Common sense solutions for commonplace problems at work

Interview Questions to Ask Your Senior Team Candidates

Are you hiring a senior manager or executive candidate for your organization? I ask them different interview questions than I ask during non-senior leader interviews. I am seeking the best candidates who will work well with the senior team and provide guidance and direction to the rest of our employees.

I want to assess how they have performed in prior jobs and find out if they can do our job. Yes, their cultural fit is important but even more important is can the candidate do the job. Secondly, how will the candidate complement the current team? I don’t want a vanilla senior team. Then, determine whether the candidate will fit your culture.

This is an abbreviated checklist about how to hire senior leaders.

Checklist for Hiring

Start with a phone screen by Human Resources staff and the hiring manager.

If the candidate makes it through these meetings, schedule phone meetings with two-three additional screeners.
For a first onsite visit, start with two or three interviews with the hiring manager, and two relevant employees.

Only if a candidate makes it successfully through spend more time with additional employees these initial onsite meetings should the candidate. Even with the positive phone screenings, I have been known to escort a candidate out following our initial meeting without allowing the candidate to interview with more employees. When I’ve determined that he’s not our guy, why spend expensive employee time going through the motions?

The chances are good that you will bring the best candidates back for another day of meetings in any case. Save additional interviews until then. The team is for input; they don’t get a vote. The decision is the hiring manager’s made in conjunction with guidance from HR. She is the person who will have to live closest to her decision.

Select your best, most qualified person based on the above-mentioned criteria.

There are many pitfalls that you want to avoid when you hire an employee. But bringing the candidates back for a series of interviews and even to work in your company for a trial time period (for the unemployed) are techniques you can use to hire superior employees.

Feel badly about the time investment for the candidate? Don’t. Last time I spoke with them, Genentech brought candidates back several times for several day interview sessions and, at one point, up to twelve.

Your goal is to maximize the time you have with the candidates and minimize the staff time that you invest when you hire with the help of a team.

Interview Questions for Senior Leaders

You may use variations of these questions as you hire your senior team. These were specifically developed for hiring a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who would be second in command in an organization. So, you will want to customize the questions for your open position.

These questions are designed specifically to assess the skills of the candidate in management, cultural fit, team bu ilding, and mentoring. Additional interviews with technical and financial staff should evaluate the technical skills of your candidates.

  • Describe the most significant contributions that you make in the workplace.
  • What are your core and most significant values?
  • Describe the work culture that you build in the organizations in which you have held leadership positions.
  • How important is organizational culture to the success of a firm?
  • What is your philosophy of management?
  • If I were to interview the people who have reported to you in the past, how would they describe your management style?
  • What are your three most firmly held beliefs about people?
  • Give me an example, from your past work experiences, about a time when you had an underperforming employee reporting to you. How did you address the situation? Did the employee’s performance improve? If not, what did you do next?
  • How do you regard the role of CFO in regard to the relationship with the CEO?
  • If you believed your CEO was headed in the wrong direction or making a bad decision, how would you handle the situation?
  • How have you differentiated people to pay for performance in your organizations in the past?
  • With regard to financial numbers, how broadly have you shared them in the past?
  • The CEO is trying to build an effective executive team. Tell me how you have contributed to such an entity in the past.
  • Have you been willing to disagree with senior staff? Describe a disagreement you had with a senior team member in the past and how you handled it.
  • What are the characteristics of the team that you build within your finance department?
  • What do you see as the obligation of a company to build the talent and careers of employees?
  • Tell me about the most successful acquisition you have made in the past.
  • Tell me about a time when you reorganized a department or significantly changed employee work assignments. How did you approach the task? How did the affected employees respond to your actions?
  • When you have entered a new workplace in the past, as a manager or supervisor, describe how you have gone about meeting and developing relationships with your new coworkers, supervisors, and reporting staff.

Using these questions or a customized version should help you hire a superior senior leader.

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