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Management blog

Interview with Gerhard Wiesler, HR consultant and partner at Kienbaum, about applicants who lie, managers who only pretend to have digital skills - and what women should finally heed in their job.


Gerhard Wiesler, headhunter at Kienbaum



Mr. Wiesler, the personnel consultancy industry is booming and has doubled its turnover in the past ten years. Can you keep up with work?

Our personnel consultants are well-timed, especially with the search for CEOs. That is also time-consuming. You have to filter 100 people, make 50 phone calls in advance, meet and assess 15 candidates in order to present six to the customer in the end. At this level, we have around 20 percent more searches than a year ago. Fortunately, we currently have the baby boom generation among the over-50s, so that there are enough applicants for the top positions. We don't have to compete for candidates today, but things could look very different in ten years' time.


So the internet with its job platforms has not snatched any orders from you?

No, on the contrary, it helps us to research candidates ourselves. Most of the time, companies want to stay discreetly in the background, especially when it comes to highly paid positions, and do not want to negotiate any rebates themselves.


Which qualifications do you currently have to look for most often?

Digital skills, of course.


What else are you observing?

Companies are becoming more cautious. For them it is no longer enough for a candidate to claim that, as a CEO in mechanical engineering, in addition to his technical knowledge, he has two or three skills, such as solid knowledge of strategy or sustainability, but he has to prove it. Then, after the interview phase, we go into assessments, carry out structured individual interviews and check specialist skills. Even with digital skills.

Whether someone just preaches New Work or lives it, we read between the lines. Such an analysis takes two to three weeks. But the effort is worth it, also for us as HR consultants. Because if the candidate doesn't perform later - i.e. doesn't manage it - we've done a bad job as headhunters.


Do candidates often lie?

They do, and often. Companies no longer believe everything that is in application documents. If someone says he can speak Russian and has set up entire works there, we punctuate them. And then it happens that a Thuringian who claims to have lived in the Czech Republic suddenly relativizes himself and admits that he is no longer so confident in negotiations. Liars are often the ones who don't admit to a single past mistake.


What about references?

We definitely ask candidates to give us references. An important question then for the reference provider is: would you hire the person again?
If he twitches or hesitates, that's not a convincing "yes" that you need.


... and certificates - do they still play a role?

People in top positions don't need certificates. For example, we ask them what exactly they did if their company increased the return from four to 14 percent. We have to look carefully. And then you ask third parties how they see it. Otherwise the result will be too subjective.


Do some digital skills just pretend?

Often, but you can easily see how active someone is in social networks such as Xing, Twitter or LinkedIn. Is he in there at all, how many and which followers does he have, how many and whom does he follow and how often does he post something. If an online provider is looking for a top manager, it is not easy: 50 percent of the top managers are not online. But anyone who is not in the portals today, does not even do online banking, is no longer presentable. They're a dying race, so to speak. Because they don't reach anyone - no customers, no suppliers and no employees.


And what qualities do female candidates have to have?

Women who apply for management positions usually have the same qualifications as men. But they sometimes lack the networks. I always advise women to network, to exchange ideas - and above all to support one another.




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Category: General | Tags: applicants, digital competence, Gerhard Wiesler, headhunters, candidates, Kienbaum, managers, personnel consultants, references, certificates