunctional roles.

Insights on 2 questions:

1. Which are the skills and competencies needed to become the „most wanted employee”?

2. How do you recruit future “most wanted employee”


1. The answer to first question must take into account the organizational strategy, the level in the organization and the right management of career paths inside the companies.

Organizational strategy is directly linked to business strategy and influences the size, complexity and accountability of roles. Hiring the ideal candidate for each position involves balancing the job critical characteristics with the skills each candidate currently possesses.

Look for potential when seeking new employees and pay attention to how the candidate fits with existing company culture. The top performers already in a company provide a basis for judging what to look for when hiring more top performers.

At the lower levels the educational background - “although education and skills are strongly related, exclusive reliance on measures of educational attainment to predict adult skills will lead to considerable error” (Murray, Owen, and McGaw, 2005, 61) - and the potential to grow are more accountable, at higher levels just the status of “high potential” is not enough anymore, job and cultural fit are essential. As the recent crisis showed, it can be very difficult for companies to fill in management positions with people who would fit the internal and external circumstances. As a consequence, the top management should take a more important role in supporting the talent management strategies. Top managers should avoid hiring people whom they happen to know and like but may lack the experience, expertise and cultural fit to succeed.  If these challenges are on the executives and HR departments agendas by treating them right the danger of losing talents on the way decreases dramatically.

Even though the talent management programs are extremely important for organizations we should not forget that the responsibility for making the right career choices is mainly individual. (see Douglas T. Hall “Careers In and Out of Organizations”, 2001).

The most wanted employees are able to mix in between roles according to the organization’s needs – switching between operational, strategy and collaborative role would be the ideal mix for ensuring the success when reaching a senior executive role.

What really matters to top managers in 2012 shows the last survey by Pendl & Piswanger, carried out between Sept. 3rd and 14th.  611 international top managers from Austria and

CEE, covering CZ, HR, HU, RO, RS, SI and SK, participated.

The vote was clear – with around 20%, the most mentioned and most important trait of a CEO (out of 16) is „strategic thinking“.This result is the same across all countries where the survey was carried out.

After this, the picture becomes regionally diversified: while a CEO in Austria has to be quite „decisive“ (12%), has to have good „interpersonal skills“ and „communication skills“ (11% and 9%) and a high degree of „authenticity“ (also 9%), the focus in CEE lies – with sometimes great differences between the countries – on „results orientation“ (10%) ahead of „communication skills“, being a „change agent“ and „integrity“ (each 7%).

Remarkable is „tolerance for risk“:Top managers are generally expected to be careful: In most CEE countries this value is between 1% and 2%. The exceptions are Hungary with 6% and the Czech Republic with 5%.

Massive differences in mentality can be seen at the following traits: „Decisiveness” is important for 12% of the CEOs in Hungary, but only for 2% in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

„Interpersonal skills“ are seen relevant only for CEOs in Austria with 11%. In Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, this lies below 2%.

„Results orientation“ ranges far on top in Serbia (25% – most important), followed from Romania (17%) and the Czech Republic (14%).

„Authenticity“ is seen important only in Hungary (13%) and Austria (9%), while this is completely irrelevant in Serbia or the Czech Republic.

„Analytical thinking“ is for only 5% of all responders a trait for a CEO, in Croatia and Hungary even only for 3%.

„Integrity“ is important in Slovakia (10%) and the Czech Republic (9%), while in Hungary and Serbia, this is important only for 3%.

Karl Piswanger, one of the founders of P&P Group, with more than 30 years’ experience in HR field, noted:“The most wanted skills: effective and targeted motivation, strong delegation, entrepreneurial spirit; ability to give and receive open & constructive feedback; actively approaching and engaging other people; strategic and goal-oriented thinking and leading; high customer & market orientation; active, people- and solution centered problem-solving behavior; especially for managers authenticity and resilience. The most wanted competencies: good education & professional knowledge, problem-solving abilities.”

Quoting P&P Hungary General Manager, Andras Lipscei, “The employers are looking for visionary managers/leaders, with positive, optimistic „can do” attitude. They should be able to motivate others and transmit their own enthusiasm towards their team.

