CEO to CEO: Best Interview Questions, Deciding on Technology

Questions from job applicants and selecting technologies.

What's the best question you've ever been asked by a job applicant, and why?

The best question I was ever asked by a job applicant was, "What kind of boss are you?" I was a young executive director, hiring for only about the third or fourth time in my career. We had been through all of the questions for the position, and I expected the applicant to ask something related specifically to the position when I asked if he had any questions. I was caught off guard, but I answered as honestly as I could. After the interview (and many times in the years since) I pondered that question for a long time; it caused me to evaluate my own style of management and to evaluate what my priorities are in dealing with staff. Hopefully it made me a better boss.

Margaret S. Bauer, CAE, executive director, Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, Hamburg, Pennsylvania. Email: [email protected]

The best question asked by applicants is, "Do you enjoy working here, and why?" Surprisingly, this is asked with relative frequency, and for me it illustrates the applicant's interest in the culture of our organization. By asking this question, applicants are seeking information beyond the job description; they want to know what the organizational leader values about this workplace. Since my answer to this question inevitably shapes the applicant's perception of me and the organization, I answer carefully but with complete honesty. I appreciate the candidate who takes the initiative to ask about culture and values, as they are critical components of a successful work environment.

Erin Hardwick, CAE , executive director, South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, West Columbia, South Carolina. Email: [email protected]

In a recent interviewing process, I received the same question from two different candidates: "How would you describe your management style?"  Not only did I think it was an excellent question, but both of these candidates had either worked for or were currently employed by another trade association.  During the interview process, you certainly want to get a sense as to how the individual will fit with the current staff and the culture of the office, but I found it interesting that these individuals wanted to know if my management style would be a fit for them. These were qualified candidates with many skills and abilities, and I believe it was important to them to know that, if hired, they would be able to excel and succeed in a team environment and not in an environment where their every move would be supervised.

Kim B. Stoneking, CAE, executive director, National Private Duty Association, Indianapolis. Email: [email protected]

Best question:  "Why do you exist?"  This question demonstrates that the applicant valued being comfortable with our association's reasons for being, and it was not just a matter of salary, perks, and job description.

J. Michael Keeling, CAE, president, The ESOP Association, Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

How does your organization decide which new technology to pursue?

The Oklahoma Primary Care Association (OKPCA) makes technology upgrade and acquisition decisions based on current and immediate future programmatic needs. For example, member demand for health-information-technology assistance is growing faster than new staff can be prepared for. To help alleviate this demand, webcams are being purchased for placement in members' employee conference areas. By so doing, if issues arise three hours away, one of our staff can conduct face-to-face assistance from the OKPCA office.

Greta J. Stewart, CAE, executive eirector, Oklahoma Primary Care Association, Oklahoma City. Email: [email protected]

In addition to gaining insight from our members, committees, and task forces, PCMA reviews the latest industry research and expert opinion to determine the hottest technology trends that will benefit our members and the organization as whole. This allows PCMA to launch new technology and develop education around that technology to better serve our members. One example is the launching of the new technology required for virtual meetings, one of the hottest topics in the meetings industry. With input from PCMA members and industry experts, PCMA is launching PCMA365, a virtual environment that will enhance our members' online education and networking experience—and allow them to become part of a process by helping to build the environment, while learning best practices to successfully execute their own virtual experience.

Deborah Sexton, president and CEO, Professional Convention Management Association, Chicago. Email: [email protected]

With a small staff and a limited budget, we typically rely on the core external consultants we use for specific services, such as accounting or web development, to lead us to the technology that will achieve our stated goal. We try to build ongoing one-on-one relationships with specific consultants so that we can rely on them to provide input that we can trust.  Our one major attempt to circumvent this approach—an implementation of a new software package that was clearly inappropriate for our operation—was unsuccessful. We did, however, learn from our mistake.

Michael A. Gardner, CAE, executive director, Gypsum Association, Hyattsville, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

We evaluate different technologies based on the greatest long-term impact they may have on the association, by reducing costs, reducing time spent to do a task by members or staff, or by improving efficiency. A recent example is incorporating bar codes on name badges at our annual convention. All attendee participation in sessions and receptions was monitored by scanning the bar code. This will allow us to both develop future education sessions based on a profile of attendees' participation trends and to have accurate head counts,  which will improve all aspects of our event planning.

Andrej Suskavcevic, CAE, chief executive officer, Commercial Finance Association, New York City. Email: [email protected]

Online Extra CEO to CEO Video: Engaging Members

Gregg Balko, CAE, executive director, Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineers, talks about how he stays engaged with members.