Hitting upon the right fit with job candidates

Perhaps the most important trait in a good leader is managing hiring and firing. Good leaders don’t hire “followers.” They hire individual thinkers who can help shape the path forward and are leaders themselves.

Good leaders surround themselves with good people to carry out the team mission. They assemble a cohesive team who challenge each other but work together.

All about fit

At Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse we hire experienced life sciences leaders who are current or former CEOs. They are hired in as executives-in-residence (EIRs) to work with our portfolio companies to achieve their commercialization goals.

The EIR objective is to help many companies achieve their goals, and then pick one. The CEO then moves into that company and raises the capital needed to move the company forward. Money follows the CEOs, as investors normally “bet on the jockey, not the horse.”

We have hired CEOs as EIRs at PLSG successfully 33 times and all the CEOs we hire look perfect on paper. But, it is all about the fit.

In one case I did not hire a “perfect looking” CEO, an MD and Ph.D., because I just couldn’t see him working with an early-stage entrepreneur. I knew he would not work out.

Get your facts straight

Terminations are not easy or straightforward. You must have all the facts straight and leave no stone unturned before pulling the trigger. But you also don’t want to procrastinate after an in-depth analysis. Actions need to be firm and swift.

I remember one hire that lasted only a week and was sent packing after alienating the entire team in just five short days. As an Army general and good friend of mine would say about him, “That dog don’t hunt.”

Also, be careful not to react too quickly to others’ sour feelings about an employee who they suggest should be fired. This happened to me only twice in 40-plus years. One time the team was correct and the employee was indeed terminated. It wasn’t pretty and involved a visible harassment situation. Action then was swift and the employee left the building immediately.

On the other occasion, with the entire team recommending termination, after a careful and methodical evaluation period, the team was dead wrong and the employee made several advancements, becoming a partner and model team player.

Input, with a little luck

I get all interviewers’ input before making a hiring decision. We all need to be on the same page, maybe each with a different focus, but it must be a unanimous “yes.”

The one and only time I hired someone with only one interviewer dissenting, it didn’t turn out well, requiring a termination and a new hiring process.

All candidates look good on paper, but CVs or resumes don’t assess fit into the organization. I venture that I’ve interviewed more than 1,000 candidates and others looking for jobs and career changes over the years, and have been directly involved in hiring at least 500 of them.

Clearly making these correct decisions is an art, not a science.

 

John W. Manzetti is the Executive chairman of Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. As President and CEO of the PLSG from 2006 to 2016, John and his team assisted 455 companies, investing $22 million into 80 companies, which leveraged $1.5 billion of additional capital into the region. These companies brought over 134 products to market. He is also the founder and managing director of Accelerator Fund LLC, an early-stage, for-profit venture capital fund focused on high-impact investments in life sciences and health care.