When hiring a Communications Director, you are entrusting that person to manage the public image of your company. A strong candidate will have a proven track record of working closely with management teams and executives to shape a company’s communications strategies, and implementing those strategies in a timely and effective manner. The role is an integral part of a company’s efforts to distinguish itself from its competitors.
An ideal Communication Director candidate will be a highly energetic advocate for your company, bringing essential tools of the trade such as exceptional written skills, powerful public speaking abilities, a sharp strategic mind, and a high resiliency to stress. Look for a holistic and creative thinker who can quickly grasp a complex situation, assess all variables, entertain possible solutions or appropriate courses of conduct, and project all potential outcomes.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Communications Director interview questions to help you get started:
How do you build and maintain relationships with medial professionals?
What you want to hear: To be an effective Communications Director a candidate must have extensive connections within the media community. Listen for specifics about how your candidate approaches networking and staying current with the media players on the field. The candidate should discuss venues, events and other locations they frequent to circulate with the media, efforts they make to stay in contact with high value journalists and other industry professionals, and software programs they run to keep all of their contact information organized.
Tell me about a crisis management success story that you directed.
What you want to hear: Crisis management is a central part of the Communications Director job. An experienced candidate should respond enthusiastically to this question with an interesting and insightful story. You want to hear about the nature of the crisis, the potential exposure for the company, the variables your candidate assessed, the solutions they considered, and the outcome achieved. Look for clarity in the story-telling, creativity in the thinking, and the means by which they measured success.
What are your thoughts on deception and integrity in communications?
What you want to hear: Communications is often a balancing act between truthtelling and deception. It takes an experienced Communications Director to design and implement strategies that protect a company’s image and brand while staying within the lanes of honesty and morality. Look for a candidate who understands this delicate balance and can discuss how they might navigate theoretical situations.
Red flag: A candidate who strategizes solutions based solely on one philosophy or the other – truthtelling or deception – may not possess the level of nuanced thinking required to be effective in the role, and as a result may do serious damage to the public perception of your company.
How do you handle a situation where you and an executive team member have a difference of opinion on strategy?
What you want to hear: A Communications Director is hired for their expertise in their field. That means they should have the deepest and broadest knowledge base in the room when it comes to awareness of available options and potential outcomes. However, it does not mean that the Communications Director knows more about the company and brand than anyone else. An experienced Communications Director will discuss the importance of considering a range of ideas while also not being quick to fold when their opinion is met with some resistance.
Red flag: A candidate who doesn’t consider all opinions, or who doesn’t show confidence in their abilities and opinions, or appears to be a pushover when it comes to defending a position, may not have the leadership skills required to drive your company’s communications efforts.
We have a team of young talent in our communications department. What is your style of leadership?
What you want to hear: To be effective in the role, a Communications Director must pair industry experience with excellent leadership skills. Listen for a candidate who can effortlessly discuss how they would manage a team. For example, the candidate may talk about introductory meetings in one-on-one and group settings; skills assessments to identify individual and team strengths and weaknesses; approaches to goal-setting and mentorship; techniques for motivation, morale building, and conflict resolution; and tools for measuring advancement and productivity.
Red flag: Strong leadership is critical for ensuring the smooth operations of your communications department. The team’s efforts must be well orchestrated to ensure accurate information flow internally and externally, and be ready at all times to swing into crisis management mode. A Communications Director who does not have the requisite leadership skills is a high risk for causing harm to your company’s reputation and image.
How would you handle a communications campaign that doesn’t go as expected?
What you want to hear: A qualified Communications Director will explain that the purpose of a communications campaign is to use the media, messaging, and a set of communications activities to inform or persuade a large number of individuals in a specified period of time. Further, the nature of a campaign is such that there are many variables and it is therefore essential to anticipate unexpected outcomes and have contingency plans at the ready. Listen for a candidate who can articulate this basic premise clearly, and who can illustrate their understanding with a specific example of an incident from past experience.
Red flag: A candidate who does not appear to thrive in an environment of uncertainty is not well-suited for the role of Communications Director. A failure to be nimble in responding to events in real time, especially when the events deviate from an established plan, can be highly destructive to the communications goals of your organization.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Communications Director position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Can be entrusted with the public image of your company
- Are holistic and creative thinkers
- Have a vast network of media contacts