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How to evaluate leadership competencies during an interview

Today I would like to present an interesting topic both for candidates and recruiters. Indeed, in the 99.9% of resumes I received in my working life, is written something about leadership competencies. Doesn’t matter if is just a gradute from university without any job experience or a C-level profile. Always present, and I would say that is a good point if is true and if a recruiter is able to assess it correctly.

First of all, what does leadership meaning? Every business owner, CEO, Manage wants to be a good leader, but how can you be a good leader if you don't know what leadership really is? Unfortunately, leadership doesn't have a one-size-fits-all definition. We all have our own ideas about what it means to be a good leader. For example, some people think leadership means guiding others to complete a particular task, while others believe it means motivating the members of your team to be their best selves. But while the definitions may vary, the general sentiments remain the same: leaders are people who know how to achieve goals and inspire people along the way.

I chose one definition of leadership from Stan Kimer, (probably most of you remember him as IBM’s executive team leader) “Effective leadership is providing the vision and motivation to a team so they work together toward the same goal, and then understanding the talents and temperaments of each individual and effectively motivating each person to contribute individually their best toward achieving the group goal."

Ones we define what leadership is, we have to define how to assess it during an interview. Easy? Not really. I suggest to split leadership into 6 core competencies and then assess each of them. Leadership competencies may be assessed using a variety of assessment methods such as oral interview, presentation, written assignment, role play and reference check. The most commonly used method to assess competencies is the behavioural event interview, where job candidates are required to share past work examples that demonstrate the competency.

Here you have:

1)     Vision and Goal Setting

Vision and goal setting involves knowledge and skills in establishing official and operative goals for the organization/units and to establish a system of measuring effectiveness of goal attainment. In order to evaluate a candidate on this competency, you should prepare questions able to verify the following issues

  • Creation of the vision and plan
  • Communicates corporate goals and objectives within the unit
  • Aligns unit tasks and objectives with corporate goals and objectives
  • Establishes clear targets and measures to track progress toward unit objectives
  • Shares organizational performance measurement information and encourages dialogue and analysis
  • ·


2)     Promoting Empowerment

Promoting empowerment involves knowledge and skills in using processes such as delegation an information sharing to enhance subordinate ownership and empowerment over their task and performance. During interview a recruiter should be able to verify

  • How to looks for opportunities for delegation to occur in the unit whenever possible
  • How to empowers employees to take risks, supports them when things go wrong and encourages them to learn from setbacks and failures
  • How to gives subordinates the authority and resources to get the job done when assigning responsibility for task accomplishment
  • How to coaches employees to achieve their goals


3)     Creating and Managing Change

Creating and managing change involves knowledge and skills to manage in the organization through setting direction and urgency, building a coalition of support, communicating widely, handling resistance to change and facilitating implementation of successful change actions. Again a professional recruiter should be able to discuss about the following items:

  • How to develops and uses different methods to help employees to positively react to change
  • How to handle actively embraces change efforts and initiatives to improve unit performance
  • How to applies best practices in change management models to create employee buy in and achieve sustained change
  • ·

4)     Solving Problems Creatively

Solving problems creatively involves knowledge and skills in fostering creative problem solving in the organization through critical reflection, problem analysis, risk assessment and rewarding innovation. During an interview should be discussed

  • How to use innovative methods and technologies to get things done
  • Reframes or restructures problems in a different way, when necessary, to solve them
  • Willingness to try radically different ways of solving a problem even if it has never been done before
  • How to use collaborative approaches to increase creativity and innovation.


5)     Building Strategic Alliances

Building Strategic Alliances involves knowledge and skills to engage in internal and external stakeholder analysis and to negotiate agreements and alliances based on a full understanding of power and politics.

This is quite complicate task to be performed by a recruiter, obviously it may happen mainly for executive positions so is supposed that experience and expertise of recruiter are in line with the candidate. The interview should involve the following topics:

  • How to builds multiple external collaborative relationships to support unit performance
  • Identifies and accommodates external political activities that could affect the work and success of the unit
  • Identifies the key issues and accommodates the key players when dealing with external parties/units on joint projects
  • How to takes an inclusive approach when working with diverse stakeholders.
  • ·

6)     Executive Presence

Building executive presence involves knowledge and skills in influencing others and having an observable impact at the executive level, through personal credibility, leadership, confidence, and an understanding of other people’s perspectives and interests. Also this competency requires high level of professionality of recruiter. Some ideas of topics to be discussed could be

  • How to gets ideas heard and uses good judgment to achieve appropriate impact at an executive level
  • How to builds credibility based on using expertise in an honest and consistent manner
  • How to use body language and visual image to convey confidence, engagement and composure
  • How to perform a public speaking and states own perspective confidently, even in the face of challenge by others who hold power or influence
  • How to communicates effectively by using clear language and level of detail appropriate to the audience,

All in all, that is quite complicate and require a very good knowledge of the interview technics and ability to be effective in questioning candidates, but this is exactly what our candidates expect from us: we are the first contact between the talented candidate and the reputable employer, make the good impression to both of them, is absolutely mandatory, and in the end is our job to make it happen.