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How to trust your gut in executive search

Gut instinct, or intuition, can prove a guiding light in any profession – but especially when you are seeking to place senior individuals in high-calibre jobs. Often defined as something that we simply know, or consider to be true – which arises from instinctive feeling rather than conscious thought – intuition should play an important part in your work within the executive search niche.

By Vanessa Rogers on behalf of BossJansen Executive Search.

Leadership consultant and author Rick Snyder advises in his book Decisive Intuition: Use Your Gut Instincts to Make Smart Business Decisions (Career Press) that “intuition is our deeper intelligence, which is able to read the room or marketplace. We make better decisions when we integrate intuition with critical thinking.”

As the CEO of Invisible Edge, an international consulting company that serves as a trusted advisor, mentor, and strategic partner for forward-thinking executives and companies, Snyder is highly qualified to make this statement. He’s built a career and a company on combining his MA in psychology with his business experience, in order to advance intuitive intelligence and skills into his clients’ business plans and company cultures.

“When we’re working through the highly structured executive search process with a critical handful of suitable applicants, there’s no leniency for a wrong move,” advises Jeremy Bossenger, director at BossJansen Executive Search. “So we tap into not only the knowledge and experience that we have at hand, but also that little voice inside when considering whether an applicant is: honest (about what they’ve said and where they want to be going); committed (towards making the move, should the position becomes theirs); and capable of making positive change (in terms of company culture and business transformation) when they are hired into the role.”

Snyder concurs, advising “intuition is probably the great differentiator in business”. In fact, his book makes it clear that “listening to, trusting, and acting on your intuitive intelligence separates you from the pack as most people are [simply] not listening in to theirs”. It’s really just a case of being open to this “second brain” – a matter that neuropsychologists are often hired to assist with when crucial decisions are needed in a military operation or business crisis.

The BBC News piece “The second brain in our stomachs” goes on to explain that while few of us get to watch our stomach’s digestion in action, if we could do so we’d be amazed by the vast network of over 100 million neurons that line it – “as many as there are in the head of a cat”. While this “little brain” may not do any complex thinking, it certainly does get on with the daily grind of digesting our food via that cluster of neurons that keep it closely tied to the brain in our skull. Without getting too technical, just think of the power of butterflies in the stomach when you’re scared or nervous; that “little brain” can alert you to emotions and instincts that your real brain is rather unclear about.

Returning to the matter at hand, Bossenger unpacks how to harness your gut instinct in the high-level recruitment process, with these four tips:

• Analyse a decision you plan to make rationally, and then tap into the creativity of how you really feel about it. Allow both cognition and emotion to come through;

• The data you have in front of you – CVS, portfolios, resumés and more – must be given their due consideration, but remember that there’s more involved a managerial or executive role than simply the surface qualification and experience. The person has to be the “right fit” and be able to add value. Take your time over the interview process – either online, in person, or both – so that you can tease out the fine nuances that only the best candidate will be able to bring to the table.
• Just as in battle you would take a good look at the situation with your own two eyes, rather than simply trusting your flight instruments, so your situational awareness can guide you when making the right call in terms of an applicant for a long-term company or valued client.

• While fear and intuition, both of which come from the gut, differ slightly – each of these emotions makes you wake up to the negative or positive sense of a matter. If you’ve employed your cognition to assess the data and your gut for anything deeper – and the outcome is a sense of positive, forward-moving energy – you’ve probably found the winning candidate.