Interviewing a senior leader is a two-way street. You and your dream candidate are sizing one another up, and one hiccup in the interview process could cost you the leader you need. As such, it’s in your best interests to develop an interview style that encourages candidates (and in many ways, hiring managers) to be open and authentic.
It’s the best way to ensure visions and values are aligned and transparent at the earliest opportunity. And yes, if often means putting the script to one side.
In this Masterclass, we share six essential steps to developing an interview approach that gets hiring managers what you need from leadership interviews, without being script bound.
Step 1: distinguish between the job description and the brief
Your job description and hiring brief are two contrasting but essential components of identifying your perfect candidate. The job description focuses on tasks and for senior leaders, evidence of delivery. The hiring brief priorities the type of person that’ll be a culture fit and culture add to your organisation – think values, characteristics, and ambitions.
Both are equally important must be carefully balanced. Doing so will avoid an incredible candidate from being overlooked and help you narrow down a strong, diverse candidate shortlist faster.
This approach is especially important for senior leaders who, in their broad and wide-reaching roles, may not have a specific experience, but have proven they’ve more than enough potential to drive success.
Step 2: choose everyday settings for extraordinary insights
Natural, everyday settings such as coffee shops, bistros or even a nice station lounge are an ideal choice for first interviews. If that surprises you, let us explain our thinking!
A fantastic senior leader is a leader through and through. Instinct, insight and dedicated practice have cemented leadership qualities into an ideal candidate’s DNA. That means they should exude leadership energy in any scenario, not just behind boardroom doors and over chaired video calls.
Natural settings allow you to sit back and observe if and how a candidate comes across as a leader. How do they hold themselves when they enter the room? How do they maintain a conversation and body language in a busy environment? How do they interact with and respect staff? How at ease are they when removed from their usual territory?
An ability to seamlessly adapt, engage and thrive in fluid environments, surrounded by all sorts of folk, is a crucial leadership attribute. Choose an everyday setting to see it in action!
Step 3: decide on your top three takeaways
There’s only so much a CV can tell you – and that’s the way it should be! Senior leadership and c-suite interviews are more akin to conversations – candidate and hiring organisation connecting and deciding whether there’s a bright future between them.
That said, letting the conversation take its course can leave you wanting later on, and make it difficult to compare candidate aptitude. Our answer to this challenge is to prepare three questions that you absolutely need an answer to, to ensure your candidate is the leader to take you forward.
This could be around ED&I contributions, proof of implementing net zero strategies, overcoming hiring setbacks or navigating government policies – whatever masters most you and the role. Ask your questions conversationally, in a manner which encourages detail and expansion and you’re on to a winner.
Step 4: put ed&i centre stage where it belongs
As we mentioned, senior leadership interviewing is a two-way street. Candidates – especially those coming from outside the Transport sector – will be weighing up whether your organisation shares their vision and values. And any reputable, progressive senior leadership will care deeply about ED&I and want you to prove it with your actions.
Waste no time in shining a spotlight on ED&I. Share your ED&I goals and ask about your candidate’s ideas and experiences during the earlier interviews: every solid leader will have opinions and plans, regardless of their business area.
And put your money where your mouth is, too. Ensure that your interviewing panel is diverse so that candidates see your Employer Value Proposition in action. A diverse panel will also help to mitigate unconscious biases in the recruitment process.
Step 5: let your frontline staff shine
Senior leaders have an impact and influence across an entire organisation. For change to be truly effective, every colleague must engage with and support and leader’s vision – especially true in Transport, where strategies are made or broken on the frontline.
Crucially, this means that leaders must be liked, respected, and trusted. But hiring someone new at the top doesn’t have to be a gamble! How so, you say?
Well, we like to encourage clients to invite frontline staff in on the interview process. Hiring a Customer Experience Director? Bring a ticket officer into the process and ask their opinions of your candidate. Or for an Operations Director, consider adding a junior engineer to the panel. The list goes on but one thing remains the same: your frontline staff’s input will be invaluable (and be a great development opportunity, too!).
Step 6: find a collaborative balance with HR
Although this approach is all about making the interview process your own and creating spaces where candidates show their true selves, structure is inevitable. And structure is good! We can’t neglect the basics and that’s where our friends in HR come in to the fray.
Before shaking up your interview strategies, sit down with HR and understand the effects of such change and what they can do to help. If your ideas result in higher-quality leadership candidates joining the team faster, we guarantee they’ll be all ears.
Successful interviews are all about creating environments where candidates show up as their authentic selves. After all, cultivating these conversation-driven, judgment-free and balanced spaces is the best way to ensure you attract the very best leader – and keep them.
If this approach is new to you – no worries! Ask Intuitive’s expert Transport talent consultants how we help clients fine-tune an interview style that feels effortless but still checks your critical boxes. Drop us a message here. We can’t wait to hear more about you.