Posted tagged ‘Interview’

Establishing the Foundation for the Leadership Interview

June 22, 2010

A leadership interview is a little more delicate. In fact, I would categorize this discussion as more of a conversation than an interview. There are several reasons why this is so.

The candidate being interviewed is typically more mature. Usually, this person has managed departments or divisions, if not other companies. Therefore, this applicant is more comfortable with the proceedings.  For this level candidate, it truly is an opportunity to shine and demonstrate the depth and breadth of the knowledge and experience that has been acquired over an entire professional career.

These factors by themselves make this interview different.

It is as much about making sure that there is a stylistic and cultural match as it is about the skills that the candidate possesses. And the candidate also usually understands on some level that a poor match will not work for him or her.

To make this conversation more effective and easier, I typically explain that I am assisting n this process. My intention and goals is to find a fit so that the candidate can be happy and fulfilled for years to come and so can the company.

This allows for a conversational shift toward getting to know the person. The context and the most fundamental rule to apply is that we are here to “screen out” inappropriate candidates rather than “screening in” people.

The purpose of the questions that we outlined in the previous post is now clear. The se questions have been designed to facilitate the discussion and they are clearly in the best interests of the applicant as well as the company.

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Determining the Candidate’s Leadership Profile

June 17, 2010

One of the challenges in the interview process was the need to capture information in a meaningful way.  The plan was to interview five candidates in one day and the risk of blurring responses, characteristics and attributes was fairly high. Effective data capture was therefore important.

The tool that was built had a section for evaluating each of the core attributes highlighted in the prior post. It was to be completed after the interview and it simply asked if the candidate had the particular attribute and allowed for any additional comments or insights.

The rest of the document – and clearly the most important section – was devoted to a series of questions designed to create a conversation that would enable the candidate to share his or her views on leadership.

Here are some examples of these questions:

A. Getting to know you questions:

(1) I’m about to buy a brand named <candidate>. Describe what I just bought.

(2) What was the best job you ever had? Why?

B. Execution:

(1) How do you assure / implement accountability among your staff?

(2) What do you reward and how do you reward it?

(3) How do you convince people to change behaviors?

(4) How do you evaluate staff?

(5) Why should someone be fired?

C. Ability:

(1) What characteristics of your present job do you like?

(2) What are some of the things you don’t like?

(3) How would you change your job if you had the power to do so?

(4) Describe your perfect job?

(5) Describe your perfect boss?

(6) Give me 5 adjectives that generally describe the people who work for you.

D. Leadership:

(1) What are 3 core tenets of your management philosophy that you would never compromise?

(2) Fast forward a year —  how is our company, the one that just hired you, different?

(3) How do you hire people (i.e. what is the hiring process / what do you look for)?

(4) Talk to me about a great hiring success (what were the factors that made it successful)?

(5) Talk to me about a great hiring disaster. Why did it happen? What did you do about it? (this is a great question to learn about blindspots)

(6) How do you make important decisions?

(7) How do you go about learning new things?

(8) Describe the perfect company culture? How would you create this culture?

E. Ability to Grow and Learn:

(1) Most people have at east one tough integrity challenge in their professional lives – what was yours and how did you handle it?

(2) What is the greatest lesson that you learned in the past five years?

(3) What is the greatest professional challenge you’ve ever faced and why?

F. Vision:

(1) Tell me about three competitive trends for which we should be concerned.

(2) What is the single most important idea that you contributed to your present job?

The purpose of these questions is to learn what is important to the candidate and the thinking process that is utilized. What can be learned from these questions is the values of the candidate, how they are reinforced and the type of people with whom these leaders will surround themselves.

Getting these answers will your company know the type of leader it is engaging.

The Type of Reference YOU Want to Speak With and Sample Reference Questions

November 16, 2008

In my last post, I mentioned that our interview process concludes with the reference check. I have known managers who have skipped this step. My advice — Don’t! With active listening, you can learn a great deal about your prospective hire including the best way to manage them.

Incidentally, one of the greatest sources of insights are references who are past teachers or professors of the candidate. I have found that teachers and professors have been trained to offer positives and then add an area for improvement. Their insight is usually spot on because they have been observing the candidate for a

The idea is to allow the reference to speak at length. Therefore, after asking a question, pause, and let the reference fill in the uncomfortable gap that silence sometimes creates.long time and have been evaluating areas where they can improve on an ongoing basis.