They should be equipped with the most up to date methods and technologies for positively influencing others. They should be strong enough to jump over the obstacles and take them as challenges. Summarizing, what they need more than ever before is CHARIZMA.”

Below there are listed the most desired skills expected by employers therefore employees who have combination of skills are an invaluable resource to employers.

  • Adaptability skills. The most important skill is to be adaptive to the demand of the organization and the assumed role inside it. Adaptability is the ability to manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and work assignments. For entry / lower levels companies can hire employees with basic foundational competencies and then teach more specific competencies directly related to the employees' job descriptions because at these levels is important to develop a flexible range of skills and competencies that would enable employees with suitable potential to move into different positions while at higher levels is more important the fit to the specific job requirements and its role in contributing to strategy and business results. Just because a manager does a good job does not mean that he / she will perform as good in another role / function


  • Leadership skills. While there is some debate about whether leadership is something people are born with, these skills deal with the ability to take charge and manage co-workers.  Great leaders can set an example; they walk the walk and talk the talk because one of the most effective methods of leadership is to lead by example. Everything in an organization starts at the top; as a leader, the tempo that the leader sets will generally set the tone for how members within the organization interact with each other, as well as others outside of the organization.


  • Problem-solving and creativity. Involves the ability to find solutions to problems using creativity and past experiences along with the available information and resources. One of the key aspects of any organization’s success or failure is its ability to stay ahead of the competition in a rapidly changing environment. The modern business, with its emphasis on competition, building larger markets, strategic planning, team working, etc., has created the need for new problem solving and decision making strategies. Those who are stronger or faster in finding new ways to solve problems are closer to success than those who don’t.
  • Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written). By far, the one skill mentioned most often by employers is the ability to listen, write, and speak effectively. Successful communication is critical in business especially in collaborative roles in matrix organizations where the lack of control should be compensated by the ability to influence and organizational understanding.
  • Analytical/Research Skills. Deals with the ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed. Especially for executive roles is important to demonstrate success driven by the power of conceptual and / or analytical skills, in making coherent arguments and build strategies proven successful.
  • Computer Literacy. Almost all jobs now require some basic understanding of computer hardware and software, especially word processing, spreadsheets, and email.
  • Interpersonal skills. The ability to relate to co-workers, inspire others to participate, and mitigate conflict with co-workers is essential given the amount of time spent at work each day. Regardless of position or technical expertise, the higher one goes onto the organizational ladder he / she should be aware of the impossibility of carrying out the work independently therefore communication is essential to assure success.
  • Multiculturalism. There is possibly no bigger issue in the workplace than diversity especially in the later years when companies go more and more towards a global approach. Multiculturalism in the workplace can create a sense of cultural awareness among employees who are exposed to different points of view which will enable them to learn to think outside the box and incorporate multiple perspectives.
  • Planning and organizational skills. The ability to design, plan, organize, and implement projects and tasks within a given timeframe to make sure resources are used efficiently and effectively to achieve organizational goals.
  • Teamwork.  Teams don’t work without teamwork. Especially these days, in larger organizations when many jobs involve working in one or more work-groups, the ability to work with others in a professional manner while attempting to achieve a common goal is a must. Teamwork promotes the sense of achievement, equity and camaraderie, essential for a motivated workplace.

However, even though an employee has all the skills mentioned above he / she should display personal values in line with the organization they are in or target in order to reach the status of “the most wanted employee”:

