To Get the Right Info from A Job Candidate, You Have to Ask the Right Questions

Bob CavotoCEO, 20/20 Foresight
Executive Search Blog – June 2017

It’s no secret that the only way to really get to know a candidate is to talk with them in person during an interview. That’s not news. But knowing what to ask during that conversation is a different story. There are a variety of interview techniques, each designed to get at a certain kind of information or gauge a candidate’s fit for the role. A corporate executive needs to stay fresh in their approach to interviewing candidates to lead conversations that are engaging and productive. After creating a detailed description of the role you’re looking to fill and getting to a short list of applicants, it’s time to talk. The following is a brief summary of interview techniques that an experienced search firm can help you learn and incorporate into your next candidate conversation/interview:

• The Gateway interview gets at why the applicant wants to transition into a new role, giving insight into priorities, motivators and expectations. Most importantly, this interview examines why the candidate left their jobs and/or why they want to leave their current job. The candidate’s answer should be reasonable and believable. It’s OK if the candidate mildly criticizes current or past employers, and if they do, a good interviewer should inquire further for details. A company representative should find out what makes that candidate tick and what their compensation target is.

• The goal of the Personality interview is to develop a profile of who this person is and how they relate to others. The candidate should be asked to describe what they find rewarding in their career, their management style, and how they make complex decisions or resolve conflicts. Other questions should include who they admire and a description of who they thought were their best bosses and why. Also included should be discussions of how much they work and how they are organized.

• While somewhat self-explanatory, the Resume interview aims to get beyond the bullet point basics and have the candidate explain their career progression by having them highlight jobs and accomplishments in greater detail. Simply take the candidate’s resume and ask specific questions about items listed on the resume. It’s important to note and separate what the candidate accomplished individually versus what their team achieved with each job.

• A Technical interview can be where the rubber meets the proverbial road. Sure, you may like the person, but can they do the job? Take a technical approach to the job whereby the candidate explains simple and sometimes complex issues, like discounted cash flow analysis, buy/sell/hold analysis, defines cap rates, tells what cap rates are in certain cities, and defines the various approaches to calculating IRR.

• The Topgrading interview or business situational interview requires the most endurance and is generally a one- or two-hour exercise. Usually not an initial interview, the goal of this approach is to find someone who can perform at the highest levels of your organization. In this setting, the company describes three or four real problems within the company and with this position, and then asks the candidate to suggest approaches and solutions. This technique is usually performed when the candidate pool is down to a short list of finalist candidates. This technique is very revealing as to who should be the final candidate.

Don’t forget that this isn’t the first rodeo for your job candidates. Mid-to senior-level job seekers have been through the interview process before and are likely to evaluate your company based on how you evaluate and interview them.

20/20 Foresight Executive Search is experienced in these techniques and can help your executives become more effective in interviews to find the best possible candidates. For more information on U.S. and international executive search services, contact 20/20 Foresight at or 708-246-2100.

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