Here are some examples of the types of questions that we ask the candidate’s references.

  • How do you know the candidate?
  • What do you think of him/her?
  • What is his/her greatest strength?
  • As it relates to managing or coaching, what should I do to bring out the best in this person? (i.e. What type of supervision, how manage, how often to check w/them on progress)
  • What can you tell me about his/her time-management skills?
  • How does he/she make decisions?
  • How was his/her interaction with their peers? How does he / she coach their peers?
  • What other qualities does he/she possess that you feel make him/her a good employee?
  • How does he/she respond to interruptions, deadlines, and pressure?
  • How would you assure success for him/her? (i.e. What type of supervision, how manage, how often to check w/them on progress)
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you make disappear about the candidate?
  • Would you hire him/her?
  • Is there anything else that you would add?

    The way management selects its people is indicative of how competent management is, what it values, and how seriously it takes its job. Unlike strategic decisions, people decisions cannot be masked. They are eminently visible. However, implementing a robust hiring process will allow you to alter the culture of your company and improve its fortunes and your bottom line dramatically.

    A Unique and Very Effective Interview Process

    November 14, 2008

    In the course of my nearly 25 years as a CEO, I have realized that skills and capabilities alone do not guarantee success. I have come to appreciate the importance of making certain that the employee reflects the values and the management philosophy of the organization.

    Permit me to share with you a very practical way to implement a program that will dramatically improve your hiring process. It is one that we used so successfully that Inc. Magazine chose to publish it in one of their books.

    Our process began with an understanding of the assignment. We then made certain that the candidate had the skills, experience, and competencies necessary to perform the assignment. We then scheduled meetings with the two most senior people available. The purpose of these meetings was to verify that the skills were present and to determine whether there was a cultural fit.

    Here are some examples of the questions that we asked of these candidates.

    • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and why?
    • Why do you think you were successful?
    • What is the single most important idea you have contributed to your present job?
    • How do you go about making important decisions?
    • If you had a magic wand and could change two things about yourself, what would they be?
    • Give some examples of how you get people to accomplish projects. How do you motivate them?
    • Describe the importance of your job within the company’s overall business plan.
    • How do you go about learning something new?
    • Who was the best boss you ever had? Why?
    • Name something you have really wanted to do, but have never been able to do, even when there was an opportunity.

    Nearly all of these questions are designed to elicit information about the personal behavioral styles and values of the candidate.

    After explaining how our company accomplishes its mission, we reviewed the management philosophy, a written document that articulates how we conduct our business. This is important because it is imperative that the candidate believes that s/he can also fit into the company’s work environment. Assuming we still believed that the candidate might be a good fit for the assignment and the company, we then ask for references.

    We then began the part of the process that Inc. Magazine found unusually valuable. The candidate received a tour of the office and was invited to meet with the people who worked at our company. They are encouraged to ask any questions that come to mind. This allowed the candidate to determine if we operate in a manner that is consistent with our management philosophy. The management philosophy thus comes alive for the candidate.

    Equally important, we gained the insight of the people who might be working with the candidate. These people really ask the most difficult questions because their questions reflect very pragmatic concerns, such as how they will work together. This dialogue tends to be more personal and real because the context for the conversation is one of sharing and discovery by both parties. Later on, we asked our people what they thought and whether they would like to work alongside the candidate.

    Before the candidate leaves for the day, we provide him or her with references concerning our company and asked him or her to call them. These references are clients who have agreed to speak with our candidates.

    From these conversations, the candidate learned firsthand what signing up to be a part of our company and culture truly means. Do we really go to the extremes that we speak of to delight our clients? Do our employees really take their role as a trusted advisor seriously? Equally important, we received the benefit of yet another round of high-level, personal interviews that helped us to understand what concerns the candidate has, and most important, whether the client would welcome the opportunity to work with the candidate.

    Although this particular approach is uniquely geared for external, customer-facing positions, everyone in an organization is there to meet the needs of at least one internal customer. This model may be easily modified to allow for some version of customer feedback.

    Our interview process concluded with the reference check. This check was not performed by an office manager or a Human Resources staff member but rather by the person who will be the direct supervisor of the candidate, should he or she be hired. They have the strongest interest of anyone in the capabilities of the candidate because the candidate will have a direct impact on the supervisor’s own success. Of course, these people should be guided by the human resources department regarding the types of questions that they may ask.


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