Corporate officials may cite any number of factors in describing what background and characteristics they look for in candidates for management positions. Among the factors may be a degree in a particular subject area or having an advanced degree, tenure with the corporation, successful profit and loss experience, international stints, and broad knowledge of the business or corporation. Whatever factors the contractor cites, COs must ask sufficient follow-up questions during interviews to thoroughly define the factors and to determine why the corporation believes the factors are important to the specific jobs, and how the corporation believes people acquire or could acquire such characteristics. Below are some follow-up lines of questions for several common factors contractors use. This is not an exhaustive list of questions or lines of inquiry and should only be used as a guide to develop a comprehensive Interview Plan tailored to each witness.
- If the contractor views advanced or specialized degrees as important for a specific management position or level of management, COs could ask follow-up questions in these areas:
- What level or in what field(s) must the degree be? For which position(s)? Why?
- How important is a specific college or university? Why?
- Can a person earn an advanced degree while employed? After hours only? Are there any corporate sponsored degree or continuing education programs? How do these programs operate?
- If the contractor views time with the corporation as important, COs could ask follow-up questions in these areas:
- How much corporate service is typical for employees at and above the management level where nonfavored group participation declines?
- Do employees usually earn this corporate service in a specific sector(s) of the corporation? If so, why?
- If successful profit and loss responsibility is important, COs could ask follow-up questions in these areas:
- Why is it important to the particular management job or group of jobs?
- Are there particular areas of the business in which one is most likely to gain that experience? Least likely?
- At what management level does one usually gain it? Does this differ among business areas?
- Is the number of profit and loss centers increasing, decreasing or remaining about the same?
- If international stints are important, COs could ask follow-up questions in these areas:
- What is the value of having a previous international assignment? Are the number of these assignments and their duration factors?
- How are people selected for these opportunities?
- If the contractor views exposure to different facets of the business as critical, COs could ask follow-up questions in these areas:
- Why is it important?
- Does this requirement encompass particular business sectors and does the contractor consider exposure to certain sectors more valuable than others? How much “exposure” is required? Why?
- How do employees learn that such exposure is important to advancement?
- How do employees obtain such exposure?
Likewise, interviewed employees may cite any number of factors as important to advancement, which may or may not match the factors cited by management. When disparities exist, COs must consider additional sources of information, such as personnel files of individuals actually promoted into the position(s) in question. Beyond basic elements such as advanced degrees, COs should explore how employees acquire the characteristics needed to become managers, with particular attention to any corporate practices that may be informal, such as mentoring, networking, high visibility special projects or rotational assignments.
Whether formal or informal, COs must also consider selection procedures for these programs as part of the analysis. Again, COs must be sure to ask for any documentation regarding the qualification standards for the jobs he or she is examining, and any continuing education, mentoring or similar corporate program. This documentation may include, but is not limited to, personnel handbooks, job announcements, memos, participant lists and emails.