8 essential screening steps when interviewing inside applicants for an executive role

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When an executive role opens in a company, leadership may choose to promote from within to fill it. For many leaders, this approach has multiple benefits: They can reward loyalty, and they can choose from a well-known group of people who already understand the company culture and have proven their skills.

The Business Journals

Still, it’s important to not allow your appreciation and liking for a well-known employee to cloud your judgment — thorough screening is always necessary when filling an executive role, even when you’re hiring from within. Here, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss essential parts of an effective screening process for inside applicants for an open executive role.

1. Evaluate how well they match your ideal candidate profile.
An “essential” is to identify the competencies for the role and incorporate these into an ideal candidate profile. Then assess candidates for these competencies using instruments focused on context-appropriate areas such as personality, judgment and/or reasoning. One “must-do” is to ensure a candidate’s risk of derailing behaviors is included in the assessment. Additionally, 360s are also very helpful. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

2. Assess competency and leadership.
The key is to always assess competency and leadership. Leadership is a key skill in an executive role. The ability to do the job while inspiring is important in being successful. If they tick the leadership box, go ahead and make the hire! – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

3. Avoid just seeking to reward loyalty.
The biggest mistake I see leaders make is promoting out of loyalty instead of competence. You naturally want to reward loyal team members, especially those who joined you early. However, it’s essential for the health of your organization to evaluate the skills, character, experience and competencies that are required in advance of doing any internal interviews. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

4. Look for those who are proactive and engaged.
We like to see how inside applicants have contributed to projects and needs over the years in ways that they were not “asked” to do. Is the individual willing to get involved with needs outside their primary set of roles and responsibilities? Executives need to be willing to dive in before things become urgent; look for those who are proactive and engaged. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

5. Interview based on the new skills they can offer.
Make certain that the candidate’s previous job prepared them for the new position you want to put them in. Interview them based on the new and additional skills they can bring to the job you’re hiring for, not the job you know they’re good at. It’s one thing to be an individual contributor; it’s another thing to be a manager. And it’s another thing entirely to be a manager of managers. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

6. Make sure expectations are clear on all sides.
Promoting internally is great for loyalty and having confidence the person knows all parts of the business. However, it’s important to make sure expectations are clear on all sides about what the new role and responsibilities are so there’s no confusion around or blurring of new and past responsibilities. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Consider if they will focus forward, not backward.
The essential part of an internal promotion to an executive-level position is the question, “Can they rise above their previous duties?” Often, a promoted employee will revert to focusing on what they know instead of looking forward. If you promote a project manager to vice president, will they continue to try and run tasks or look for ways to advance processes? Can they get out of the details? – Timothy Hess, Azteca-Omega Group

8. Make sure they’re ready for next-level complexities and challenges.
A promotion means someone is assuming an additional level of scope, breadth and depth in a new role. Critically evaluate whether they have the intellect to handle the complexity that comes with the next level. Do they have a high level of motivation? Do they have high learning agility? Do they have any derailing personality traits? Performance in a current job does not predict someone’s potential at the next level. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

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