Guide to Interviewing Executive Level Candidates

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Recruitment Advice, Trends and Learning

Looking for qualified individuals to fill in the top management positions of your company can be a tedious and time-consuming process. This isn’t just about hiring the person with the most number of credentials in their resume or the longest working experience, rather, it’s about searching for the individual who can proficiently fulfill the role of an executive in your company.

That person should possess the capabilities, management skills, and the right attitude to take on such an important task. Surely, to find such a person, you can’t just browse through resumes on a job site and hope for the best.

Enlisting the help of a professional executive search firm can contribute to making the task much easier, as they can scout for individuals qualified for the job based on credentials, capabilities, and potential. When the firm has narrowed down candidates for the position, it’s time for you take on a more active approach to the hiring process.

One of the earliest ways to gauge whether the candidate is the right fit for the role or not is through the interview. During the interview, first impressions are made, the right questions are asked, and the compatibility between your vision and that of the candidate can be assessed.

Here are some guidelines on conducting an interview for executive position applicants.

Be Prepared

This may seem odd at first, seeing as you’re the one in the position to hire the candidate. Shouldn’t they be the ones preparing? The reality, however, is that the process goes both ways.

Remember that you are not simply hiring an entry-level position here. The candidates you’ll be interviewing are at the top of their game, many of which probably has managerial experience or are pillars of the industry already. It then rests on your shoulder to convince them to lead your company.

Therefore, it’s crucial that you’re well-prepared and informed on how to handle the interview. One point to consider is that executive level candidates need special handling. Some may even request to have the interview conducted in a hotel or a place where they feel it’s safe from the eyes of colleagues or anyone from their industry. These candidates are already high-profile individuals, so they wouldn’t want the intrigue of being recognized on an interview when everything is still up in the air.

Likewise, they may find filling up forms or taking tests tedious. Many would prefer to talk about their experiences rather than write it down.

Know your facts, details, and numbers so that when your candidate asks about them, you can give it to them right away. It’s not only the candidate who should be doing his research.

Ask the Right Questions

To get meaningful answers from your applicants, it’s best to determine which questions are truly worth asking. Identify the essential qualities that you’re looking for in an executive, then make sure to ask questions that will reflect whether the candidate possesses that quality or not.

It doesn’t have to be directly stated in the question. For example, instead of asking “Do you have the leadership skills to manage a company?” it’s better to ask “What projects have you managed before and how were you able to bring it to completion?” The latter question lets the applicant emphasize on his leadership skills and not just claim that he has them.

Asking the right questions will also help you to see whether your requirements match up with what the candidate can offer. Perhaps your company operates in a fast-paced industry where snap decisions and quick thinking is vital to keep the business afloat. A candidate who is too cautious and detail-oriented to make the quick decisions your industry requires may not be the best fit for the job.

Look for Stories

Anyone can claim that they’re executive material, but few can substantiate it with facts and anecdotes. During the interview process, always ask the candidate to back up his answer with an example. Hear out the details of the situation and take note of how the candidate positions himself within the story.

For example, if it’s a story of how he managed a conflict within his team, see what approach he took in doing so. Did he took matters into his own hands or did he asked for help from another colleague? Was his approach strong and firm or was it calm and rational?

Depending on what values you believe will be an asset to your company, the details of the story will enable you to see your candidate’s character better.

Stories also showcase the applicant’s communication skills. While there are situations that are difficult to explain without proper context, that shouldn’t be the case if your candidate has excellent communication skills to relay to you what happened in a clear and concise manner.

Likewise, focus on the candidate’s interpersonal skills. See how he carries himself upon entering the room, how he tells his stories, and how persuasive he is when making a point. A good leader exhibits excellent communication and people skills, both of which you’ll definitely want your future executive to have.

Personalize Each Encounter

Since the executive search firm has probably narrowed down your candidates at this point of the hiring process, it’s easier for you to take on a personalized approach to each interview. Look into your candidates beforehand, including their personal achievements and credentials. Check if there are news or articles about him that gives you a better idea of his personality. Doing these will help you position your questions better, as you’ll already have a foreground of the candidate’s experience and abilities.

Talk to your candidates as individuals. React to their stories accordingly and ask probing questions, not just throw in generic comments. Engage them in a conversation where they are more comfortable to bring out their personalities, ideas, and opinions.

Treat the interview as a conversation about the industry you’re hiring for, its emerging trends, and its challenges. This will turn the interview into an exchange of ideas and thoughts instead of a one-sided evaluation.

Finding the Right Candidate

When it comes to finding the right candidate for an executive position, it pays to be critical, discerning, and firm when conducting the interview. Make the most out of the interview by asking the right questions and gauging whether the applicant’s answers work well with the vision your company espouses.

If you need further help in finding the best person to manage your company, seek a trustworthy executive search firm to guide you throughout the entire process. Find one that is knowledgeable not only in the recruitment process but about your industry as well. After all, when it comes to your business’ future, you shouldn’t settle for anything but the best.




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