Have you ever sat across from a hiring manager and wondered what’s really going on inside his head?
Pramukh Jeyathilak, Global HR Leader at Amazon, offers some clues. With more than two decades of broad-based experience at leading multinational companies including Microsoft and Accenture, Jeyathilak knows what it takes to succeed as a top manager in our global economy.
His career has taken him to Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and North America, and he has lived and worked in Bombay, Prague, Dubai and Singapore, as well as Washington. I recently spoke with him about how he evaluates candidates for top roles and what separates managers from leaders.
GR: What qualities do you look for when assessing senior talent?
PJ: There are a handful of things I look for and dig into deeply:
- Functional skills and technical expertise. What are the competencies you’ve gained? Are the functional and technical skills in alignment with the requirements of the position?
- Adaptability. I consider a person’s experience across the entire spectrum of established, emerging, and consolidating roles and companies. I look for an understanding of how you handle yourself in a fluid situation — how you’ve handled past role transitions, past company transitions, and geographic changes.
- Demonstrated leadership. I am always anxious to see if you’ve implemented new processes or new ways of doing things at your company. Where have you pushed beyond the obvious? Taken it to the next level? Challenged the boundaries? Have you demonstrated leadership, not only at your company, but within your industry, your profession?
- Capacity for people management. There is a significant difference between being a manager and being a leader. Maybe, as a candidate, you are not yet proven as a leader, but what is the potential you have for leadership? I try to pinpoint, beyond being JUST a manager, where you have demonstrated leadership capabilities. Are you entrepreneurial? Do you have an operating vision? I often use situational behaviors to assess these things.
GR: Are there other game changers for job seekers?
PR: Personal branding is really important. You need to create a personal brand beyond the company you work for, and use internal branding within your company to help fill in the gaps. This may sound somewhat heretical, but I tell people to think of the personal brand first, and the company second. You need to rise to the occasion and be more than the sum of your parts. Developing your personal brand is the way to do this.
GR: What do you consider key success factors for people at large, global organizations?
PJ: I try to focus on not only what people do, but how they do it. For example,
- What relationships and partnerships do you choose to build? And how do you build those relationships/partnerships?
- Are you looking ahead to the next step? What do you need to know to be successful at that level? What skills are you acquiring? What is your plan to raise the bar?
- What is your ability to take calculated risks?
- What is your capacity to grow beyond being an individual contributor, to managing teams, to leading teams?
- What is your ability to find the balance between ‘the head and the hand?’ Of course you need expertise, but you also need to be able to get operational and deal with the nits and grits!
- What is your ability to deal with ambiguity? You have to be able to weather change and keep your head clear, especially because the rate of change can be rapid and people have to be able to help themselves in times of change. I know this is rather Darwinian, but in large organizations in times of transition, it can be a matter of survival of the fittest.