Part 2 gives the reader some ideas for creating the ScoreCards Critical Competencies for A Players


50 competencies with interview questions

All food for thought


Critical Competencies for A Players

  • Efficiency. Able to produce significant output with minimal wasted effort.
  • Honesty/integrity. Does not cut corners ethically. Earns trust and maintains confidences. Does what is right, not just what is politically expedient. Speaks plainly and truthfully.
  • Organization and planning. Plans, organizes, schedules, and budgets in an efficient, productive manner. Focuses on key priorities.
  • Aggressiveness. Moves quickly and takes a forceful stand without being overly abrasive.
  • Follow-through on commitments. Lives up to verbal and written agreements, regardless of personal cost.
  • Intelligence. Learns quickly. Demonstrates ability to quickly and proficiently understand and absorb new information.
  • Analytical skills. Able to structure and process qualitative or quantitative data and draw insightful conclusions from it. Exhibits a probing mind and achieves penetrating insights.
  • Attention to detail. Does not let important details slip through the cracks or derail a project.
  • Persistence. Demonstrates tenacity and willingness to go the distance to get something done.
  • Proactivity. Acts without being told what to do. Brings new ideas to the company.
  • Ability to hire A Players (for managers). Sources, selects, and sells A Players to join a company.
  • Ability to develop people (for managers). Coaches people in their current roles to improve performance, and prepares them for future roles.
  • Flexibility/adaptability. Adjusts quickly to changing priorities and conditions. Copes effectively with complexity and change.
  • Calm under pressure. Maintains stable performance when under heavy pressure or stress.
  • Strategic thinking/visioning. Able to see and communicate the big picture in an inspiring way. Determines opportunities and threats through comprehensive analysis of current and future trends.
  • Creativity/innovation. Generates new and innovative approaches to problems.
  • Enthusiasm. Exhibits passion and excitement over work. Has a can-do attitude.
  • Work ethic. Possesses a strong willingness to work hard and sometimes long hours to get the job done. Has a track record of working hard.
  • High standards. Expects personal performance and team performance to be nothing short of the best.
  • Listening skills. Lets others speak and seeks to understand their viewpoints.
  • Openness to criticism and ideas. Often solicits feedback and reacts calmly to criticism or negative feedback.
  • Communication. Speaks and writes clearly and articulately without being overly verbose or talkative. Maintains this standard in all forms of written communication, including e-mail.
  • Teamwork. Reaches out to peers and cooperates with supervisors to establish an overall collaborative working relationship.
  • Persuasion. Able to convince others to pursue a course of action.

Others to consider:

  • Chemistry
  • Commitment
  • Coachable
  • Requisite intellect
  • Cultural fit
    • Evaluating cultural fit obviously begins with evaluating your company’s culture. That takes time and energy but often yields insights whose usefulness goes beyond the hiring process. Try gathering your leadership team in a room and asking this simple question: “What adjectives would you use to describe our culture”


Intellectual Competencies: 

  • Intelligence

o Please describe your learning ability o Describe a complex situation in which you had to learn a lot quickly.

How did you go about learning and how successful were the outcomes? •

  • Analysis Skills

o Please describe your problem analysis skills.

o Do people generally regard you as one who diligently pursues ever detail or do you tend to be more broad brush? Why?

o What will references indicate are your style and overall effectiveness in “sorting” the wheat from the chaff?

o What analytic approaches and tools do you use?

o Please give me an example of digging more deeply for facts than what was asked of you.

  • Judgment / Decision Making

o Please describe your decision-making approach when you are faced with difficult situations, in comparison with others, at about your level in the organization.  Are you decisive and quick, but sometimes too quick, or are you more thorough but sometimes too slow? Are you intuitive ore do you go purely with the facts?  Do you involve many or few people in decisions?

o What are a couple of the most difficult or challenging decisions you have made recently?

o What are a couple of the best and worst decisions you have made in the past year?

o What maxims do you live by?

  • Conceptual Ability

o Are you more comfortable dealing with concrete, tangible, short term issues, or more abstract, conceptual, long-term issues?  Please explain.

  • Creativity

o How creative are you?  What are the best examples of your creativity in processes, systems, methods, products, structure, or services?

o Do you consider yourself a better visionary or implementer, and why?

  • Strategic Skills

o In the past year, what specifically have you done in order to remain knowledgeable about the competitive environment, market and trade dynamixs, products / services and technology trends, innovations, and patterns of consumer behavior?

o Please describe your experience in strategic planning, including successful and unsuccessful approaches. (determine the individual’s contribution in team strategic efforts.)

o Where do you predict that your (industry / competitors / function) is going in the next three years?

