Maybe you’re in the wrong type of company, or more appropriately, maybe your competencies are better suited to a business of another size. One of my first questions to candidates is whether they consider themselves a big or a small-company person. It’s difficult to explain but a lot of people are quite rightly attracted to the branding and apparent success of larger businesses, and might think the question is there to catch them out.

A few start looking at me sideways, but the reality is that there is no ‘right’ answer I am looking for. In order to implement successful people in any mode of organisation, it is really important to see how they like working. Although candidates don’t realise it, the ‘right’ answer is largely dependent on the person in front of me, it’s driven by their best skills and most competent behaviours.

So, what’s the difference?

Small company people want to impact change on a big scale, they are more easily frustrated if they can’t make process improvements, they prefer direct access to management and usually clients too. In this environment it’s imperative to get the right people in the right roles. If identified correctly, they often fly through the ranks achieving growth that is difficult to quantify. When you work with these people, they do things so seamlessly their success is often difficult to see. They make it look easy. We call them small company people but these people are not small-thinkers, they are big thinkers. They know who they need to know, are quick at building those relationships and impacting change – but they are not very patient about getting to where they want to go, so don’t get in their way!

Big company people are more patient, they understand how long it takes to turn a big vessel and which parts they need to keep well-oiled. They build a reputation of knowing all the key people in a business and thanks to their easy-going nature; they rarely find themselves in situations of conflict. They know who to speak to about various issues in the business and they are able to do so discreetly and effectively. They are well-trusted by their colleagues. Big company people are not normally big personalities. They are usually less extrovert and more considered, often able to navigate large matrix organisations, building stakeholder management, and rejuvenating long projects that others might find too long-standing.

So, which company is right for you?

This is where it comes in handy to have a bit of knowledge about several businesses you are interviewing with. This is where a good recruiter will more than pay for themselves, for clients and for candidates – if a good placement works it serves both.

It’s not as simple as saying that you fit into one of the categories above, and therefore should work for one company or another, but it is a factor you should use to guide you. Some companies require both, depending on the team or area. Your recruiter will be able to help describe businesses they are working with – sometimes you get the feel of a small company when you are in a small section of a much larger company, that is independently-run. Sometimes you get the feel of a big company in a much smaller one when you are teamed up with suppliers, sister businesses, or working on a joint venture. You need to do your homework, but making these enquiries now will pay dividends later.

It is also a challenge for employers to recognise their own business profile – recruit the wrong fit and you will find that either your projects are going nowhere fast, or you get fireworks with your clients and within your teams. Candidates who seemed great on interview somehow can’t get the results, and that could be a competency-based issue rather than a skills one.

What are ‘competent behaviours?’

Competent behaviours are those where personality and skills meet. These core character-traits will define how successful a person’s approach will be inside a certain organisation. It is the key to building strong teams, and strong companies.

Posted by Rana Hein-Hartmann

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