The Employers’ Guide to an Executive Interview

Remember the first time you were interviewed for a job? You were nervous and uncertain, and the whole experience was a little bit terrifying. But you said to yourself, “Someday, I’m going to be on the other side of that desk, as the one conducting the interviews.” Well, now you are. And to your surprise, you’re just as nervous and uncertain, and the whole experience is just as terrifying, as it was when you were the one being interviewed.

Conducting executive interviews is a big responsibility. What criteria do you use to evaluate the candidates? How do you make the ultimate decision? What if you miss something and hire the wrong person? It can be a daunting task, certainly, but with these basic tips, you’ll hopefully be better equipped to find the best fit for your company.

Know What You’re Looking For

You’ll have a much easier time finding the right candidate if you know as much as possible up front about the type of person you’re looking to hire. That means more than just skills and experience. Hopefully, everyone who’s made it to the interview process has the necessary requirements on their resume. But what kind of personality do they have? What are their problem solving skills like? How do they work in a team, and on their own? Map out what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate and design interview questions around that.

Do Your Homework

Review each candidate thoroughly before they come in for their interview. This includes going over their resume, contacting their references, and looking at any work of theirs from other companies that you may have access to. Treat them as more than just the next person on the list of potential hires. Know, from the moment they walk in the door, exactly who they are and what they’re about. Be ready with specific questions that relate to their history and experience, instead of just the general boilerplate interview questions that everyone asks. This will help you connect with them better over the course of the interview process.

Remember Interviews Are a Two Way Street

Don’t just do all the talking yourself. At the same time, don’t just let them do all the talking either. Experts say that the interviewer should talk about 30% of the time. But use that 30% effectively. Engage them in conversation. Give them an opportunity to ask their own questions and voice any issues they may have. By engaging them in this way, you’ll be able to learn more about them than just a bunch of standard questions and answers, and more effectively gauge what kind of fit they’ll be in your company.

Bring Others Into the Process

Everyone has their own biases. Even when you know what they are, they can be difficult to overcome, and can interfere with your making a fair hiring decision. That’s why it’s important to bring a couple of other people into the interview process. Not too many—maybe two or three at the most. Ideally, in addition to the hiring manager, you should have the person who’s going to be your candidate’s direct boss, and someone from HR. Those extra pairs of eyes can help you evaluate candidates from multiple angles and get a better, more complete picture of who they are and what kind of fit they are for the job.

See Them in Action.

Most interviews ask questions like, “How would you react in this situation?” or “Give me an example of a time you dealt with this kind of problem.” The answers can certainly be helpful, but even so, there’s a difference between saying and doing. Find ways of seeing what they’re like in action. Give them a task that they’ll be likely to encounter in their position at your company, and see how they handle it. You can even put them in a team with a couple of your existing employees, to observe how they work in a team, and how they fit in with your existing group dynamic. This “hands on” approach is a great way of finding who’s really best suited to work for you.

The most important thing to remember when conducting an executive interview is that the candidate is evaluating you just as much as you’re evaluating them. If they’re talented and well-qualified, they’ll likely be entertaining several different offers. So always show your company in the best possible light, and let them see what makes you stand out from the rest. With a little effort and preparation, you’ll be able to find the perfect candidate to fill the position and fit in well with your company culture.

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