Thursday, June 5, 2014

How to Assess Leadership in an Interview

Leadership ability is the most prized attribute that clients look for in senior executives. Leadership effectiveness, however, is one of the hardest things to judge in an interview.  Interviewing candidates who have had Asia careers presents a few extra challenges.
Define “Leadership”: When you are trying to assess a candidate’s leadership potential, you have to start with a clear picture of what “leadership” means to you and your organization. For example, when you say “Leader,” do you mean someone who excels at coaching employees to rise to high levels of performance and achieve results? Or is it most important to find someone who can build relationships and who can influence the powerful people at Headquarters to adopt a preferred course of action?
Dynamic Leader: Emperor Qin Shi Huang, founder of
the first Chinese Imperial Dynasty, 260 - 210 BC
Look for Detailed Specifics: Once you determine what you want in a leader, it’s easier to come up with the questions you need to ask to understand candidate potential. The great thing about interviewing executives with Asia experience is that they have had opportunities to do things that few executives managing mature businesses in the West have. They have built big businesses and overcome huge challenges. But you need to dig to find out the specifics.
Many CV’s, particularly those from candidates whose first language is not English, may give generic job descriptions without describing specific accomplishments. Also in Asia over the last 15 years, many businesses have grown at astronomical rates. Executives working in Asia may have managed businesses that grew 50% a year. You need to find out whether it was really due to their actions or whether they just rode the wave.

Longevity Counts:  I am always impressed with an Asia candidate who has had a successful career at one multinational. The Asia businesses of many Western multinational businesses have gone through tremendous transformations: from joint venture to wholly-owned, through acquisitions and integrations and even downsizing. Surviving and thriving for a long time in an environment which may be volatile, uncertain and complicated is a good indication of maturity and persistence.
Ask Questions from Different Angles: Assessing relationship-building skills is especially difficult. If you ask a direct question like, “How would you describe your interpersonal skills?” you may get a “canned” answer.  Try asking questions that require the candidate to take a fresh perspective: “if your employees were here right now, how would they describe you as a boss?”  “If your boss was here right now, how would he/she describe your ability to ‘manage up’?”  When the candidate considers a familiar question from a new angle, the answers are often more interesting.

No comments: