Strategy & BizOps Guide


Strategy & Biz Ops fit interviews

What to expect in biz ops fit interviews, sample questions and insight into why they matter

Pedro Abreu, Sales Strategy & Operations at LinkedIn, ex-Gusto
Publishled: December 28, 2020

Employee fit is an increasingly important part of the recruiting process.

HBR explains it in detail but, in short, a good employee fit not only helps reduce turnover but also translates into higher performance in the role – a win-win situation for the company and employee.

This holds true for BizOps of course. Evaluating fit for a BizOps role is, by design, very specific – each company (and team) has its own unique concept of fit and ways to evaluate it in candidates.

Strategy & biz ops fit interviews: behavioral, leadership & culture

Nonetheless, there are usually three main areas assessed that fall under the "fit" bucket. These are behavioral, leadership, and culture fit. The interviews themselves might be called something else, or maybe there aren't specific interviews for each of these areas, but these are being assessed throughout the recruiting process.

Let's dive into more detail on each interview category.

Behavioral interview topics

Behavioral interviews focus on trying to assess how a candidate will do in specific scenarios. There are too many questions to list them all. Ultimately, any question can be considered behavioral since it's testing one's behavior directly or indirectly.

Nonetheless, since BizOps roles have significant exposure to senior leadership and execs, candidates need to exhibit a track record of success in 1) confidently forming and defending their opinions (on the spot) and 2) influencing others to socialize their point of view. Hence, the need to evaluate how a candidate will do across a vast range of situations.

The situations tend to take the following formats:

Communication ability

An example of this can be a presentation to a panel that follows a case/ homework assignment where the candidate is expected to share her findings (10-15min) and then open the floor for questions from the audience (15-20 min). Goal is to assess the candidate's communication skills and her ability to defend her ideas. Two to three people complete the panel (hiring manager, peer, and key stakeholder from another team are the typical culprits). Preparation is key. Asking the recruiter about the format, people who will be present, and general goal of the interview help to succeed.

Influence and persuasion

This can be an "in the moment" type of question. A candidate can be asked to "sell a pen" to the interviewer or as a follow up after a case to convince the interviewer of a proposed solution. Structured thinking, reasonable argumentation, and communication all come into play. It can also be related with a past example, such as when a candidate successfully changed the opinion of another person (or group).

Decision making process

Similar to persuasion, but related to a concrete problem where focus is on the candidate's line of thought to get to a decision (or solution) and how he communicates it in a short period of time (10-20mins). These questions can be specific to the company or industry ("what would you do to increase profits if you were the CEO?") or more intangible ("if you were the president of the US, how many Covid vaccines would you buy and why?"). But the goal is the same: to test the candidate's ability to break a problem into smaller pieces, assess his reasoning skills, and test how much he stands his ground/ is flexible in his recommendation.

Teamwork and collaboration

Teams are critical for high performance and it's key that a candidate demonstrates that she is a team player. This can be evident from one's resume, but it still might be put to a test. There are direct questions ("how did you handle a tough conversation?"), but what the candidate says outside of these questions is also important. Does she point fingers? Does she blame others or take responsibility for her mistakes? Indirect queues to how one works in a team environment is what the interviewer is looking for.

Overall, BizOps behavioral interviews can be very direct and specific and very easy to pinpoint what is being asked. But behavior assessment can be intangible too. The way one shows up, the comments one makes, the excitement (or lack of) one demonstrates all play a role in judging a candidate. Keeping this in mind is important for aspiring BizOps folks. Things will not always be obvious, and every moment is an opportunity to demonstrate fit.

Leadership potential

Members of BizOps teams are expected to lead. And leading can take many different forms.

It's not just about leading people. It's also about how one behaves, how one drives change, how one manages a project from beginning to end, and how one brings others along on the journey. It's also about one's values and drive.

In the interview process, it comes down to assessing if the candidate has the potential to be a leader or not.

How can this be assessed? Again, there are many different ways and not all have a direct question tied to it, but in general there are three areas of focus:

Overcoming difficulties

These can be personal or work-related. The goal is to understand how a candidate overcame a difficult situation and what were the learnings he took from it. How it was managed and what was learned are super important, but honesty is imperative. The last thing a candidate should try to do is to "enhance" a difficult situation just to make him look good. It's best to be open and true about it, which will resonate with the interviewer.

Generating excitement

Is the candidate able to get herself excited about the work that needs to be done and also able to excite others to get things moving? If a person can't get herself excited, then she won't be able to excite others. And if others aren't excited, then they're less likely to contribute in a meaningful way. Being curious is halfway to getting excited about things. A good way for a candidate to demonstrate excitement is showing genuine examples of curiosity.

Improvement mindset

Does the candidate look for opportunities to improve himself, his work, and the work of others? Does he think outside the box? Or does he accommodate to the status quo? Real examples within work or outside are good ones to bring to the table. Sharing a story of how a process redesign saved everyone x hours per week or how one started waking up early to exercise is a more tangible way than saying "I'm always looking for opportunities for improvement".

Culture fit

Culture fit is broader in scope than the other two areas. It looks to assess if the person aligns with the company's mission, values, and culture. These tend to be conducted by a person outside of the team so that there's less risk of hiring bias. Assessment on these comes down to five core questions:

  1. "Tell me about yourself": The typical three-min elevator pitch about what the interviewer should know about the candidate and why she's there. The key is to keep it short and concise. Practice makes perfection on this one - more tips on handling this one here.
  2. "Why this company": One thing that turns interviewers off is when a candidate has no idea about the company they're interviewing for. Luckily, most candidates that can't articulate "the why" don't get to this stage, but a good answer should empathize with the company's mission, vision, product, people or some other thing. The more personal it is the better.
  3. "Why this team/ role": Similar to the question above but with significant room to tie it to a candidate's career interests and goals.
  4. "What challenges you": Does the candidate go out of her comfort zone or avoid challenges? Can be work-related or personal, but the goal is the same: assess if a candidate is a go-getter or not.
  5. "What is not on your resume": What kind of person is the candidate, what does he do for fun, what are his hobbies, and so on. There's no right or wrong answer here. The interviewer is trying to get to know the candidate and build a full picture. Honesty is key once again.

Company and career fit

Despite what it seems, fit interviews are not a one-sided exercise. The candidate should also be evaluating if the company and the people he'll work with are a good fit for him and his goals.

Doing research ahead of the interviews, reading about the company's culture, speaking to other folks, asking questions to the interviewers are within a candidate's responsibility in order to judge if a company is a good fit or not. Plus, doing this research adds another advantage: it brings up questions about the business and products that can be asked at the end of interviews, which shows that the candidate thought about the business and is asking real and meaningful questions.

It's important to remember that being successful might be outside of a candidate's control. Even if a candidate does remarkably well during the fit interviews, she might still not get the job. That is because fit is very specific;it is dependent on what the company is looking for and, ultimately, varies according to who is making the call.

My final piece of advice: a candidate should prepare to the best of his abilities but should not be discouraged if for some reason he doesn't "fit" with a particular company. Good fit is a win-win situation, but only if both sides see it that way. Otherwise, even if all parties try to make it work, issues will surface down the road. It is better for everyone to acknowledge it early on and avoid a painful situation in the future.

P.S. Are you preparing for Strategy & BizOps interviews?

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