A Chief People Officer (CPO) is a senior executive responsible for championing an organization’s talent through the development and execution of a comprehensive people strategy and employee experience. A proficient CPO is attuned to employee needs, sentiments, and feedback and is responsible for upholding the company’s commitments to its workforce. Their role stands at the forefront of shaping and fostering the company’s culture, driving talent acquisition and development, managing employee relations, and enhancing overall organizational effectiveness. This encompasses prioritizing employee well-being, monitoring performance, and ensuring preparedness for future talent needs.

When interviewing a CPO candidate, it’s crucial to ask questions that help assess their fit for the role and ability to drive the organization’s human resources and people strategies. With multiple organizations vying for top executive talent, it’s essential to target your interview questions to the CPO position to find a candidate who aligns with your business’s vision and goals.

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Here are some key questions to consider:

1 – How do you align HR strategies with business goals and objectives?

This question gauges the candidate’s proficiency in harmonizing HR and people initiatives with the broader organizational strategy, ensuring that HR efforts actively contribute to the company’s overall success. Look for indications that the candidate approaches this alignment by deeply comprehending the company’s mission, vision, and strategic priorities. Do they proactively engage with the executive team and department heads to better understand their goals and challenges? Do they craft comprehensive people strategies with set initiatives, well-defined timelines, and key performance indicators (KPIs), all strategically geared towards supporting the attainment of business objectives? Do they practice data-driven decision-making, employing HR metrics impacting the company’s performance indicators? Do they prioritize talent acquisition and development efforts, ensuring the workforce possesses the skills and competencies to drive the organization toward its goals? Continuous measurement and fine-tuning of HR and people initiatives and regular and transparent communication with employees regarding their invaluable contributions to the company’s overall success should be integral to this alignment process and communicated in the candidate’s response.

2 – What approaches do you use to attract and retain top talent?

Given the current competitive employment market, assess the candidate’s methods for attracting and retaining top talent. With 57 percent of employers facing difficulties in finding qualified candidates and 46 percent reporting a shortage of job seekers, the challenge is greater than ever. Retaining high-caliber employees is a pivotal factor in business success. In light of this, it’s essential to determine if the candidate employs skills-based hiring and emphasizes employer branding and a positive candidate experience. Additionally, assess their approach to retention, such as investing in employee development, creating growth opportunities, prioritizing manager training, and promoting work-life balance. This question evaluates the candidate’s ability to develop and execute effective talent acquisition and retention strategies, which are critical for your organization’s success.

3 – Can you share an example of a successful change management initiative you led? What were the challenges, and how did you address them?

Change management is a pivotal aspect of the CPO position, as HR often plays a crucial role in organizational transitions and restructuring. A proficient CPO adeptly manages the human element of change, ensuring a seamless transition with minimal disruptions. Pay attention to whether the candidate conducts thorough needs assessments, collaborates effectively with cross-functional teams, organizes relevant training, and emphasizes communication. Addressing resistance and finding collaborative solutions are integral aspects of navigating change. How did the candidate acknowledge and overcome these obstacles? Did they track key performance indicators like employee satisfaction, productivity metrics, and manager feedback? The candidate should be able to communicate how she or he led a change management initiative improved employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and reduced turnover over time, showcasing its positive impact on the organization.

Related: Embracing Change: The Tug-of-War Between Remote and Onsite

4 – How have you championed and cultivated a high-performing, results-oriented culture in your previous roles?

Disengaged employees are 2.6 times more likely to leave for an employer they believe has a better culture. One of the most critical responsibilities of a CPO is creating an environment that fosters collaboration and innovation where employees want to stay. Why? A strong culture positively impacts 66 percent of employees’ work daily. A high-performing culture also helps businesses attract and retain talent, enhance the company’s reputation, improve employee engagement and productivity, and improve the bottom line. Furthermore, 90 percent of executives acknowledge the escalating importance of company culture in today’s market. Does the candidate recognize the pivotal role of managers in shaping and reinforcing organizational culture? After all, 66 percent of hybrid workers view their manager as their most direct link to company culture. Additionally, observe if the candidate values transparent communication, ongoing feedback, opportunities for growth and career advancement, providing guidance and support to employees, and implementing effective rewards and recognition programs.

5 – How do you ensure diversity and inclusion in recruitment and the organization?

A proficient CPO employs a comprehensive strategy to ensure diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. This begins with establishing clear goals aligned with the organization’s values and business objectives. CPOs collaborate closely with leadership to foster a culture of commitment and accountability, where diversity permeates every aspect of the organization. This includes implementing bias-free recruitment processes, leveraging diverse sourcing channels, crafting inclusive job postings, forming diverse interview panels, and delivering training to mitigate unconscious biases. Listen for evidence of the candidate fostering inclusivity through mentorship programs, employee resource groups, and inclusive policies. Did they track and analyze diversity metrics to inform data-driven decisions and promote ongoing improvement? Pay attention to indications that the candidate champions inclusive leadership behaviors and engages with external networks to cultivate an environment where diversity and inclusion thrive, ultimately resulting in a more innovative, productive, and harmonious workplace.

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CPOs are pivotal in creating a workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging and ease. This becomes more complex due to each employee’s diverse needs and expectations, necessitating the CPO to ensure equitable growth opportunities. They are tasked with cultivating a strong corporate culture emphasizing clear communication and well-defined performance objectives. Maintaining seamless collaboration with departments such as HR and legal teams is crucial for navigating changes in personnel and policies. Additionally, in the current landscape of remote and hybrid work, CPOs must adeptly manage physical and virtual interactions among employees. By addressing these considerations during the interview process, you can confidently select a candidate equipped to navigate the challenges inherent in guiding your people strategies.

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This blog was written by TalentRise Practice Leader, Executive Search, Peter Petrella.