Assessing Candidates

Preparing for the Interview

There are many books and training guides on interviewing and evaluating executives for managerial positions. In this section, we present some introductory advice from expert interviewers, suggest a general structure for interviews, and reveal favorite interview questions from a number of top executive recruiters.

Advice on Interviewing

Most interviewers use the candidate's resume to structure the interview. This can have the disadvantage of giving effective control to the applicant. Jim Kennedy of Management Team Consultants in San Francisco suggests building an interview around three modules: 1) general topic openers ("Tell me about..."), 2) self-appraisal ("What is it about you that..."), and 3) situations ("How would you handle..."). Jim also points out that many interviewers talk too much and telegraph answers to questions they pose. Here is another way to organize questions to help you evaluate the skills of a candidate:
  • Problem: "How have you reacted when a client or customer has been angry with you or a member of your team?"
  • Continuum: "Where do you see yourself on a continuum of bottom-line results versus developing the skills of employees?" 
  • Comparison: "How do you compare improving performance through cost reduction versus revenue growth?" 
  • Future assessment: "How do you see competition in our industry developing?"

While it is important to use the interview to form an assessment of the skills, thought-processes, and attitudes of each candidate, there are also minefields to be avoided. For instance, asking what citizenship a candidate holds is discriminatory on the basis of national origin. Similarly, asking how often the candidate has been absent from work due to illness discriminates on the basis of health or disability. Avoiding this kind of pitfall makes thorough preparation for every interview vital. You should have a game plan mapped out before sitting down with the candidate, no matter how seasoned an interviewer you are.