We have spent years developing a methodology for matching companies and executives, but ultimately at the top of the list is chemistry between the executive, private equity fund, company owner, or management team. So once we suggest an executive or team to fit a company’s needs, the question usually arises: what questions should I be asking in an interview to see if it’s a good fit?
Here are a few recommendations so you will be armed with targeted questions for the interview process:
Tell us how you resolved a situation similar to ours.
A tight fit of an executive’s skills with the needs of the organization are essential. Executives who have made a career of interim management have typically worked across different types of companies, industries, and challenges. Hearing about parallel experience, success stories, and even failures, will give you a view into what an executive can bring to your company, their approach, and the ultimate value they bring.
What are you offering that we cannot do ourselves?
How well does the candidate’s experience meet the direct needs of the company and goals of the board? In many cases organizations need fresh thinking to help get to the next level of growth or get unstuck when a roadblock comes up. This question allows an interim to specify exactly what makes them unique, and how they will hit the ground running for you.
What is the strongest attribute you bring to our equation?
On a more personal level, how will this executive fit within the existing corporate culture? Does he or she bring an attribute that will fit — or fix, if necessary — the corporate climate? Does the executive have a mindset that aligns with the existing way things are done or will he or she be able to shake up your approach to get dramatic results?
How will you collaborate with the board of directors to create a sustained strategy for the organization? How will you partner with the staff to strategically implement the vision and mission of the organization?
Interim executives enter an engagement with the purpose of making positive change quickly, executing the plan, and then making an exit. They come in to make a surgical strike, and their ability to team with existing management and employees to get buy in on the vision and direction of the company is critical. Companies, meantime, need to know how much authority they are willing to grant the interim executive and their teams.
The interview process of course is a two-way communication, and interims stand to learn much from the questions a company asks them. Interims are selective about the opportunities they take on, so may be screening you for questions that indicate you are serious about supporting and implementing any necessary change.
Finally, the best question of the day for both sides of the table: “When can you start?”