In 2021, 35% of company leaders had crisis management plans in place to help them navigate and overcome the crisis at hand while 65% of global companies were not adequately prepared to maneuver the issues that arose. In order to scale, grow, and sustain effectively, leaders need to improve their crisis management strategies. The best way to future proof your business for a possible crisis or downturn is to begin with the hiring process.
Leaders set the tone for their company before, during, and after a crisis. When hiring for a senior leadership position, take the time to ask candidates about their ability to handle a crisis effectively. Doing so ensures your company has actionable plans, smooth transitions, and smart strategies helping obstacles turn into opportunities.
Here are 5 crisis management interview questions to ask senior leadership candidates to help your company build a team that is prepared for the possibility of an uncertain future.
5 Crisis Management Interview Questions to Ask Senior Leadership Candidates
1. Can you give us an example of how you’ve managed a crisis in the past?
- Why ask: You want a leader who is prepared to guide their teams with confidence and understanding if a crisis arises. Asking about their past experiences with large and lasting issues will help you identify the candidate’s ability to effectively lead, maintain a healthy growth strategy, and retain your client base.
- Elements of a good answer: Look out for answers that are specific. Whether a candidate is early in their career or has been working in a leadership position for a while now, they have experienced a crisis. If they are unable to give a direct example, ask about a time when they have experienced hardships in the workplace. For instance, this can be related to a variety of struggles a company has faced internally that the candidate had to deal with. . They should focus on the tactics they witnessed, recalling what strategies worked and which did not.
2. What is your process for receiving feedback? How do you implement feedback once you’ve acquired it?
- Why ask: It’s essential that leaders are in constant communication with their downstream teams. However, during a crisis, communication plays an even more important role. Leaders should have a specific method for receiving feedback during challenging times to ensure their team feels heard. Following up the first portion of the question by asking about the candidate’s implementation of feedback is key to understanding whether or not they are able to successfully lead a team driven by open and honest communication.
- Elements of a good answer: A qualified candidate will respond in two parts. They should begin by discussing their method for receiving feedback. This may look like:
- Creating an anonymous, online form that includes an option to rate how effective the company and leaders have been in guiding each department through the crisis as well as a section for employees to leave comments.
- Opening time on their calendar for 1:1 meetings with employees.
- Holding fireside chats to talk about the state of the company followed by a company-wide open discussion.
Once the candidate has described their process for receiving feedback, they should then explain how they will implement it. This can include:
- Hosting weekly, monthly, and quarterly check-ins to see how everyone is feeling about the state of the organization.
- Building out robust HR and DEI functions to ensure everyone feels supported.
- Holding cross-functional meetings to brainstorm new company-wide procedures.
3. During a crisis, how do you ensure customer and/or stakeholder satisfaction?
- Why ask: While the company will often feel the ramifications of a crisis first, customers and stakeholders experience them soon after. A good leader understands that once their employees are taken care of, the wellbeing of those who use their services or products should be the next focus in restoring business back to normal.
- Elements of a good answer: A good leader should focus on the company’s customer success team and the processes they have in place. This can include:
- Implementing a survey sent out after each purchase.
- Including a feedback section in the organization’s current email marketing campaign.
- Launching a ‘special request’ text box on the website.
If the candidate is being hired for a position outside of customer success, they should discuss how their team will work to support the CS department. For example, if they are being hired for the VP of Marketing role, they may discuss new copy that their team can craft to ensure customers have the right tools to guarantee success.
4. How would you incorporate the marketing team and the company’s go-to-market strategy into your crisis management plan?
- Why ask: Marketing teams play a large role in driving an organization’s growth. During a crisis, their strategy will likely need to shift to accommodate for a changing market. Whether the executive you hire will be joining the marketing team or a different department, recognizing the importance of marketing in conjunction with the rest of the company’s crisis management strategies is highly advantageous.
- Elements of a good answer: A creative leader will focus on the sales funnel and how it relates to the organization’s crisis management strategy. While growth should still be a focal point, retaining customers and sustaining slower growth goals is acceptable during a crisis. With that understanding, a leader should answer the question by discussing the four main sections of the sales funnel:
- Awareness: They will likely slow awareness and push marketing efforts towards customer success efforts in order to increase their returning customer base.
- Interest: Candidates will likely continue current campaigns to drive interest; however, they may not put as many resources into launching new campaigns until the organization has overcome the crisis.
- Decision: The decision stage helps scale your customer base, leaders will focus on the importance of honing marketing efforts towards creating more conversions through partnerships with the company’s engineering, product, and sales teams to ensure everyone is supporting the marketing team.
- Action: During a crisis, not only is employee feedback essential, customer feedback is critical. Once customers have made the decision to purchase your product or service, a successful leader will ensure that the customer success team has the support it needs from each department to make the process as streamlined as possible.
5. Tell me about a time when you failed professionally and the steps you took after to remedy the situation.
- Why ask: Similar to the fact that every leader has encountered a crisis on some level, they have also experienced failure. This question is essential because it helps you determine whether a candidate is able to recognize their mistakes, own up to them, and then work to rectify the situation.
- Elements of a good answer: The right leader will discuss a time when they failed, how they identified their mistake, and the actions they took to correct their mistake. They should include the executives they worked with while remedying the situation along with the teams it impacted and how they were able to work through the issue in an efficient and succinct manner.
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