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Identifying Management Style

• volume 2 • number 5

Imagine firing one of your top executives just four months after you recruited him to solve your company's biggest problem. America Online's chief executive officer, Stephan M. Case, recently found himself in that unfortunate position.

Case had hired William J. Razzouk, second in command at Federal Express, to boost AOL's declining subscribership. Razzouk seemed the perfect choice: he had helped FedEx set an industry standard for customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, unhappy consumers were leaving AOL in droves.

The problem, however, was that Razzouk had whipped FedEx into line with a conservative, command-and-control management style, an approach that failed miserably with the hip young recruits at freewheeling America Online. As one AOL director put it, "He tried to put AOL into a FedEx mode, which wasn't going to work out. He's a Patton. We needed an Eisenhower."

Management style matters. What works in one theater of operations can bomb in another. That's one reason why behavioral competency interviewing is so important and effective.

This kind of interview does not just deal with what was done on the job but with how things were accomplished. That information helps the interviewer compare the corporate environment in which a candidate was successful with the culture she or he will face on the new job. Case evidently didn't do this, which makes him as much to blame for the recent debacle at AOL as Razzouk.

Failing to consider how behavioral competencies relate to corporate culture can be costly, both personally and professionally. In this case, Razzouk is out of a job, Case looks bad, and AOL flounders without a leader. The troops are probably wishing Ike would pay them a visit right about now.