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How to Interview a Potential Chief Business Officer

by Nicole Vulcan, studioD

Unless you're the owner or CEO of a company, interviewing a potential chief business officer can be a daunting task because, after all, you're interviewing someone who could one day be your boss. While it's different for every business, the CBO is often responsible for the overall vision of the company, overseeing human resources, managing budgets and more. Like all new hires, the CBO needs to have the right mix of skills, education, experience and that oh-so-elusive "cultural fit." Whether you're part of a large company or this is your first big executive hire, proper planning and directed questioning are the keys to a successful hire.

Have a Pre-Interview Meeting

If your organization is large enough to have multiple executives or heads of departments, they'll all be affected by the work of the CBO in some way. As such, it's important to have a pre-interview meeting to discuss a candidate's qualifications and review each manager's ideas for the ideal candidate. If the business is losing money, for example, your financial officers may be concerned with finding a candidate who knows how to help organizations tighten their belts. As a starting point for the meeting, ask each department head to list her top three needs and the top three qualities she would like to see in the ideal candidate.

Develop a Scoring Rubric

Combine the input of your other officers with the information you used to develop the job posting to create a scoring rubric for the interview. If you need someone with cost-cutting experience, for example, you might write "Cost-cutting experience" along the left-hand side of a piece of paper, followed by the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, with 5 being the highest-ranking number. For managers, you might also include required things such as "Has 10 years experience" or "Postgraduate management training." During the interview, circle a number for each criterion, and then add up the numbers at the bottom of the page so you can compare one candidate's score to another. An interview for a position at this level should include as many managers or department heads as possible; although, if that's not possible, this scoring rubric can help department heads review candidates after the interview.

Focus on Problem-Solving

At the start of the interview, warm up the candidate by reviewing some of the basic information from his resume, such as his duties at past jobs or the courses he took during his management training. After a few minutes, however, it's time to delve into the nitty-gritty. You're likely to need a business officer to help you manage the overall vision for the company and to solve problems it might be facing. Your questions, then, should focus on hearing how the candidate will help you solve those problems. This is where behavioral-style interview questions can come in handy. Provide a scenario and ask the candidate how he's solved something similar in the past. For example, you might ask him how he handles contractors who consistently deliver work late or the strategies he's employed to help previous businesses grow.

Ask Industry-Specific Questions

You also need to ask questions that are specific to your field to gauge the candidate's knowledge of the industry. If you're in health care, for example, you might ask questions about insurance coding or working with certain pharmaceutical companies. For a fitness center, you might ask about her opinions on choosing certain fitness equipment over hiring more personal trainers. People who are good at running businesses may be able to pick up certain industry terminology or knowledge on the job, but these questions can help you separate a good candidate from a great one.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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