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Interviewing for Attributes



In my earlier blog on “Hiring for Attributes” I identified six key attributes (below) that all strong job candidates should possess. But how to ascertain in the span of an interview whether the candidate meets your qualifications requires proficient interviewing skills.

Here are some suggested questions you might ask aimed at revealing a candidate’s:


  • Please describe a difficult obstacle you had to overcome and how you handled it. How do you feel the experience influenced you professionally?
  • Please describe an ethical situation you confronted and how you handled it. What did you learn? How has that been incorporated into your on-going work?
  • How would you respond to a donor who asks you inappropriate questions about your president or other leader?
  • How would you handle a donor who expects special favors, the best seats at an upcoming performance, for example?


  • How do you personally keep up with developments in our profession?
  • Please describe the environment or culture that, in your opinion, best lends itself to productivity.
  • What is the single most important factor that must be present in your work environment for you to be successful? Now that you’ve answered that question, what were the one or two others that you debated about before giving the response you chose?


  • Please describe your leadership style. Give some examples that illustrate your leadership style in action.
  • Share an example of a very difficult decision you had to make in the recent past? What made it difficult? What did you learn?
  • What traits and/or characteristics do you expect from an organizational leader?
  • What characteristic(s) of leadership could you focus on next that would make you a better leader? Why?

Open Mindedness

  • Things are constantly changing. Describe how you adapt to unexpected changes in priorities, expectations, assigned tasks, or other disruptive events. Please give specific examples if you can.
  • Describe your approach when a co-worker’s or supervisor’s ideas challenge or compete with your ideas.

Collaborative Skills

  • What role do you prefer to play in working as part of a team? Why?
  • What adjectives might your co-workers use to describe your performance as a member of their team?
  • Imagine a scenario where your team leader or a manager advises you that your performance was lacking or holding the team back, how would you respond?  What concrete steps might you take to make sure you are meeting the team's expectations?
  • Name 5-6 qualities of a good team player and why you think they are important to the success of the team.

Critical Thinking

  • Please describe a problem you encountered for which a traditional or customary solution wasn’t working. What was the alternative solution? How was the problem solved?
  • If faced with significant change within your organization (leadership, structure, responsibilities, etc.), what could you personally do to contribute to a successful transition?
  • When tasked with making a difficult or nuanced decision, whether it is your own decision to make or that of a team, what steps would you take to move the decision making process forward? Do you subscribe to a process, or is your decision making based on “gut instinct?” Please explain.

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