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.
Why Cowen Partners Is a Top Executive Recruiting Firm Across the U.S.
A chief operating officer oversees the daily operations of a company, with duties that can vary widely between businesses. As the right hand of the CEO, the COO usually exists to take the everyday management tasks and general operation details off of the CEO’s shoulders. That can let CEOs focus on big-picture needs, strategies, and solutions.
To be a great COO, a chief oeprating officer needs to possess these unique skills and qualities:
Adaptability: A chief operating officer’s ability to adapt to new responsibilities and situations is always a major benefit, as the COO role can be ever-changig as businesses ebb, flow, and evolve.
Meticulous Focus: Attention to detail is a COO characteristic that can help keep everyone on-task and inline with company deadlines. It’s also how the great COOs managed the finer details while keeping all plates spinning so businesses can achieve their goals.
Being A Team Player: A great COO understands running a business is a team effort. That’s because the best COOs will work closely with the CEO and the managing heads of various departments while regularly checking in with various teams to ensure production is running smoothly.
A Data-Driven Mindset: 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.
Resilience: A top COO will be able to face difficult situations and quickly recover from any setbacks or failures the company experiences.
As the nation’s best COO search firm, Cowen Partners enables companies to harness the power of human capital to fuel their success. Cowen Partners gives our clients access to the top 1% of human capital to create opportunities that accelerate their growth and market share. With Cowen Partners, clients can grow at scale, create value, and drive results with world-class talent.
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