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5 Crisis Management Questions to Ask Leaders During an Interview

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July 26, 2022Candidates Executive Search Interview Tips

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Traditionally, interviews enable companies to learn more about potential candidates. However, the interviewing process has evolved to be more candid and conversational between the two parties. Candidates are often given time to ask their own questions about the company, the role, and the leadership team. At a time when 95% of company leaders feel as though they need to improve their crisis management strategies, making space for candidates to ask about the company leaders’ ability to sufficiently handle a crisis can present leadership with new perspectives to help them refine their crisis management strategies. These discussions are also vital to improving the potential employee’s trust and tenure with the organization.  

As companies continue to evolve and improve their crisis management processes, having the right questions to ask will help you decide whether they are a good fit for you. 

According to the PWC’s Global Crisis Survey 2021, 70% of companies plan to break down the silos, “increasing their investment in building resilience” throughout their organizations. Asking these 5 questions below will help you identify where your potential company lands in terms of crisis management.

 

5 crisis management questions to ask leaders during your interview

1. How have you handled managing a crisis in the past? 

 

question 1

 

Why ask: When you begin by asking for an overview of leaderships’ real-world, crisis management strategies, it helps gauge their aptitude for communicating a crisis, their problem solving solutions, as well as the overall outcome of the situation including how the company fared or bounced back. Since most, if not all companies have experienced a crisis during the past two to three years, leadership should be able to offer a robust overview of the processes they put in place to mitigate negative outcomes, whether this is through a hiring freeze, reducing the amount of projects, or hiring new leadership to help bring in fresh perspectives and strategies.

Elements of a good answer: Crisis management impacts not only a company but the customers as well.A good answer will include a walkthrough of the organization’s plan along with a reflection of its success. Effective leadership teams will discuss what went well and what could be improved, demonstrating their ability to develop as leaders and a company as a whole. 

Follow up question: What does company-wide communication look like during a crisis?

 

2. Based on the crisis management processes you have in place, what type of cross-functional conversations does the company initiate to ensure each department has the help it needs? 

 

question 2

 

Why ask: While you will be working in a single function or team, it is important to understand if and how conversations take place across each function in order to minimize the silo effect. During a crisis, organizations operate at their highest caliber when there is company-wide discourse to ensure everyone has the resources they need. Asking leadership about how they encourage these conversations identifies their ability to interact and connect with each function, as well as the company’s ability to listen to every team at every level. 

Elements of a good answer: Look out for an answer that emphasizes listening. Leaders who take the time to listen to both groups and individuals illustrate empathy, trust and a desire to collaborate with the entirety of the company. On top of listening, perceptive leaders will also mention open dialogue. They should be able to hold conversations surrounding difficult topics with their employees. 

 

3. How do you go about receiving feedback based on the processes you’ve implemented?

 

question 3

 

Why ask: Once you understand how leadership approaches a crisis and opens the floor to organizational wide conversations, it is vital to the company’s wellbeing to discuss how they receive feedback and if they will integrate it into their crisis management plan. If a leadership team is unable to process and act on employee feedback, they will likely encounter unsatisfied employees or risk losing team members. 

Elements of a good answer: Company leaders who are adept at receiving and acting on feedback will offer answers that include:

    • An opportunity for employees to talk with the leadership team 1:1, this illustrates their ability to pause their own projects and focus on individuals throughout the company. 
    • Promoting an ‘always care’ attitude, skilled company leaders will make sure to ask follow up questions. This may include questions such as:
      • How would you like to see the crisis handled? 
      • How would you feel better supported during this time?

Follow up question: Can you ensure employees at every level have access to leadership to continue a conversation?

4. During a crisis period, is there flexibility in day-to-day operations and project timelines to ensure employees have the availability and resources to take time off or pause ongoing projects?

 

question 4

 

Why ask: While a company may be good at having open conversations with their team and receiving feedback, asking whether there is flexibility in employees’ schedules to take time off or to reimagine project timelines demonstrates how leadership values their employees wellbeing and ability to produce quality work during a crisis. 

Elements of a good answer: Leaders who understand the toll a crisis can take on their employees will focus their answer on two main themes:

    • Making space for their employees to process the crisis whether this means 1:1 discussions, cross-functional meetings, the ability to block out their calendars, or time off.
    • Having a process in place to reorganize the schedule. In creating an environment where employees are able to take time for themselves, leadership teams need to be able to plan for pushed deadlines and new schedules. Having a plan in place when this occurs to navigate change is imperative to the organization’s success.

Follow up question: Offering your employees increased flexibility in their schedules during a crisis period promotes a healthy workplace. How does leadership give themselves the same flexibility in their own busy schedules?

 

5. How do you communicate with customers during a crisis?

 

question 5

 

Why ask: As a potential employee, asking about internal processes is important in understanding how you will fare during a crisis. However, it is essential to ask about customers as well. Focusing on the type of messaging the company puts out during a crisis as well as the types of discussions between the two helps you understand how the company values their clients and customers. 

Elements of a good answer: A good answer will include examples of past customer-client messaging. These examples can come from email marketing, advertisements or direct conversations with customers. If the company has yet to experience a crisis, company leaders should have strategies set in place in order to create a smooth transition for their clients and customers. 

 

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Kristin Bachman avatarKristin Bachman