Finding the Right Questions to Ask Your Next Potential CEO
Searching for a new CEO for a nonprofit organization is not an easy task. It’s likely you’ll come across many qualified candidates, but how do you know which one is the perfect fit for the goals and mission statement of your specific organization? The answer is all in the questions. The questions you ask your candidate should give you a good idea of the characteristics and strengths they possess to be able to successfully perform the responsibilities you expect of them.
Ask thought-provoking and challenging questions that allow for an open ended response, and be sure to intently listen and take note of how they answer your questions. It’s even a good idea to assign a point value on some sort of scale to each response as you hear them to track the general quality of the candidate. Here are five categories you should focus on when interviewing the next potential CEO for your nonprofit.
The first and most important thing you should find out about a candidate is their leadership experience. Do they have the qualities and characteristics of a true leader, who can inspire and give direction? Will they elicit a sense of dedication and drive among their staff and volunteers? Ask them who they’ve mentored in their past to become a leader, and what exactly it means to them to be a successful leader. Regardless of the size of your nonprofit, it is essential to determine how the candidate will lead and if their leadership tactics fit within the existing culture of the organization.
- Strategic Thinking
Also key to the role of the CEO of a nonprofit, is their ability to strategically plan for the goals of the nonprofit. Ask for specific examples and instances of strategic planning in the past, as well as the challenges and measure of success they associate with the results. Questions about their strategic thinking can also pertain to their previous financial success through donors and proper budgeting. Find out how they would measure success moving forward through the programs and services in your nonprofit, as well as their willingness to collaborate with similar organizations and their previous experience doing so.
Good relations between the CEO and the employees of your organization promote motivation and trust throughout the structure of the nonprofit. Ask a candidate about their previous relationships with employees and management and the trust and credibility established with the people of the organization. Also ask about their methods for rewarding, recognizing, and team-building between members and peers; this should provide you with information that creates a picture of the climate and culture of their previous organization. Understanding how the candidate and their team overcame challenges and maintained motivation throughout is important to understand the fit of the candidate for your organization.
- Board Relations
Being able to work with a team of people is an important ability for a leader. While it’s not always easy to work with a board, it is an inevitability, as the board is truly the entity in charge of the final decisions of an organization. Seek a candidate who deals well with other people who are in the position to make decisions, and understands and cooperates with this balance of power. Have them describe the relationship with the board and differentiate between their duties and the role of the board. Just like the employees of the nonprofit, a qualified candidate should be able to motivate and build relationships with the members of the board to promote success amongst the plans and goals of the nonprofit.
Communication and public relations is crucial in maintaining a positive internal and public image of your nonprofit. Ask the candidate how they differentiate communication of the goals and achievements of their organization with the employees, board, and internal and external stakeholders. Find out how they developed a positive image and branding for their previous organization and the social impact they had on the community through their programs and services.
While it can be a seemingly daunting task to find the next person to head your nonprofit organization, asking questions that focus on these five characteristics will help narrow down the field of candidates and get you on track to finding the most qualified and compatible CEO for your needs.
Looking to fill a position in your nonprofit organization? DCM Associates specializes in executive search projects representing a wide variety of industries for national, regional, or local nonprofit organizations, including independent and higher education, healthcare, and community building and social impact organizations. Learn more about DCM Associates and what they can do for you today.