4 Open-Ended Questions You Must Ask Potential Executive Candidates

4 Open-Ended Questions You Must Ask Potential Executive Candidates

When an opportunity arises in your organization for a high-level executive, there is a double-edge sword for the human resources professional: nearly all of your potential candidates are well-qualified. Narrowing down the selection for interviews can be difficult; what are some of the best questions to ask in order to get the best fit for your organization? What are some you should shelve forever? Changing your thinking about questions to ask leads you to the people who are the definition of ’employable talent’.

Do ask:

  • What would your people/team change about your leadership style? All supervisors, managers, and executives need to take the opportunity to better themselves. The best reality-check is simply to ask. If the candidate doesn’t know, they aren’t trying to be a better leader.
  • Why have you made the moves you have? Especially for job-hoppers, you’re looking here for the overall reason why people changed jobs frequently – new challenges? The goal of a particular job title/position? The goal of a particular company? You’re not looking for the candidate to tell you specifically why they left each position, although many will backtrack and do just that.
  • How does this position/company fit in with your overall Career Strategic Plan? This will tell you where the candidate sees him/herself on the arc of their professional life. A good answer will include the skills and knowledge they hope to acquire, supplement or add to their arsenal.
  • What would success look like to you in this position? A really good candidate will reach into the past and apply their past successes to their future thoughts on your position. This is an opportunity to see if their expectations align with yours. Do they speak of hours committed or accomplishments? Do they speak of roadblocks and how to get past them to achieve success? Find out if they speak of success as an endpoint. Then what?

Stop asking:

  • What is your leadership style? I bet your own eyes glaze over when you ask this. Aren’t there really only a few rote ‘right’ answers to this?
  • Can you do (fill in the blank)? This should be obvious from their resume or the answer will always be ‘yes’.

Style and substance come together when a candidate answers open-ended questions. The right questions give you insight as to whether the candidate before you is the right fit for your organization.


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