CEOs' View of Who to Hire

Last Updated May 26, 2011 11:48 AM EDT

When they think about them at all, most readers of business media regard CEOs through twin lenses of corporate performance and personal compensation: How much do these meta-executives make, and are they delivering value to match?

New York Times columnist Adam Bryant has taken a different approach in his "Corner Office" series by concentrating on the personal backgrounds and psychological insights of CEOs. Now he's amassed the wisdom of more than 70 of his subjects (from Aflac's Daniel P. Amos to Zynga's Mark Pincus) into a book titled "The Corner Office: Indispensible and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed."
How can those lessons help job seekers throughout the workforce? I spoke with Bryant recently on behalf of TheLadders and wrote up his take in a piece titled "What Do CEOs Look for in Interviews?"
Bryant emphasized that today's CEOs come from a range of backgrounds. They usually understand people, and they have a powerful radar for honesty and candor.

"It's become clear to me they're master psychologists," Bryant said. When interviewing candidates, "they've come up with incredibly clever ways of using misdirection to get people off-script. What does that mean for job seekers? Be yourself, but just turn up the volume in terms of energy and presentation."

Their varied background also mean they respect people who've suffered setbacks and gotten back on their feet. "It's OK to have setbacks and failures in your life and career -- That's the stuff CEOs want to hear about. CEOs who've come back from situations like that have come to realize there are things they can't control. CEOs really want to hear stories of failure, setback, adversity. That's a given. The CEOs want to hear you're being honest, but they also want to hear how you've dealt with it."

  • Matthew TheLadders

    Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief for TheLadders, the world's leading online service catering exclusively to the $100K+ job market. In addition to traditional job search services, TheLadders.com also provides a host of specialized career development resources. Previously he worked at Ziff Davis Media, ZDNet, CNET, and Hachette Filipacchi.