When interviewing, one of the biggest missed opportunities for executive-level candidates may be failing to come up with well-crafted questions that they are prepared to ask when the opportunity presents itself.
Executive Tip: Many leaders recommend that candidates write their questions down ahead of time and bring a physical list to the meeting. Seeing the candidate’s preparation visually lets interviewers know that the candidate is seriously considering the role.
In almost every interview we help facilitate, there is an opportunity at the end of the exploration of the candidate’s skills and abilities to turn the focus to questions they may want to ask of the Search Committee or interview team.
While it may seem like over-playing your hand for the job-seeker to ask questions –and some interviewees fear “pestering” interviewers or taking up valuable time – not asking questions may communicate lack of preparedness or lack of depth on the part of the candidate.
Executive Tip: Address potential time constraints up front by saying, “Will I have time to ask a few questions of my own at the end of our conversation?” This direct approach eliminates potential awkwardness and helps ensure there will be time for candidate questions before the interview concludes.
Candidates unwilling to ask key questions may miss out on a vital opportunity to showcase their interest in the role as well as any research they have done ahead of time.
Executive Tip: Keep initial questions high-level and strategic; more detailed questions can be saved for second-round interviews or interviews with individuals in a position to dive into details such as the CFO or any direct reports.
In a nutshell, asking questions allows candidates to prove that they have done their “homework,” and it is a quality that strong interviewers and search committees fundamentally want to see. We’ve compiled advice from FaithSearch leadership as well as four insightful questions to help candidates rise to the top of the pack:
1.) Can you offer a brief assessment of the organization’s current leadership? Who are the people I will be working with?
This question demonstrates sensitivity toward an organization’s unique culture without delving into politics. Asking it acknowledges that the role does not exist “in a vacuum,” and the new executive is aware that he or she will be stepping into an existing dynamic.
2.) What are three key challenges or opportunities the new position will face?
Asking about challenges may seem gutsy, but it shows proactive thinking and receptiveness to very real circumstances that the new leader may face once hired.
3.) Which measurable outcomes will make you feel confident that you have chosen the right person for this position in the next 6 months? The next year?
This question demonstrates a bias for accountability and conscientiousness. Strong candidates will be in touch with the tangible Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and aspects of organizational expectation even before they officially step into the role.
4.) If you were in my shoes, what would you want to know about this role and the organization?
By giving search committee members a chance to share their personal understanding of the role, candidates gain valuable insights and can begin thinking about what to address in potential follow-up conversations.
To interviewers, questions posed by candidates are just as indicative of their grasp of the role and vision for it as anything a search committee will ask. FaithSearch President Ed Fry advises, “Sometimes the best way to evaluate a candidate is not by the answers they give but by the questions they ask.” It is critical, then, that candidates demonstrate that they are attuned to the unique requirements of the role they seek by asking astute, thoughtful questions.