our everyday life

How to Interview a CEO Prospect

by Jan Simon, studioD

Whether you are creating a new start-up venture, or are in a replacement search, selecting the ideal candidate to fill the CEO slot is vital to the success of an organization. The talent hunt will likely deliver the desired results when the selection committee is comprised of the most qualified players in the company and they ask the candidates the right interview questions. After interviewing the chosen CEO potentials, assemble the entire team for feedback sessions and complete the process by referencing your top candidates.

Streamline the Process

Efficient time management is crucial when recruiting at this level of the organization. Most qualified candidates are actively involved in other ventures. Additionally, those serving on the selection committee have busy schedules. Be respectful of the time constraints of all concerned. Get creative, by working lunch or dinner interviews into the schedule. Perhaps your candidate is attending a trade show or conference alongside key players from your company where they can meet. Take advantage of technology by utilizing video or teleconferencing. It is vital not to draw out the process. Keeping a candidate on the fence too long is an unwise practice. A stellar candidate can be snapped up by the competition or lose interest due to inefficiency in the interview and decision making process.

Creative Questioning

Individuals at the senior management level are typically polished orators adept at interviewing. The objective in questioning a candidate is to uncover the candidate's true identity, not the onstage version. Uncover authenticity by getting the candidate to reveal both her successes and failures. Ask for examples on how she handled or diverted a crisis. What were the crucial lessons learned? Balance a tough line of questioning with active listening. Observe the candidate's body language as she details how she transformed a failing organization, or built a start-up company. Make note of any tense moments or uncomfortable silences.

Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Orchestrate the interviews by assigning a specific role to each member of the team. For example, have the human resources representative review the candidate's career highlights. One interviewer might focus on the candidate's vision for building a team, while another drills-down on the individual's sales and marketing prowess. Holding diverse conversations with a candidate enables the team to develop a comprehensive data set.

Reference Sleuthing

Obviously when a candidate hands over a list of references, these individuals have been carefully selected to give you glowing feedback. During the interview process uncover names of associates not on the preferred list. Prior to contacting them, get permission from the candidate. He may deny your request. If so, query the candidate to uncover the issues which may preclude you from contacting that person. By doing so, you may learn more than if you actually spoke to the unofficial reference. Tread lightly. Protecting a candidate’s privacy is vital.

About the Author

Jan Simon is a career and life coach with more than 20 years of experience in corporate human resources. She holds a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University. Simon enjoys writing career articles and is a columnist for the CV Weekly. She also publishes a weekly blog called Life on the Sunny Side.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images