How to Interview for Leadership Skills


Whether it’s a mid-level manager or your organization’s next CFO, the leader you hire for your team can have a significant impact on company success. But leadership skills and abilities can be notoriously hard to screen for. After all, so many of them are intangible. Not only that, but high-level candidates are savvy at looking good on paper and providing persuasive answers in interviews.

To ensure your next leader is the right fit, what can you do? Here’s a look at four strategies to incorporate during your interview process today, so you make the best hiring decision possible down the line.

Strategy #1: Ask behavioral interview questions.

Ask targeted behavioral interview questions about each candidate’s leadership style, so you can learn the specifics about how they’ve interacted with their team in the past, their leadership philosophy and their track record. Some specific examples to consider include:

  • Describe a time where you were able to motivate your team to improve their performance. Which actions were most effective?
  • What have been the greatest challenges as a manager of a team? How have you worked to overcome these obstacles?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve had to delegate.
  • Describe a time when you had to manage a difficult employee. What was the situation and how did you handle it?

Strategy #2: Ask questions that reveal character.

Beyond digging into specifics about a candidate’s track record as a leader, it’s also important to evaluate soft skills, particularly those that revolve around integrity and character. For instance, ask questions such as:

  • Have you experienced a loss or hardship at work for doing what was right?
  • Was there ever a time when your integrity was challenged?
  • Have you ever felt like it was inappropriate to be honest in a business situation? Why?

Strategy #3: Listen for “we” versus “I.”

When interviewing leadership candidates, look for those professionals who are more focused on the success of the entire group, rather than taking the credit for themselves. You’ll hear it in their word choice with language like “our,” “we” and “us” instead of “I.” This often means they tend to identify themselves with a team and its mission. That’s important when you’re hiring someone to build a strong company or department, not just focus on their own individual accomplishments.

Strategy #4: Evaluate the questions they ask.

Another important strategy for interviewing leadership candidates involves considering the questions they’re asking. Are they vague and generic or thoughtful and strategic? Different candidates will ask different questions; however, you should be looking for those who are asking insightful questions that help them better understand the role, your needs and where they’ll fit in.

Hiring true leaders is hard work. If you’d like help with the process, turn to the Kansas City headhunters at Morgan Hunter. We will spend time understanding your company’s unique needs and locating the right professional for your organization, all with guaranteed results. Contact us today to learn more or get started.