Questions To Dig Deeper In Interviews with Puja Agrawal

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This is a podcast episode titled, Questions To Dig Deeper In Interviews with Puja Agrawal. The summary for this episode is: <p>Today on the podcast, Matt chats with Puja Agrawal about how to go deeper in executive interviews. Tune in to get tips for interviewing senior leaders, and learn what Puja means when she talks about looking for attitude over aptitude.&nbsp;</p>
😊 Attitude over aptitude
01:46 MIN
Mastering Senior Executive Interviews: A Strategy for Success
02:33 MIN
❓ Puja's favorite question to learn about someone's strategic chops
01:14 MIN
👂 Key things to listen for from candidates
02:08 MIN

Intro: Welcome to the Daily Bolster. Each day we welcome transformational executives to share their real world experiences and practical advice about scaling yourself, your team, and your business.

Matt Blumberg: Welcome to The Daily Bolster. I'm Matt Blumberg, co- founder and CEO of Bolster, and I'm here today with Puja Agrawal. Puja is a SaaS and FinTech executive. She's an independent board member. She is an advisor to CEOs in enterprise software and has spent a lot of time in her career on transformational growth. Puja, great to see you.

Puja Agrawal: Great to see you, Matt. Thanks for having me.

Matt Blumberg: Yeah, my pleasure. So the theme of our last conversation was around navigating uncertain times and advice you give to CEOs around that. And I want to build on that today by talking about interviewing senior executives, and in particular how you interview people when you're trying to rebuild a team, you're doing some kind of transformation, you're navigating choppy waters, you may have to replace people, et cetera. So how do you think about your top interview questions when hiring senior executives?

Puja Agrawal: Sure. And we all know, right people make or break any business. So that's one of the most important things we do as leaders. And when hiring senior roles, we all know that it's really important to get a multidimensional view on the candidate. So as much as possible, I like to see people in person over a casual setting. It might be lunch, coffee, dinner, so we can really talk to the person and get to really understand who they are. I emphasize less on the what, because that can be misleading during the interview process. But I like to really understand more on how they get things done, how did they get to this point? What's their life story? What's been their full journey, right? Because you really want to get a full view and a picture into the person. In our industry, we focus a lot on EQ and IQ, and those are extremely important. However, I believe that the person with the right attitude, grit, the drive, the passion, the courage, those people can really achieve extraordinary results. So for me, I always emphasize attitude over aptitude. And in terms of the types of questions that I like to ask, I like more of the behavioral and bigger picture questions because again, it really gives you an insight into the full person and not getting into specifics about just a role. And one of my favorites is this one I picked up from a mentor of mine a few years back, and I love this question. So this is appropriate once you've had a few discussions with a candidate where they understand the opportunity and they have a good view of the situation that they're coming into. So the question goes something like this, let's imagine that you come here and all of you people are fired, you have unlimited budget, and you have full liberty to make all the decisions and set the plans as you wish. What will you do? What will be your plan for the business? How will you go about achieving it? And I love that question because it really gives you a big complete view into the person and their thinking and how they're going to go about doing things, hopefully both at a strategic level and also at an execution level.

Matt Blumberg: What are you listening for? What are the key one or two things you're listening for with that question? So it's an interesting question, right? It's a situation that's not really going to happen, but it does say like, Hey, if you had a clean slate, what would the game plan be? So what are the couple things you're listening for?

Puja Agrawal: So based on the answers, one thing that you're going to learn is, and it depends on the job you're hiring for and what you need, of course, yeah. But something you're listening for is are they going to be incremental change drivers or are they going to be transformational? Are they people that like to play safe or are they people that are going to go big and bold? That's one of the things. The other thing that you're listening for is are they the kind of people that can think big and can lay out a bigger vision beyond what you have today? Because ideally you want bring people that are going to take you higher levels than where you are now, right? So I mean, it's not really a right or wrong answer because you're also kind of having them give you this answer on the spot and what did they think? Sometimes I'll actually give this question ahead of time and I'll say, you know what? Think about it. And then in our next meeting, let's talk about it. Or I'd love for you to share a plan because then you actually give them an opportunity to really think and then see the picture that they bring.

Matt Blumberg: That's an interesting technique because I can imagine a really good executive and potentially even a transformational one, not being able to articulate a full blank slate plan on the spot, but with the benefit of even a couple hours of thought could do that. So that's a really interesting question to ask. And I think you're right. I think it gives you a window into lots of aspects of a candidate. So thank you very much for sharing that with us today, Puja, and good to see you.

Puja Agrawal: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Matt.


Today on the podcast, Matt chats with Puja Agrawal about how to go deeper in executive interviews. Tune in to get tips for interviewing senior leaders, and learn what Puja means when she talks about looking for attitude over aptitude.