Seeing the Soul Behind the CV: The Power of a Good Question

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Onion Layers

“Ask the right questions if you’re going to find the right answers.” – Vanessa Redgrave

A metaphor I often hear when it comes to executive search is that it’s like “finding a diamond in the rough. ” While the diamond metaphor may have some element of truth to it, I think there’s another metaphor that’s much more accurate and that focuses on skill and experience over luck and time.

And it involves an onion.

Finding rockstar talent that’s perfectly matched to a specific organization is like skillfully peeling back the layers of a hundred onions until you find the one that’s exactly right for the dish you’re cooking. When it comes to interviewing candidates, this strategy starts long before there’s talk of compensation or relocation. It takes near surgical skill to peel back the “layer –  of each candidate to get to know who they really are at a deeper level. Insightful, in-depth, well-articulated questions are critical when it comes to understanding a fit beyond the resume and in this blog post I wanted to share some of the questions that I use when it comes to interviewing. From IQ to EQ, motivations, and self-critique, these are the layers far beyond the surface that you just can’t ascertain from a piece of paper. Here’s a sample:

  • What are the main obstacles you are confronting this year that could prevent you from reaching your objectives?
  • What does your current position not offer that you might look for with another company?
  • Of all your skills and talents, which has been underutilized in your present position?
  • How does the competition describe your company?
  • Describe a team that you built, and the major reasons that it was successful.
  • How do you mentor your direct reports and develop their personal and/or professional skills for larger roles?
  • Give me an example of how you provided leadership and direction under unusually difficult circumstances.
  • Describe a situation in which your work was criticized.
  • Tell me about a situation in your professional career that you would describe as a personal failure; how did you handle it?
  • What misconceptions do others have about you?
  • Describe an unusually difficult decision you made; what were the results?
  • Describe a situation in which you were faced with a difficult ethical dilemma, and tell me how you dealt with it.

When you’re looking for an executive that will be a game-changing leader in your organization, you have to peel back the layers and get to know the “rea –  person you’re bringing on, and not just what they have listed on their resume. That’s why asking tough, insightful, targeted questions is so important. If you have a search and are looking to ensure that the right talent is a fit beyond their resume or CV, let’s talk.