Peoplebox

16 Important Chief of Staff Interview Questions

All set to hire a Chief of Staff? Here are 16 questions that you must ask CoS candidates as a CEO before finalizing one.
Sagrika Mehta

Sagrika Mehta

Chief of Staff Interview Questions

Seeking help to curate the best Chief of Staff interview questions?

First of all, let me congratulate you on making the smartest decision of 2022 – hiring a Chief of Staff. Believe it or not, every CEO needs a Chief of Staff who can be the CEO’s right hand. 

But hiring a CoS can be tricky.

As this is a new role in the startup world, there is very little clarity on what exactly the Chief of Staff should do.

Hence the objective of your interview process should be to gain clarity on how the candidate can deliver on your expectations.

You will therefore need the right questions to ask in the Chief of Staff interview to spot the common skills/traits every CoS should possess.

In the below list, we have curated a list of Chief of Staff interview questions that can help you assess your COS candidate more objectively & effectively-

1How would you handle disagreements with the Senior Executive officers?

Why ask this question in a chief of staff interview?

Disagreements will occur in every field of work. While some conflicts can be avoided, some are inescapable. Thus your new Chief of Officers must know the right approach to deal with conflicts. 

Expected answer

As a COS I will first try to understand the nature of the conflict and nip it in the bud before the landslide starts.

I will encourage open communication and resolution where possible.

And if the situation demands, I will get to the crux of the matter and find a permanent solution to avoid any future flare-ups.

2What types of projects have you handled in your last position as chief of staff?

Why ask this question?

This Chief of Staff interview question will give you a chance to know the background of the candidate, their range of experience, the software they have used, experience in analyzing data, executive advising experience, alliances, and acquisition projects.

It will also give you insights into their area of expertise and comfort.

Expected answers

“In my previous position, I led many projects, most of which were product-based. I also carry experience in leading cross-departmental projects in the software sector. ”

3How would you ensure proper communication among the departments and with the key stakeholders of the organization?

Why ask this question?

COS is responsible for developing company-wide communications and correspondence. Information flow is a necessity for a CEO to succeed. And a great COS knows how to handle it. 

COS has to maintain and develop productive relationships with everyone in the organization including employees, stakeholders, investors, board members, leaders, etc.

Thus it’s important to understand how the candidate will ensure communication in your organization.

Expected answers

I ensure that clear and transparent communication is fostered among the team.

I focus on building effective relationships and bear information directly and precisely.

Chief of Staff INterview Questions

4What was the most difficult area of your previous position as chief of officers?

Why ask this question?

The role of COS is multi-faceted. From working the connecting thread between everyone including employees and key stakeholders to leading special projects,

CoS does everything to meet the company’s short-term and long-term goals. Thus it’s important to understand their weak points before hiring.

Expected answers

“ My to-do lists are as complex and diverse as the list of people I connect with every day as the CoS.

Ticking all the boxes in my to-list and constant multitasking can sometimes become difficult.

I always focus on having effective assistance and take expert advice and opinions to tackle such situations.”

5How would you like to define your relationship with your boss in your last position?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

CoS needs to work as a trusted adviser and a confidant to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Hence they need to share a close relation to function smoothly.

This question will help you get a hold of the expectations the candidate might have from you.

At the same time, you will get an idea about the kind of relationship the candidate has shared with his/her past employer.

Expected answers

“I believe the foundation of any relationship is trust, including my relationship with the boss. This has always been my key focus, even in my previous position.”

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6What role have you played in the strategic planning process in your past position?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

As a trusted advisor to the CEO, the chief of staff provides the executive management with well-researched and strategic information to help them make the best possible decisions for the company.

Expected answers

“In my past role, I invested time in reshaping the company’s varied strategies and decided on the kind of culture needed to succeed.” 

7How do you ensure proper communication while leading cross-departmental projects?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

Effective communication between different teams and departments is a crucial part of your company’s success.

Lack of which can directly affect your operations, resulting in misunderstandings, misalignments, and possible delays.

Thus, among other responsibilities, COS is responsible for creating and maintaining cross-departmental relationships- which is important for leadership success in your organization.

Expected answer

For effective communication among departments I prefer to choose the right communication tools, and leverage technology to the fullest.

I also encourage regular interactions among all departments. In my past role, I utilized a centralized employee dashboard for everyone to see any announcement or news shared.

Click here to read about how to Power-up Your First 90 days as a Chief of Staff

questions to ask in the chief of staff interview

8How do you plan to execute the goals set by the CEO and other executive staff?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

The Chief of Staff is the person who goes out and whips on behalf of the CEO to ensure their vision is realized.

Apart from acting as the communication arm for the CEO, the chief of staff monitors employees’ efficiency, and makes necessary adjustments, and takes the subsequent steps to execute the goals set by the office of the CEO.

Expected answer

“I focus on the 80/20 rule to work on goals within the given period of time.

