Are you shortlisting candidates for an executive or senior role? The best way to gauge if you are hiring the right candidate is to see his people interactions.

I have been in human capital since the 1980s, mostly in curriculum development and content delivery, standing before audiences and groups to educate, share and facilitate. Occasionally, I have been involved in the analyses of candidates of executive and senior levels, at various stages of my career over nearly 30 years.

A friend was involved in helping to coordinate a recruitment process for an executive position for a third-party organization. The process included the profiling and analyses of candidates, and coordinating rounds of interviews for the organization. The process came down to two final candidates.

One was decidedly the right candidate if I am the recruiter, because of his attributes and character fitting in the team and I would expect such a candidate to work well in a group scenario, to respect hierarchy, and to most likely contribute earnestly as a team.

Another candidate is more experienced, but the profiling and initial conversations seem to imply this candidate would not fit in. When my friend was trying to coordinate various meetings with the organization, this candidate did not appear helpful, or respectful, probably imagining my friend to be “just” a secretary or administrator, someone whom this candidate imagine to be “unimportant”. He said he would call up the organization directly to fix appointments and meetings. My friend obliged, even though this was unusual.

Another incident happened more recently. I was walking from the convenience store on the ground floor of my office building and passed by the reception desk. A middle-aged man in business attire was scolding the security guard of our building – for being rude. The thing is, I have known our security guard for more than a decade, and he is a nice gentleman who is very learned and multi-lingual, and I have never known him to be rude or angry. I guess this probably insecure man who scolded the personable security guard, is what we Chinese called, “狗眼看人低” (loosely translated as “a dog can only see below his height”).

I have gone through various levels of management, from senior to the frontline. I am not arrogant to imagine that only those occupying senior positions are better persons, and I will not be foolish to imagine that those occupying frontline positions are lesser people. Everyone, in my opinion, is equal before our Creator.

In whatever business we are in, it is important to treat everyone fairly and without prejudice. The voice on the other side of the phone, the person on the other side of the email, or a person we meet for the first time, should be respected, regardless of position, age, gender. We may be pleasantly surprised or ashamed to find that some of the greatest saints may be hiding from plain sight.

Let me share a story about an old man, nearly 100 years old, who would walk 43km from his village of Baylovo, to Sofia, in Bulgaria, and back on foot (total of 86km) everyday, rain or shine, snow or not. He would stand in front of Church with a little box, and people would donate money to his box even though the old man never begged for money. He would kiss the right hand of every gentleman, lady or child who donated into the box, and bowed to them. Some people looked at him with disdain, thinking the old man was just a beggar. Little did they know, over the years, this ascetic has walked 86km everyday, and donated all these donations to church. Just for Nevsky Cathedral, this old man donated EUR 20,000 (by rough calculations, he donated to various organizations at around EUR 45,700). This old “beggar”, is Elder Dobri Dobrev of Bulgaria.

Likewise, if we are looking for people, look for those who can respect anyone, anytime. These individuals will be priceless and will go further than anyone of us can imagine. Credentials and experience are mere window dressing and are relatively easier to find, but do not show the hearts of man, which can either be grave problems, or priceless gems.

In an army, would you trust your compatriot to be a mere sniper, or would you trust someone who respect you and would lay down his life for you? What if some soldier bypassed the entire chain of command and went straight to the general, what would happen to hierarchy, chain of command, command and control, discipline, obedience, and all values ascribed to a proper and successful army? Such a person would be courtmartialed and summarily dismissed dishonorably after punishment.

In an organization, would you trust someone who belittles the frontline people, disregards protocol of the hierarchy and chain of command, but would cosy up to seniors unscrupulously? Or would you prefer someone who pays attention to one and all, showing humility and respect to all, with a singular personality and unwavering integrity?

I know who I want on my side of the battle to the finish line.