Finding well rounded leaders is extremely difficult. This can take a tremendous amount of time you don’t have. To improve the efficiency of this process, below are 12 honed questions I have found to effectively screen the best candidates and reasons why.

  • What is your passion and how do you pursue it?

Ensure their passion is aligned with the objective of the business. If not, stop the interview and move on to the next candidate because they will only be working for a paycheck. They will not treat your business like their own.

  • Provide a 60 sec overview of your career and then provide more depth (mastery of knowledge) and breadth (operating across disciplinary boundaries) in examples?

This question has two important parts: 1) You want to see if the candidate can see the big picture and tell the story of their career in a brief summary. Often you only have 60 secs to sell your business in an elevator pitch or networking event. Being concise is key.  2) You want to explore that the candidate has excellent attention to detail and is able to work across disciplines effectively.

  • What is your vision in this role?

Leaders can articulate a clear vision and inspire a team behind them. Look that this skill is honed.

  • Given what you know of our company and the description in the job posting, what are your top three priorities and how would you accomplish them?

It is important that a candidate come to the interview well prepared. They should have a strong understanding of the business, its products / services and its financial history if public. They should be able to clearly articulate their plan for the given role in some detail based on the job description. Listen to what steps they would take first and how they would go about it. Questions that spur on healthy discussion should be encouraged. This shows genuine interest by the candidate.

  • Describe for me your views on excellent and poor leadership?

Look that they clearly understand strong leadership and the pit falls. If they cannot manage stress, have a poor attitude or harbor a ton of resentment, chances are high this will rub off on the team and productivity will take a significant hit.

  • Describe an area of pursuit newer to you, what you have learned and what your goals are?

It is essential that leaders can listen, learn and grow to be expert where needed. You want to see evidence of that here. Where are they on the learning curve and are they paying attention to important details. The key word here is “important” as the trivial many details need to be managed by the team.

  • What are the key elements to a negotiation and influencing others?

Leaders need to be expert at negotiation and influencing others. Look for clear examples of dos, don’ts and excellent execution.

  • Provide a few examples of your creativity?

You want to see demonstrated creativity in ideas, negotiation and other critical aspects of leadership. Equally important, they must demonstrate this creativity through to completion. Everyone has ideas but few see them through to fruition.

  • Describe recent risks you have taken, how did it make you feel and what actions did they drive?

Stated plainly, if you take no risk, you accomplish nothing. Highly risk adverse people do not make good leaders because they cannot get out of their own way. The risk is too much for them to bear and they make poor decisions. Good leaders take significant risks but put controls in place to manage it and limit exposure.

  • Who are your mentors and why? Tell me about your network?

Great leaders highly value their network and seek out excellent mentors. Listen to who they are and why they selected them. This is all very telling.

  • How do you intend to build your team and what are you looking for?

Look for candidates that value the creative contribution of others, that understand team chemistry and can build alignment. Structure and skill sets of a team are highly important to its success. Their plan around this is critical to understand.

  • How do you spend your free time?

Look for good work life balance here. This is key to good health, productivity, creativity and sustainability. Also look for hobbies and interests related to the job that demonstrate passion.

Tips

  • At some point in the interview, insert some constructive criticism and evaluate their response. Their response to conflict will be very telling.
  • I always start with a phone interview or even better a video conference. A lot can be learned in 10 minutes and there is no harm in ending the conversation early if expectations are not met.
  • Through out the interview, evaluate their ability to be clear in communication and that they are able to speak to their audience. If you find yourself frequently lost, its a very bad sign. Study their demeanor. Is it humble or arrogant? Are they gracious or mean spirited? Is their attitude positive? Have they discussed their gratefulness to any extent?
  • Lastly if the candidate does well in the interview, ask for a sample of their work. Scrutinize it for its accuracy, quality of content and communication. They will likely give you some of their best work and it will be very telling for what they will accomplish for you.

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