What is the conventional wisdom, and what are your own thoughts?

  • Pragmatism

o Do you consider yourself a more visionary or more pragmatic thinker, and why?

  • Risk Taking

o What are the biggest risks you have taken in recent years? Include ones that have worked out well and not so well.

  • Leading Edge

o How have you copied, created, or applied best practices?

o Describe projects in which your best practice solutions did and did not fully address customer / client needs.

o How will references rate and describe your technical expertise? Are you truly leading edge, or do you fall a bit short in some areas?

o How computer literate are you?

o Please describe your professional network.

  • Education

o What seminars or formal education have you participated in and when?

o Describe your reading habits (books and articles on global factors, general business, functional specialty, industry).

  • Experience

o Compose a series of open-ended questions – “how would you rate yourself in _____, and what specifics can you cite?” for finance, learn expertise in treadury, controller, risk management, etc., areas. For human resources, learn expertise in selection, training, compensation, etc.

o What are the most important lessons you have learned in your career? (Get specifics with respect to when, where, what, etc.)

  • Track Record

o Looking back in your career, what were your most and least successful jobs?

Personal Competencies:

  • Integrity

o Describe a situation or two in which the pressures to compromise your integrity were the strongest you have ever felt.

o What are a couple of the most courageous actions or unpopular stands you have ever taken?

o When have you confronted unethical behavior or chosen to not say anything, in order to not rock the boat?

o Under what circumstances have you found it justifiable to break a confidence?

  • Resourcefulness

o What actions would you take in the first weeks, should you join our organization?

o What sorts of obstacles have you faced in your present / most recent job, and what did you do?

o What are examples of circumstances in which you were expected to do a certain thing and, on your own, went beyond the call of duty?

o Who have been your major career influences, and why? o Are you better at initiating a lot of things or hammering out results for fewer things? (Get specifics.)

  • Organization / Planning

o How well organized are you? What do you do to be organized and what; if anything do you feel you ought to do to be better organized?

o When was the last time you missed a significant deadline? o Describe a complex challenge you have had coordinating a project.

o Are you better at juggling a number of priorities or projects simultaneously, or attacking a few projects, one at a time?

o Everyone procrastinates at times. What are the kinds of things that you procrastinate on?

o How would you describe your work habits?

o If I were to talk with administrative assistants you have had during the past several years, how would they describe your strengths and weak points with respect to personal organization, communications, attention to detail, and planning?

o Describe a situation that did not go as well as planned. What would you have done differently?

  • Excellence

o Have you significantly “raised the bar” for yourself or others? Explain how you did it – your approach, the problems encountered, and the outcomes.

  • Independence

o Do you believe in asking for forgiveness rather than permission, or are you inclined to be sure your bosses are in full agreement before you act?

o How much supervision do you want or need?

  • Stress Management

o What sort of mood swings, do you experience – how high are the highs, how low are the lows, and why?

o What do you do to alleviate stress? (Look for exercise, quiet periods, etc.) o How do you handle yourself under stress and pressure?

o Describe yourself in terms of emotional control; what sorts of things irritate you the most or get you down?

o How many times have you “lost your cool” in the past couple of months? (Get specifics.)

  • Self-Awareness

o Have you gotten any sort of systemic or regular feedback (360 degree or otherwise) from direct reports, clients, peers, supervisors, etc., and if so, what did you learn?

o How much feedback do you like to get from people you report to, and in what form (written, face to face)?

o What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made in the past (ten) years, and what have you learned from them?

o What are your principal developmental needs and what are your plans to deal with them?  o What have been the most difficult criticism for you to accept?

  • Adaptability

o How have you changed during recent years?

o What sorts of organization changes have you found easiest and most difficult to accept? o When have you been so firm people consider you stubborn or inflexible?

  • First Impression

o Judge directly in interview.

o What sort of first impression do you think you make at different levels in an organization?

Interpersonal competencies

  • Likability

o When were you so frustrated you did not treat someone with respect?

o How would you describe your sense of humor?

o Tell me about a situation in which you were expected to work with a person you disliked. • Listening

o Are you familiar with the term active listening? How would you define it? What would coworkers say regarding how often and how effectively you use active listening?

  • Customer Focus

o If you were to arrange confidential reference calls with some of your major clients / customers, what is your best guess as to what they would generally agree are your strengths and areas for improvement?

o Relate an example of your partnering with a client / customer helping the client / customer to achieve its goals and financial results.

o Give examples of your going beyond what was normally expected to enhance our company’s reputation or image.

o Describe your methods of diagnosing client / customer needs.

o What is your “track record” in both acquiring and retaining clients / customers? o Tell me about the most frustrated or disappointed client / customer you have had in recent years.

