The chief operating officer (COO) is a senior executive tasked with overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business. The COO typically reports directly to the chief executive officer (CEO) and is considered to be second in the chain of command.
Best Questions to Ask a COO in an Interview
These 100+ questions cover everything you can and should ask COO candidates to determine who has the experience, skills, and background to serve as the best fit for your company’s next chief operating officer.
COO Job Opportunity Questions
Do they understand the job opportunity and the company?
Are they asking intelligent questions about the job and the job opportunity?
What appeals to them about this particular opportunity and what do they bring to table?
What value will they immediately add to the company? How will their experience benefit this company?
What does their compensation history look like and does this opportunity make sense from a financial perspective? If not, why would they take a pay cut? (No one ever wants to take a pay cut no matter they tell you and they must prove to you logically why it makes sense.)
Does the commute work for them and have they had a similar commute for many years? Check to see how long they lasted the last time their commute was this long. (No one wants to drive farther regardless of what they tell you and again it is one them to prove to you why they would do that.)
What concerns do they have about moving forward in the process and is there anything that would keep them from being interested in the opportunity at this point? Do they have questions for you and/or anything else they would like to share with you?
COO Job History Interview Questions
Is the candidate currently employed full time?
What is their reason for considering a new opportunity?
What are their reasons for movement over the last several years?
Specifically, what made them leave each position and move to the next one?
Does the candidate have good tenure in each of their last few positions?
Have they progressed nicely in their career into higher level roles?
COO Interview Questions: Communication Skills
Do they communicate extremely well?
Are they high energy?
Do they speak loud and clearly or are they timid and reserved?
Are they more introverted or extroverted?
Do they make you pull questions out of them or do they explain their ideas fully, take cues from you, listen at the right time and speak at the right time?
Do they speak English fluently, smoothly and eloquently?
Is it easy to understand what they are saying, and do they make sense when they are talking to you without you having to put effort into understanding them?
Do they talk too much, or are they overbearing?
Do they say things that are politically incorrect?
Do they speak abrasively or harshly?
Do they speak negatively about a former employer or co-worker?
Are they likeable and were you able to develop good rapport with them?
Best COO Personality Questions
Are they irritated, or do you sense any frustration when you ask them to explain things detail or ask them difficult questions?
Do they stay positive and embrace the questions or do they seem distant, cold, short, frustrated, or irritated with you for asking them?
Situational Questions Specific to the Opportunity
Describe a time when you made a bad decision that impacted your team in a negative way and what the outcome was
Tell me about a time that you and a board member got into an argument about a capital spending project
What was one project you never got finished for the President/CEO and how did you feel about that?
Chief Operating Officer Industry Experience Questions
What is the single biggest problem that you see in operations departments, either external or your own?
How does their experience align with the position you are recruiting on? Do they have experience within the same industry?
Have they been at companies that are the same size or larger than the current opportunity you are presenting to them?
Is there anything relevant to this position that they haven’t done and if so how will they get up to speed quickly and overcome those challenges? Have they faced this situation in the past?
Do they meet all requirements on the job description? Ask them which areas they are stronger in and which areas they are weaker in and then ask for specific examples of their experience.
Are you excited about them when you get off the phone or out of the interview with them?
What would their references say about them?
What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Elaborate…
COO Professional Accomplishment Questions
What is an example of a successful implementation you have made towards efficiency?
What Are Your 3 Biggest Accomplishments?
How do you think the company will change in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? How did you handle it?
How have they contributed to the bottom-line growth in previous companies? Specifically, what steps were taken to increase annual revenues? Improve EBITDA? Add locations?
What are some examples of improvements that have made?
Increased efficiencies by implementing new ways of doing things?
Have they increased profits? How?
Have they increased growth? How?
Have they cut costs? How?
Best COO Interview Questions: Management Style & Experience
Tell me about your last/ current team, structure, numbers, etc.
What is was your production measurement in your last job?
Have they managed a group of people about the same size or larger?
What is their management style and would their employees have good things to say about them?
Do they lead with an iron first or is it more of a respect situation where they are a natural leader and people want to follow them? Give specific examples.
Are they a hands-on manager? Give examples.
Are they willing to get down in the trenches, roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes? What would their employees say about them? What would their supervisors say about them?
How do they feel about working overtime or coming in on weekends?
Do they leave at 5:00pm every day? Do they leave at 6:00pm every day?
How do they handle having too much to do?
