Roger T. Duguay has placed hundreds of executives in major companies.
He shares some of his favorite questions and the answers he’s looking for on job interviews.
» Roger Duguay is a managing partner and global practice leader for CEO and board services for Boyden, one of the world's top executive-search firms.
» Duguay uses job interviews to find candidates who are self-assured without being cocky.
» He wants career qualifications to be a prerequisite for having the interview in the first place, and for the conversation to be an opportunity to assess the candidate's personality
As managing partner at Boyden, one of the world's top executive-search firms, Roger Duguay has had countless interviews with aspiring captains of industry. His approach to finding top talent has proven so successful that Boyden's CEO recently appointed him leader of the firm's global CEO and board services practice.
This approach includes a break from traditional job interviews. "To me the fact that you've done a good job in the last five, 10 years is not a guarantee anymore you will be the good candidate two years from now," Duguay told Business Insider. Because business across all industries has been changing so rapidly in recent years, he said, he instead looks for signals that the candidate is adaptable and curious.
"Tell me about your personal life."
"If you had to do it all over again, is there anything in the last five years you would do differently?"
"If you're not able to tell me five to 10 big mistakes you've done in the last five years, something's really wrong with you," Duguay said.
He likes to refer to these mistakes as "scars," and wants to see that a prospective leader is transparent about their mistakes and has drawn lessons from them.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you versus the person you want to be?"
Even though the role of chief executive officer requires confidence, it also requires someone who is humble enough to work with a board and delegate responsibilities to deputies, Duguay said.
When he got a chance to ask one of his personal heroes, Buddhist monk and Dalai Lama associate Matthieu Ricard, this question, Ricard responded with, "Oh, maybe a four out of 10." This was just further proof that a job candidate who smiled and gave "nine" as an answer was not someone he should be taking seriously.
"Tell me the exact reason why I should not hire you for the role."
Duguay saves this one for the end, and he said it often stops a candidate cold.
"Now I can see in their eyes 'Oh, do I tell him the truth, because maybe he doesn't know this? Those two flaws — and I really know they are my flaws — am I going to tell him? He's going to add them to this count of flaws ... Or do I just play that answer?'"
He's clearly not looking for an answer of the "My biggest flaw is that I work too hard" variety — and about half the people he interviews give something along those lines. Duguay wants to find someone who is self-assured to a degree where they can open themselves for a moment of vulnerability, rather than make the whole two-hour interview a demonstration of bravado. He wants to find someone comfortable with who they, and if that personality also fits with what the company needs, then they'll end up with the job.
"I think the key in this life is to be the same human beings you are with your partners in life with who you are at work. Otherwise, you're not authentic, you're trying to play a game to please your colleagues," Duguay said.
"So those are the questions I love to ask and very few people answer them properly. People don't know themselves."