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Assessing Leadership Skills in an Interview

In recent years, disruption, change, and innovation have occurred at record speed, and maintaining the status quo of the past is no longer effective. Your organization will stagnate if your leadership team manages your business like three years ago. To attract and retain top talent in today’s market, strong leadership is required at every level of an organization to keep your employees engaged and help them find purpose and meaning in their work. When hiring for leadership roles, how do you assess whether a candidate possesses the skills to keep your business advancing and growing?

Know what successful leadership looks like in your organization: When it comes to hiring for leadership roles, what makes someone a great fit varies depending on the goals and vision of your business and its cultural makeup. When a great leader’s behavior is not compatible with your company’s culture, he/she/they is much less inclined to be successful. This is because company culture defines what favorable execution of leadership skills looks like within each specific organization. An executive with strong leadership experience in your industry—and even the same position—may not be the best fit for your organization. A leader that has thrived in a fast-paced culture—where decisions need to be made quickly without input from others—may fail in an organization with a culture that values collaboration and input from all team members.Before interviewing a candidate for a leadership role, defining what successful leadership looks like within your company is essential. To determine your leadership alignment, map leadership competencies to your business strategy. Begin by looking at the key initiatives dictated by your strategy and then decide what leadership skills and behaviors are required to execute that strategy successfully. You now have an inventory of the competencies needed for strategic success specific to your company.

Ask behavioral and situational interview questions: Leadership ability is a soft skill, and people often feel they possess excellent soft skills. Your behavioral and situational interview questions will help determine if that’s true. Behavioral interview questions deal with the past or present and address teamwork, problem-solving attitude, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and time management ability. According to Katharine Hansen Ph.D. behavioral interviewing is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive. Behavioral interview questions often start with the following:

  • “How do you …”
  • “Tell me about a time when you …”
  • “Describe a situation where …”

Related blog from Aleron Group partner TalentRise: Competency-Based Interviewing Part I: Understanding the “Why” and “How”

Situational interview questions are hypothetical scenarios—that deal with the future and don’t rely on the candidate’s past experiences—that help the interviewer assess if the candidate is capable of thinking strategically and adapting. The goal of situational interview questions is to determine how the candidate would handle a situation that has occurred—or is likely to arise—within your organization. Examples of situational interview questions are:

  • “If X happened while you were working at our company, what would you do, or how would you react?”
  • “How would you respond if you knew the direction provided by your manager was incorrect?”
  • “How would you deal with an employee on your team producing work below expectations?”

Look for signs of emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle your emotions. It plays a significant role in thought, decision-making, and individual success. After testing emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, it was found that EI was the strongest predictor of performance and impacts 58 percent of an individual’s job performance. Emotionally intelligent people are intuitive, encouraging, positive, caring, goal-oriented, and able to manage their emotions—all traits of successful leaders. Examples of interview questions to ask to assess emotional intelligence include:

  • “Tell me about a time you successfully led your team through a challenge. Were you required to adapt your leadership style to connect with different workers?”
  • “What skills and professional values do you possess that make you a good leader?”
  • “How would you resolve a dispute or conflict of interest between two colleagues?”

Related blog from Aleron Group partner TalentRise: Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in the Hiring Process

This blog was written by Broadleaf Vice President of Client Delivery Suzie Mitchell.