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Forbes Business Council: 13 Essential Questions To Ask When Interviewing Candidates For A Leadership Role
By: Forbes featuring Byung Choi
“An interview is a great opportunity to get to know a candidate, so you want to make sure you ask the right questions. This is especially vital when you’re interviewing someone for a leadership position. You want to determine that person’s management skills and as well as their readiness to take on an important role with the company.
Members of Forbes Business Council know how to spot the best qualities in management-level job candidates. Below, they share 13 questions you should ask when interviewing a potential leadership hire.
- How do you build and maintain trust with your team?
Trust is the foundation of all successful relationships and a leader’s ability to build and maintain trust is critical to their success. It can be very telling when you ask a leadership candidate to explain their approach to building trust, how they measure it, how they maintain it in times of stress or conflict and what specifically they do to nurture it in their first 90 days. – Dee Hutchinson, Dee is for Digital
- What steps will you take to learn about the current team?
So many new leaders fail because they only focus on their executive stakeholders. This question will help you to see how quickly and how well your new leader will be able to blend their style with a new team. Any answers that don’t include time with the team are a huge red flag. – Amanda Daering, Newance
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- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
Without a doubt, all human beings have strengths, but also weaknesses. It will be a great opportunity to learn more about what perception potential candidates have of themselves, what vision and values they possess, and their power of self-criticism and humility. These are factors that will be key and very important when it comes to performing in your company. – Kevin Leyes, Team Leyes
- What is the most important responsibility you’ve had?
The core role of a leader is to create the conditions for their team to succeed. This encompasses everything from articulating an inspiring purpose or vision while providing the tools, skills, empowerment, encouragement and well-being programs necessary for employees to thrive, grow and evolve. When we value employee vitality and happiness, they will take care of our customers and our business. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
- Which life experiences have defined you?
I like to encourage candidates to speak about life experience, aspirations, challenges and important life events that defined them. It’s an indirect way of gaining insight into what has shaped them and what drives them. Curiosity is an important topic I like to cover because depending on the answer, it can really shed light on their openness to feedback and approach to adversity and challenges. – Raazi Imam, Sia Partners
- How does a leader differ from a manager?
At our company, there’s an important difference. When filling leadership positions, we want dynamic people who understand leaders add value and create influence to drive positive change, and don’t just seek to keep processes moving. We want to fill leadership positions with innovative people who set new standards to evolve the business and develop our people so we can reach our fullest potential. – Eric Castro, Bankers Healthcare Group
- How did you execute a successful key initiative?
This question will reveal if the candidate did the work, as they should be able to explain in detail each step and strategy. If they can’t, you know it was someone else in the company who made it happen. In leadership roles, you want it to be apparent if the candidate can execute and get their hands dirty, or if they are just a figurehead who needs a big budget and a talented team to do the work. – Mark DeHaan, Rentler
- What does being a leader mean to you?
You need to know how they see leadership to know whether or not they can successfully be a leader. Asking them what they think being a leader means can truly reveal a lot. And if their perception of leadership isn’t aligned with yours and what you want from a leader, then you know they aren’t the right fit. – Dawn Brown, MD, ADHD WELLNESS CENTER PLLC
- How do you set priorities when you’re managing multiple projects?
Managing multiple projects at once can often seem simple and straightforward but it’s hard to execute. Ask questions that can uncover leadership, organizational skills and flexibility. Leaders who can problem solve, prioritize and are quick thinkers are essential for your company. True leaders do not evade responsibility but take multiple challenges head-on. – Beth Worthy, GMR Transcription Services Inc.
- How will you build a culture of trust?
Trust is built over time through daily actions and interactions between management and employees. As a leader, everything from how you respond to employee requests to how you manage negative performance impacts your workplace trust. Companies with high levels of trust have more engaged employees, higher morale and lower turnover. Building a culture of trust should be a top priority for any leader. – Jeanne Hardy, Creative Business Inc.
- Tell me about a time you had to make an unpopular decision.
I ask candidates to describe a time when they had to make an unpopular decision and how they handled the fallout and feedback from colleagues. Taking tough decisions on critical issues is an inevitable part of a leadership role, and it’s important to know that it is something the candidate has considered. – Adam Harvey, Proofed
- How do you prioritize employee growth?
Much of what being a leader is depends upon the growth and development of the employees under you. Ultimately optimal work performance is reached when passion intersects with a growth-minded environment. Leaders within a company should always be pushing team members to become industry experts, with the understanding that some failure is necessary for larger career growth. – Byung Choi, MarcomCentral
- How did your last disagreement go?
In an ideal world, people would agree on a path forward, and execute it accordingly. However, most of the time, people will disagree about a solution if they are passionate about a company’s success. That isn’t just OK, but it is preferred. Fighting, when done constructively, can allow different ideas to be hashed out. I always want to make sure a leader can fight and fight right. – Maurice Harary, The Bid Lab”
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