  • Team Player

o What will reference checks disclose  to be the common perception among peers regarding how much of a team player you are (working cooperatively, building others’ confidence and self-esteem)? o Describe the most difficult person with whom you have had to work.

o When have you stood up to a boss?

o Tell me about a situation in which you felt others were wrong and you were right.

  • Assertiveness

o How would you describe your level of assertiveness?

o When there is a difference of opinion, do you tend to confront people directly or indirectly, or tend to let the situation resolve itself? (Get specifics.)

o Please give a couple of recent specific examples in which you were highly assertive: one in which the outcome was favorable, and one where it wasn’t.

  • Communications – Oral

o How would you rate yourself in public speaking? If we had a video tape of your most recent presentation, what would we see?

o Describe the last time you put your foot in your mouth.

o How do you communicate with your organization?

  • Communications – Written

o How would you describe your writing style in comparison to others’ styles?

  • Political Savvy

o Describe a couple of the most difficult, challenging, or frustrating company political situations you have faced.

o How aware are you of company political forces that may affect your performance: please give a couple of examples of the most difficult political situations in which you have been involved, internally and with clients.

  • Negotiation

o Describe situations in which your negotiation skills proved effective and ineffective.

  • Persuasion

o Describe a situation in which you were most effective selling an idea or yourself.

o Describe situations in which your persuasion skills proved ineffective.

Management Competencies

  • Selecting A Players

o What have your most recent two teams looked like (how many A, B, and C players) and what changes were made?

o Explain your selection process in terms of job analysis, job description, behavioral competencies, amount of structure to interviews, if there is an in-depth chronological interview, and how reference checks are done.

  • Coaching

o How would subordinates you have had in recent years describe your approaches to training and developing them? (Look for coaching, challenging assignments.)

  • Goal Setting

o How do you go about establishing goals for performance (bottom up, top down, or what)? Are they easy or “stretch” goals?

o How are your expectations communicated?

  • Empowerment

o How “hands-on” a manager are you? (Get specifics.)

  • Accountability

o Tell me about the performance management system you now use.

o How effective have been you methods for following up on delegated assignments?

o Tell me about accountability. What happens when people fail to perform?

o What do you say of do when someone reporting to you has made a significant (serious, costly) mistake?

o Cite examples of your giving negative feedback to someone.

  • Redeploying B/C Players

o How many nonperformers have you removed in recent years? What approaches were used? (Look for regular, honest feedback, sincere training and development efforts, B/C players more apt to ask for a different job or quit than to be fired, and redeployment in months, not years.)

  • Team Building

o How have you tried to build teamwork?

o Which of your teams has been the biggest disappointment in terms of cohesiveness or effectiveness?

  • Diversity

o When have you actively confronted indications of discrimination or prejudicial behavior?

o How have you added to diversity (ethnic, cultural, racial, gender) in a workplace?

o Have there been any successful employment charges against you (EE)C, sexual harassment, etc.)? • Running Meetings

o How productive are meetings you run? How could they become more productive?

o How would you describe your role in meetings – ones that you have called and those in which you have been a participant?

Leadership (Additional Competencies)

  • Vision

o What is (was) your vision for your present (most recent) job? How was the vision developed?

  • Change Leadership

o In what specific ways have you changed an organization the most (in terms of direction, results, policies)?

o What has been your approach to communications in changes? (Look for communicating like mad!))

  • Inspiring “Followership”

o Are you a “natural leader”? if so, cite indications.

o Give examples of when people might have readily followed your lead and when they did not.

  • Conflict Management

o Describe a situation in which you actively tore down walls or barriers to teamwork.

o Describe situations in which you prevented or resolved conflicts.

o If two subordinates are fighting, what do you do? (Look for bringing them together to resolve it.)

Motivational Competencies

  • Energy

o How many hours per week have you worked, on the average, during the past year?

o What motivates you?

  • Passion

o How would you rate yourself (and why) in enthusiasm and charisma?

o Describe the pace at which you work – fast, slow, or moderate and the circumstances under which it varies.

  • Ambition (see Plans and Goals for the Future)

o Who have been recent career influences, and why?

  • Compatibility of Needs

o Is there anything we and I can do the help you if there is a job change (relocation, housing, etc.)?

  • Balance in Life

o How satisfied are you with your balance in life – the balance among work, wellness, community involvement, professional associations, hobbies, etc.?

  • Tenacity

o What are examples of the biggest challenges you have faced and overcome?

o What will references say is your general level of urgency?

The next step? Call me and we can discuss how I can help.

Leigh Dorling
Mobile: 07768 290694

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