A good interview takes time to prepare for, is client and role specific and needs to be integrated into the end-to-end assessment process to truly add value.
I have interviewed circa 10,000 business professionals in my recruiting career and many others in line leadership roles with PepsiCo and Reckit and Benckiser. In my opinion, combined with competent CV screening, supported by excellent referencing and where appropriate psychometric assessments, the interview forms the ‘backbone’ of a well-managed assessment process for validating ‘candidate fit’ for leadership appointments. Getting the interview process correct is not easy – especially with meetings being relatively short, normally taking an hour – planning and preparation, integration and interview execution are key.
Know your client.
Get to understand the culture, values and behaviours of your client today and where it wants to be in the future. Invest time with your client’s employees and ‘taste’ the type of person that makes the DNA of the organisation your client is/ seeks. A good interviewer will be able to describe the DNA of a client and be able to communicate his/ her client’s business strategy and current performance against delivering this plan.
Know your candidate.
Read the CV! Given you have already decided to meet with the candidate, you have made a decision to progress him/ her on the basis of what you have already assessed through research feedback, his/ her CV, available information on the internet and initial telephone correspondence. The interview for me is not to walk through the CV, but a process of getting to now the candidate and how he/ she meets the specific candidate requirements – particularly around leadership style, values and motivations. It’s about assessing his/ her ability to ‘fit’ into your client’s business in order to be effective in the role.
Having invested the time to get to know your client, can the interviewer, in a relatively short space of time (one hour) – establish candidate capability and form a view on ‘fit’ for both the candidate and the client? A good interview will have carefully thought through and well executed questions and a great interviewer will demonstrate exceptional active listening skills. Great questions test a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively and to provide evidence of fit. It’s by asking great questions that enable the interviewer to acquire the data and evidence that can be further validated (through extensive referencing etc) to help a client and candidate determine whether they have the potential to be effective in a working environment together. Will the candidate ‘work well’ with my client, will they ‘fit’ with the direction of business travel, will they be additive to the execution of the plan, will they integrate well with the team and are they likely to support business alignment and get people engaged in delivering the strategy? Are they credible? Will they ‘add value’ in the role? Can they do the job and will he/ she work well with the team, and will the line manager and team work well with the candidate?
For each assignment I take all candidates through the same journey/ interview process.
I start with generic questions that from my experience provide answers that strongly correlate to leadership success; they are; an employee/ team well-being score/ ranking, team building effectiveness, legacy of delivery and motivation. I reference extensively and will seek the opportunity to validate the above with ex colleagues. I inform the candidate of this in the interview.
I then focus upon the core requirements of the role. For example, recently for a PE fund I was tasked with finding a CEO who could drive a transition programme that would enhance profit, in preparation for a sale. With this mandate I looked to establish evidence from all candidates of their ability to effectively deliver a change program. I ask candidates to describe how they have; Defined and effectively deployed a business-wide performance improvement plan; Identified areas of opportunity; Assembled and motivated a team to drive the program and monitor performance; Communicated the ‘reason’ for change to employees – including unions and the consequence of said actions.
The interview is an integral part of the candidate validation process. Alone, it is not – in my opinion sufficient to fully qualify which candidate is best for a role. Combined with CV screening, comprehensive referencing and where appropriate tailored psychometric profiling, it forms the backbone of a recruiting process. To extract maximum value – the interview should be specific to your client needs and questions should be conditioned by the role requirements and performance expectations. From experience, this is best delivered through the development of a bespoke interview template that requires an intimate understanding of your clients business strategy, people DNA and tailored questions that seek evidence of ‘good fit’ behaviours & outcomes.