Asking the Right Questions

As an executive search firm, it always surprises us when an organization hires a top executive after conducting a few interviews and glancing at a handful of impressive resumes. As we discussed in our post, The Risk of the Do-It-Yourself Executive Search, the cost of making a hiring error can exceed six figures.  That can be enormously detrimental to the business, to say the least. So how can you tell if a candidate will be successful and exceed your expectations before you make the hiring decision?

To ensure the right fit between a leadership candidate and your corporate executive team, it is important to ask the right questions during the interviews.  The interviewer must consider the candidate’s judgment, values, business philosophy, management style, thought process, and ethics.

The problem arises when interviewers stick to standard interview questions. Candidates often come to interviews prepared to answer standard questions and have their rehearsed answers ready to go. In order to really get to know the person, you need to be proactive in your approach to get candid, direct, and honest answers.  Make them forget about the points they think you want to hear by trying the following questions.

Ask the Right Interview Questions:

  • Outside of compensation, what factors motivate you?
  • If I were to interact with people who know you well, what would they tell me about you?
  • What keeps you up at 3:00 am?
  • Based on what you know about our organization, what do you think would make you successful in our environment?
  • What types of corporate culture have you been most successful working in?
  • Have you had a great failure in your career which has caused you to adjust your style of operating? If so, please describe the impact this had in formulating your ongoing business judgment.
  • Can you describe a personal experience that has affected your work style, and what did you learn from this?
  • Have you worked in an environment where disagreeable decisions were imposed on you and your ethical judgment was challenge? How did you resolve the conflict?

Try these questions the next time you are confronted with a key hiring decision. We are curious to know the questions you find provocative and revealing in the executive search process.