Interviewing for Heart

The first step in triple crown leadership is putting together a triple crown team. Triple crown leaders devote rigorous attention to recruiting for, developing, and rewarding both head and heart. Head involves the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for the work. Heart involves integrity, emotional intelligence, and fit with the desired culture of character. People deficient in either do not make the cut.

In addition to the normal questions about educational background, work experience, knowledge, and skills, here are some examples of questions that can help assess a person’s character and cultural fit:*

  1. What do you know about the culture of our organization?
  2. How do you fit with our culture? (If the interviewees are not familiar with the culture, describe it in detail. Then ask again how they think they fit.)
  3. What were two of your most important formative experiences? How did they affect you?
  4. Who are the people who have influenced you the most, and how?
  5. Describe two humbling experiences you have had, or mistakes you’ve made. What did you learn from them?
  6. What personal characteristics do you struggle with? How do you address them?
  7. What are your personal values (your core beliefs or guiding principles)?
  8. Have you ever fought for an ethical belief or principle? Explain.
  9. What leadership experience have you had? Tell us about one good example and one bad example, and your lessons learned.
  10. How do you approach leadership?
  11. Why do you want to lead?
  12. Why do you want to work here? (Probe for the real reasons. See if they get beyond talking points and platitudes.)
  13. What are the most important things in your life?
  14. What is the single most important thing I should remember about you after you leave?

* Note if you are getting canned responses or seeing any red flags, especially any hints of ego—such as focusing too much on “I” in work stories, as opposed to “we.” We recommend consulting with legal counsel and/or human resources officials and remaining mindful of privacy and legal restrictions when determining which questions to ask.

(This is an excerpt from Triple Crown Leadership, chapter 2.)



Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, trainers, and award-winning authors. They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards, and called “the best book on leadership since Good to Great.” Take their Leadership Derailers Assessment or sign up for their newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!