I identify the priority tasks and list them in order of the time required to get them done. In my past role, I used to carry forward and implement the direction  I receive from the senior leaders.

I also gathered quantitative and qualitative evidence of project success and other aspects of the various processes to deliver needed corrections.” 

9How would you shape hiring policies and implement the best staff management practices?

Why ask this question?

A CoS needs to make time, information, and decision-making more effective by managing and nurturing human capital. 

They are responsible for hiring the candidate who fits in best with the team.

For this, he creates and posts job descriptions, goes through applications, contacts candidates, organizes interviews, filters the potential hires, and makes job offers to the most appropriate candidates. 

Expected answers

I would evaluate and analyze the current hiring practices and policies in the organization. I would also study the best practices of other organizations and try to learn from them.

I would analyze data and employee feedback to detect how existing hiring processes and policies are affecting employee retention, productivity, and culture in the company to make necessary changes whenever and wherever needed.

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10How would you reward and motivate employees as the CoS?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

In a research, 52% of employees were found performing without enthusiasm or care for their work.

Employee motivation has a direct relation with employee performance, engagement, and productivity.

Since CoS considers the needs of the whole enterprise by working across different departments, they need to understand the importance of reward and motivation in a workplace.

Expected answers

In my past role, I worked closely with the HR team and motivated team members by providing creative rewards Like- educational and career upgrading courses, coffee shop coupons, etc.

11Have you faced any situation where your ethics were tested? If yes, how did you respond?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

Ethics can have long-lasting positive effects on a company. A great COS would never compromise their ethics. A man of ethics fosters a positive atmosphere at the workplace.

They also have the ability to attract, build and maintain positive relations within the community. 

Expected answers

“I haven’t yet faced such a situation. But if a situation as such arises, I would stick to my ethical standards. And find other ways to deal with the issue.”

12In your most recent role, what kinds of problems have you tackled?

Why ask this question?

An effective COS is able to think ahead and catch problems before they arise. But in some cases, problems and conflicts are unavoidable and need to be handled sensitively and strategically.

This question will help you evaluate how the candidate deals with difficult situations, and their strategic ability to fight workplace problems. 

Expected answers

“Sometimes team members have differences in views. And keeping everyone on the same page can get difficult. Especially while leading a cross-departmental project.

I could foresee such a challenge coming. I, therefore, took help from experts in those particular fields in advance and encouraged transparency in communication so that everyone in the team feels heard.”

13How do you keep track of all important actions while delegating responsibilities to your team members?

Why ask this question?

CoS is responsible for Monitoring department goals and metrics. They need to be able to analyze data, have executive advising experience and detailed research for best practices in decision-making

Expected Answer

I have 6 years of experience in collecting information and analyzing data. Once I gather the information, I sort and select the best options to delegate responsibilities based on people’s experience and potential.

I leverage different tools to keep track of their performances and provide them recommendations and suggestions wherever needed.”

14Do you have any experience in organizing and managing a diverse group of people for a project?

Why ask this question?

Diversity and Inclusion are what salt and spices are for an Indian curry.

Especially now when companies are going remote or hybrid remote and employees are working from different time zones, cultures, and areas of the globe.

Inclusion gives diversity the right direction and A CoS must be able to cater to these needs.

Expected Answer

The COVID-19 pandemic has given me the opportunity to lead teams with people from different parts of the world. I got to work with people of diverse cultures and people with differences in perspectives.

I was also responsible for designing and executing strategies of inclusion across the organization and encouraging diversity within the teams.”

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15What was your role in achieving your company’s high-level goals?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

The CoS also acts as the head of business development. They are also seen taking the roles of chief strategy officer and sometimes the chief transformation officer.

They play a crucial role in communicating and making high-level goals into action plans. They need to have the ability to fix conflicts, mediate disagreements, and deal with issues before any disaster can happen.

Click here to read about Spoken and Unspoken Responsibilities in Chief of Staff Role in 2022

Expected Answer

“In my past roles, I took some major decisions and implemented strategies that turned goals into action.

I have worked as a communicator and decision-maker to implement the visions of senior executives across the company. I also rely on data and metrics to track goals, possible issues, and areas of improvement throughout the course of action.”

16Do you have experience in coaching or mentoring a staff member, and if so, what was the impact?

Why include this in the chief of staff interview questions?

This question has made it to this list because Chiefs of staff also function as executive coaches in the organization. 

Expected Answer:

“Yes, I have coached and monitored staff members before as a CoS in my last position.

I helped them reach their full potential and utilize their skills to the fullest with my coaching.

Some of them have already climbed the ladder with multiple promotions and some others are preparing themselves for better positions in the future.”

Conclusion

With these interview questions for the chief of staff position, you are now ready to choose the best Chief of Staff for your organization. Leverage these chiefs of staff interview questions to spot the skills, abilities, and experience you are looking for in your Chief of Staff. Expected answers will give you an idea of what answers to expect from the candidate. 

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