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Critical starting points:

Before you conduct any interviews, you must have a strong understanding of the company situation. You cannot evaluate the fit between a given candidate and the company until you have a comprehensive understanding of the company situation, internal/external environment, company culture and expectations of all stakeholders.

After the interview, you must have an equally strong understanding of the candidate and how well he/she fits with the company situation. The balance of the section addresses some ideas on how to obtain that understanding.

Some important interviewing considerations:

Prior performance is still the best indicator of future performance. Finding out what kind of results the candidate has produced in the past under what circumstances is invaluable.

Executive positions by nature are leadership positions. Leaders must have followers to lead. In today’s world, the definitions of leadership are never ending but nearly all agree that leadership is situational. Effective leaders tailor their leadership style to the readiness of their followers. One name for this concept is Situational Leadership.

Other necessary qualities for leadership are the ability to understand yourself and others and relate to others as individuals. A good source of understanding of these qualities is found in the concept of Emotional Intelligence.

Matching personality and style to the company situation always improves the odds. Does the situation call for a tactician or strategist, technician or people person, careful planner or spontaneous reactor – the list can be lengthy. One good instrument that we highly recommend for assessment of personality and style is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The DiSC Personality Profile is also very useful.

Asking open-ended questions is always more informative than closed-end questions. For example, “Tell me about your leadership style.” is open-ended whereas “Are you an effective leader?” is closed-end.

Verifying academic credentials and previous job history is always a good reality check. If something is wrong here, there’s not much point in going forward.

Putting it all together

Interviewing, like leadership, is situational. It may not always be possible to work under all of the interviewing considerations listed above. But where possible, do it all plus anything else that works for you.

If you like the recommended interviewing considerations, you will find it helpful to outline a reminder list in whatever sequence is comfortable for you and use it as a checklist during the interview process.

Don’t forget that the best interviewers alternate between right-brain and left-brain activity in evaluating candidates. Don’t get locked in to either side – apply a combination of thinking and feeling.

In the final analysis, ask yourself how you feel about this candidate and if you are convinced this is the right choice. If the answer is “not convinced”, go with your feelings.