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Interviewing Leadership: Five Skills Essential for Candidates



When interviewing for a leadership position, you’re evaluating a candidate on their experience and ability to fulfill the essential job functions. You’re also looking for so much more: someone who can elevate a position and your institution as you move forward. Here are five traits to look for when interviewing for a leadership role.

1. People skills. Leaders don’t just lead institutions, they lead people. They must be able to form genuine personal connections with those within an organization and its broader constituents. How do former colleagues describe an individual? Did they engender goodwill and loyalty among those they have led?

2. Decisiveness. Strong leaders are able to see a problem, formulate a strategy, and take ownership for their decision. It’s important to remember that decisiveness should not be equated with stubbornness. An insightful leader will also recognize when a plan isn’t working and it’s time to change course.

3. Dependability. One quality that can be overlooked in leadership is reliability. A charismatic leader can make a strong impression through an interview process. However, that leader will do your organization no good if they come in, decide they don’t care for the job, and move on in short order.

4. Innovation. The landscape in which we operate is changing. This was true a year ago and the pandemic has only accelerated the need to be agile and responsive. How has your candidate responded to challenges and opportunities with creative solutions?

5. Self-awareness. Quality leaders continue to grow. They know how to leverage their strengths and they are aware of their shortcomings and the best strategies for mitigating them.

These skills are vital for leadership positions, but are key to keep in mind when hiring for any position. Succession planning reminds us that leaders are cultivated at all levels of an organization. The new hire at your organization next week may be a senior leader next decade.