How do they prioritize their workload?
How do they do in a stressful chaotic environment?
How do they deal with difficult people?
Are they able separate their emotions from situations that are challenging and are they able to respond in a cool, calm, collective way?
Do they like to understand the details behind every process or are they a higher-level manager who likes to manage from a distance relying upon their staff? How do they stay sharp and up to date if others are completing tasks for them?
Are they heavier on the accounting side or the finance side and if so what will they do to make up for their weakness on the weaker side?
Are they proactive in their execution? Do they constantly look for news of doing things, increasing efficiencies, cutting costs and producing more, etc. What new ideas will they bring to the table?
Are they more of heads down accountant or more of a higher energy outgoing individual?
How do they handle difficult staff and how do you determine how much time to spend mentoring them before letting them go?
How do they build relationships with other team members, investors, employees, board members and is there a difference in how you interact?
Questions about Private Equity/ Venture Capital/ IPO/ SEC
Do they have significant capital raise experience, and do they bring a book of business with them?
How extensive is their network of contacts should the company find itself in a position of need to raise additional funds?
Do they have private equity/ venture capital experience, where/ when?
Cowen Partners has a strong record of identifying and recruiting Chief Operating Officers for public, private and non-profit organizations. Contact us if you would like to discuss recruiting an exceptional COO for your company.
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Everyone knows the major role a CEO plays in a company, but fewer people understand the significance of a COO. A chief operating officer is typically in charge of the daily operations of a company, and the duties required of this role can vary widely between businesses. The COO role is often seen as the right hand of the CEO, and the position usually exists to alleviate everyday management tasks from the CEO’s shoulders. With the general operation details designated to a COO, the CEO has more time to dedicate to big-picture aspects of the business, like long-term strategy and efficiency solutions.
The COO can be a vital role to any company but what exactly makes a great COO? The various roles played by a COO are so numerous and ever-changing that companies need to find a true chameleon to fill the position. If you’re hiring for a COO, you’ll likely be looking for a candidate with a unique set of skills that set this leader apart from the rest of the group. Below are a set of attributes you can find in an excellent COO and ones you should look for when interviewing for the role in your own company.
The role of a COO is often changing and evolving as the business ebbs and flows, which is why a top COO needs to know how to adapt to various situations and strategies. The COO can also play a variety of roles within a company from the executor of business strategy or managing a major organizational change to simply complementing the skills and experience of the CEO. Whatever role the COO is initially brought into play in your company, the ability to adapt to new responsibilities and situations will be a major benefit.
A COO needs to handle the day-to-day operations of a business, but they also need to understand how those small details impact the larger business strategy. Attention to detail is one characteristic that will help a COO keep everyone on-task and inline with company deadlines. People who are less detail-oriented might understand the big picture of your company but will have a harder time keeping all of the plates spinning as the finer details of running a business are lost.
“Team Player” Attitude
A great COO understands running a business is a team effort. In most cases, the COO is not only working closely with the CEO but is also managing heads of various departments and regularly checking in with various teams to ensure production is running smoothly. A true team player COO will smoothly work alongside the company CEO, complementing his/her work style and skillset. Further, a great COO will understand the value of credit and praise to other managers, supervisors, and teams within the company. A COO who can acknowledge the hard work others put into the company will be able to build employee loyalty and increase employee satisfaction.
Every company needs at least one person in the c-suite to be a data-driven leader. It’s too easy for people to get carried away by “instinct” or a “gut feeling.” For a business to be really successful, decisions need to be based on data-driven information proving which choice is the best option. A COO with a data-driven mindset is the voice of reason when board members are trying to push an initiative based on business politics or mere hunches. By requesting data-backed evidence for a proposal, a great COO can redirect a company’s investments toward more worth-while projects.
A COO role isn’t for the faint of heart. This position is second in command of the company and will require a strong leader to successfully manage the job. Business deals, strategies, partnerships, and various other aspects of business do not always go smoothly. When the company hits a bump in the road, you need a leader who can navigate the situation with professionalism and start looking for solutions to the problem. A top COO will be able to face difficult situations and quickly recover from any setbacks or failures the company experiences.
Demand for capable COOs is growing as the role of the CEO becomes more and more complex. Companies need someone who can balance out the CEO position by bringing a wider skill set to the table and lightening the responsibility of upper-level management. The value of the position should not be underestimated, and if you’re looking to add a position to the c-suite of your company, a COO role is an excellent option.
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