interview questions

3 Tips When Interviewing a Leader for a Position You’ve Never Held

As the position for General Manager (GM) and Head Coach of the Chicago Bears has recently come up-for-grabs, interviews will soon be underway, led by Chairman George McCaskey, Bears President/CEO Ted Phillips and former GM of the Buffalo Bills, Bill Polian. Sure, McCaskey is the owner of one of the biggest football franchises in the league, however, he is conducting interviews for a role he has never done.  

This happens often in business, where leaders are hiring candidates with a completely different skillset than that of their own or for a role they don’t have experience in.  

So, how can McCaskey (and leaders who are hiring outside their skillset) run an interview process that has the best chance of success for the organization?  

Surround Yourself with Experts  

Hiring and interviewing this coach will not be a solo endeavor. McCaskey has the final say, yes, but he can lean on his team of experts to pick the right choice for the Bears. For example, Phillips has had the general managers of the team report to him for his 23 years. He has worked with different GMs throughout his career, and probably has a good instinct for what works. Polian is also helping with the search for the next general manager. Polian has direct experience as a coach, working with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts, where he led them to six  Super Bowl appearances combined. Polian’s insights for McCaskey on coaching style and technical skills will be instrumental in selecting the right coach. Diversifying the skillset of the interviewers will help McCaskey, and any leader who is hiring outside of their direct skillsets or profession, pick a candidate with the best chance of success.   

Run 360° References  

The problem with traditional references is that it’s one viewpoint. To holistically understand a professional – one who is to be hired for an extremely prominent position – consider conducting 360° references, which include connecting with not only managers/bosses, but direct reports and peers. Peer references can help hiring managers imagine what it’s like to work directly or parallel to this candidate. These types of references can help hiring organizations avoid hiring people who would be a bad fit for the team they would be joining. Additionally, references from former direct reports or employees who worked under the candidate can help hiring managers gain insights into a candidate’s management style, mentorship capabilities and character.  

Ask the Right Questions  

With any job interview, the questions should be thoughtful to best show how this candidate will execute in their role. As a leader, you already know the problems you need to solve, so ask interview questions that create dialogue on these problems to see how a candidate would solve them. Even in the instance of an interviewer not having done the role themselves, there are pivotal questions they can ask to determine the right fit, especially in a leadership capacity given leadership skillsets are transferable. For example, some questions McCaskey should consider asking, include:   

  1. Share with me a time your team was in complete disarray; how did you go about handling it? 
  2. How do you manage your coordinators when they disagree with you on a strategy?  
  3. If you were on a team with a 7-game losing streak, what would you do to change it?  
  4. How would you handle managing seasoned players along with the rookies?  
  5. How do you improve collaboration within the team? 
  6. How do you keep your team inspired when going through a rough streak? 
  7. Tell me about a time you’ve turned your team’s attitudes around to improve their work ethic and how.  

When hiring managers conduct interviews for a position they’ve never done, there are ample resources to lean on for vetting the right person for the role.  

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