Hiring a new CEO is an investment in the future of a company. The key to getting the greatest return on that investment is asking the right questions during the interview process. You want to explore each candidate's track record and learn what you can about his vision in terms of how he sees the industry and how he sees himself fitting in with and leading the organization. It's important to make sure he can formulate a plan to address the current needs of the company and produce sustained growth.
The key to any company's ongoing success is gaining a sustainable competitive advantage. Ask candidates how they would go about developing a strategy to reach or keep that advantage. Since strategy planning is a process in itself, the quality of the outcome -- a defined set of strategic objectives -- is dependent on the quality of the process. With this in mind, ask candidates what processes they would follow to develop strategic objectives. A candidate who is not able to apply strategy to the process puts his ability to establish an overall business strategy in doubt.
Ask candidates what role they believe culture plays in strategy and what experience they have in shaping and influencing workplace culture. Since employees will be responsible for implementing the CEO's strategy, the more they buy in to it, the greater the likelihood for success. A CEO who can bring the culture and business strategy into alignment stands a good chance of leading the company toward desired results, such as growth in sales, customers, revenue and brand recognition.
The new CEO must be able to communicate effectively to move any strategy forward. Ask candidates to describe their communication approaches and how they would establish a communication plan to introduce the strategy and get employees on board. Also assess responses given throughout the entire interview process to determine which candidates are able to connect most effectively with the interview team. Candidates who maintain eye contact and are quick to recognize and respond to the needs and expectations of interviewers can be expected to connect equally well with other members of the organization.
A CEO should have a track record for success and should know both the business and the industry. Ask candidates to describe their past successes in leading organizations similar to yours. Based on their experiences, also ask what they see as opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses in the industry, and how these can be applied to setting your company's new strategic direction.