Is Your CxO Candidate Any Good?

I've been working with more and more senior managers (and executive recruiters), helping them assess their CxO candidates (CEO, CIO, CTO, Senior VPs, you name it). By the time someone's made it to the senior management level, they know how to make themselves sound good, so you can't ask the strength/weakness question, even if you wanted to. But you do have other choices.As with all jobs, the job description is key. Let's assume you care most about strategic planning and the ability to turn those plans into tactics, succession planning, and general management style. Based on those qualities, preferences, and skills, here are some questions you could use.:

  • “Tell me about your management style when it comes to strategy. Give me a couple of recent examples.” Strategic thinking is an ongoing issue for senior managers. If all they do is one off-site every 19 months, they are not managing the strategic direction of the organization. When you ask for a couple of examples, you're allowing people to use last week's Operations Committee meeting, where they readjusted the product roadmap plus the quarterly strategic planning meeting, plus whatever else they have up their sleeves as examples.
  • Follow up that question with, “Tell me about a time you changed strategic direction. Why did you choose to, how did you choose, and how did you carry out the changes.
  • “Tell me how you make things happen in your current organization.” Some senior managers work through groups of people, some give more specific direction to their managers. This question helps you learn whether this person prefers more group decision-making or one-on-one decision making. You'll need to ask more questions to see if your initial assumption is correct. “So based on what you told me about working with your OpCom, you tend to work more with each manager to set direction, and use the OpCom to bring the group together for information?”
  • Some very young senior managers haven't had to do succession planning yet. But you can ask this question, “Have you ever planned for any management job's succession? What did you do?” and follow up, if the first answer was a yes with, “Have you ever planned for your succession? What did you do then?”
  • Asking questions about general management style can be a little tricky. Here are some questions you can consider. “Tell me how you prefer to manage and give me an example.” That's so open-ended, you need to be more specific and ask about the particular functional skills, such as giving feedback, coaching, organizing the work, and so on.

When you interview senior managers, do you look for something else? Let me know and I'll post more questions.

Labels: candidate, interview, senior manager

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