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Why a Job Candidate's Values Matter

Why a Job Candidate's Values Matter

Prepping for a job interview can be nerve-racking — not just for the interviewee, but for the interviewer, says talent strategist Brian Mohr.

"Most of us feel the stress associated with being interviewed for a job, but interviewers face pressure, too," says Mohr, co-founder and managing partner for Y Scouts, a purpose-based leadership search firm for nonprofits, social enterprises, and other mission-driven organizations.

"The most valuable assets of any organization with a purpose — whether it's for-profit or not-for-profit — are its people, and that's why hiring is so important. When screening candidates who may become part of your work culture, however, there are important criteria that simply may not occur to you."

And when it comes to leadership, the stakes are even higher, says Mohr.

"In any position, from CEO to openings in fundraising and development, you want candidates whose purpose and values match those of your organization. However, there are specific questions you want to ask when interviewing for a leadership role. Specifics matter."

Below, Mohr shares some of the questions interviewers will want to ask any candidate for a leadership position and explains why they're important:

Question: "How do you see the organization changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?"

Why it's important: You don't want a CEO who's comfortable with the status quo — that's not good leadership. In order for a nonprofit to be successful on a long-term basis, its top executive not only needs to be passionate and knowledgeable about the organization's purpose, he or she needs to understand how to leverage stakeholders' and constituents' interest in new ways. In other words, you want someone with vision. "That's why you need to ask whether he or she feels comfortable with change and how they see themselves shaping that change in the future," says Mohr.

Question: "How would you pitch our role in the community at a public meeting?"

Why it's important: A CEO/president/executive director needs to be able to represent the organization effectively in a variety of public forums, not just in the office. Asking the candidate to pitch the organization as they would at a public event will tell you a lot about his or her ability to be an effective public face for the organization.

Question: "What are your three greatest accomplishments?"

Why it's important: The answer to this question speaks volumes. "I always look for a candidate committed to driving results. This question helps me understand whether a candidate 'thinks small' or is committed to moving mountains," says Mohr. "Plus, I get some insight into how the person defines 'success'. Is it the successful completion of a worthy project? Learning something new? Making a certain amount of money? Something else altogether?"

Question: "What's the one word that describes you the best?"

Why it's important: This is a quick way to evaluate a candidate's character. Nobody's personality can be summed up in one word, so the word a candidate does choose is likely to be revealing in terms of what he or she considers to be their most positive attribute.

Question: "What other leaders, in the social or any other sector, do you admire?"

Why it's important: An individual's heroe(s) can tell you a lot about who that person is and aspires to be, as well as the kind of leadership/management style he or she would try to emulate as CEO of the organization.

The above are only meant to get you started — you'll want to fill out the list with questions of your own. Just remember: filling a leadership position is one of the most important decisions the board and other stakeholders are asked to make. The more you know, really know, about the candidates for the job, the better the odds you'll find someone who is a perfect fit for the organization.

Brian Mohr is co-founder and managing partner of Y Scouts, a purpose-based leadership search firm that connects exceptional organizations with exceptional leaders.