  • Integrity. Personal integrity and honesty is expected more than any other value, especially in light of the many recent corporate scandals. Integrity is doing the right thing even if it is difficult.
  • Flexibility. Openness to new ideas and concepts, to working independently or as part of a team, and to carrying out multiple tasks or projects is valued on the same extent.
  • Dedication, persuasion and work ethics. Employers appreciate employees who love what they do and will keep at it until they solve the problem and get the job done.
  • Reliability and responsibility. At its most basic, employees are paid for their energy, engagement and time to come to work. Providing employers with proofs of reliability and responsibility is better than providing them with promise.
  • Loyalty. Employers appreciate employees who will have a strong loyalty to the company -- even at times when the company is not necessarily loyal to its employees. Employers are reluctant to invest money in people that seem likely to leave them within a short period. They want employees to be loyal to their company and grow with them as their business grows because no employer is ready to invest in someone without seeing a return of investment – recruiting, induction, training, mentoring, all these costs money which should be recovered, is a long-term investment. Employers are not keen to invest their time, money and energy in an employee who seems likely due to their previous job history to change jobs after a short period of time.
  • Positive attitude and self - motivation. The employees who get promoted most often are the ones with drive and passion -- and who demonstrate this enthusiasm through their actions. When someone loves what he does, he / she will spread that joy around. Self-motivation is a power that drives us to keep moving ahead, it encourages continuous learning and success. People love happy people around them.
  • Self-confidence.  Self-confidence is the belief in one's ability to succeed.  Self-confidence is the first step to progress, development, achievement and success and no one could achieve great results without it, therefore, employers prefer self-confident employees with a reasonable degree of assertiveness.
  • Willingness to learn. Jobs are constantly changing and evolving, and anyone must show an openness to grow and learn with that change, to get out the comfort zone, to remain open to continuous development.

2. With so many available jobs, yet a historically high unemployment rate, it is clear that the problem has shifted from a lack of jobs to matching the right people to available jobs. The question is how to recruit the right people.

First of all the companies should make sure that the strategy is decoded into specific skills and competencies for each role, define the behaviors assigned to particular role that will ensure success for the company.

Starting from here, each company should build a recruiting strategy which fits the present and future organizational needs taking into account the market trends in this field.

Social recruiting is the name of the game since social media is about connecting and engaging people, same as recruiting.

LinkedIn offers a great mix of employer branding and talent attraction solution which perfectly fits the recruitment needs of most of the companies. This might lead recruiters to compare LinkedIn Vs job portals keeping job portals constantly under pressure to provide value-added services.

Especially for senior management positions processes will be rather outsourced to external executive search companies in order to prevent the pitfall of hiring / promoting leaders who are not the answer to the exact needs of the business and organization. Recruiting impact is more and more important as results need to be delivered – therefore top executives tend to rely more on external recruiters who are able to make an objective due diligence of potential candidates. It became more obvious that success in managing costs is only half of the glass and not always the full one.

Direct sourcing will strengthen its position as companies start to shift away from recruiting “actives” (currently 60% – 90% of all candidates) and toward the direct sourcing of “currently employed top talent” whose positive performance predictability is higher. However, just because someone is doing a great job does not mean he / she will perform as well in another environment or role.

In line with this tendency the overall recruiting emphasis will continue to shift away from what is becoming relatively easy — the “finding” of candidates toward the still difficult task of successfully “selling” top talent who are in high demand and quite reluctant to risk a move.

Irrespective of being an internal or external recruiter, some basic principles should be applied:

  • show respect to candidates in personal interactions
  • treat each candidate as individual and honor their diverse talents
  • communicate updates and progress to candidates in time and polite manner
  • Recruiters should act as business partners rather than service providers; they should act as advisory points for all managerial levels in a company.

As a conclusion, in these turmoil times, when according to a Manpower worldwide survey the recruiting needs will decrease in the first quarter of 2013, both companies and employees are searching for ways of finding / becoming the “most wanted employee”. Looking back at the boom years mistakes we should learn to assess correctly and value the skills and competencies of the people who are able to help reach organization goals. The most valuable lesson for all is maybe that content counts more than form and we all, recruiters, top executives and willing to be employees should start looking beyond what is easily observed.

Established in 1980 in Vienna, Dr. Pendl & Dr.Piswanger (P&P) is today recognized as a leading Human Resources Consultancy in Central & Eastern Europe, operating out of 21 own offices across the region (15 countries), and in Caucasus & Caspian Region (1 Regional

Office in Baku – servicing 4 countries Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan), thus ensuring comprehensive coverage and in-depth local market.

P&P is a shareholder of InterSearch (IS), a global network of Retained Executive Search

Practices, with currently 90 offices in more than 40 countries and its own IS Training Academy, ranked in top 12 executive search organizations worldwide.

In Romania Dr. Pendl & Dr. Piswanger operates since January 2000 offering executive search and HR consultancy services.