Two people interviewing in professional setting.
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters:

No matter what industry you’re in, compliance oversights can set a business back in more ways than lost time: they can be costly and generate negative PR—and correcting them can require transformational changes in behavior. As a result, compliance is often a crucial aspect of the role of an operational specialist.

What to listen for:

  • Lessons learned—and processes put in place—out of past compliance-related oversights.
  • Industry-specific rules and regulations that can trip up an otherwise buttoned-up team.
  • Examples of how the candidate’s work supported day-to-day compliance.

 

Why this matters:

Operational specialists often collaborate with many different groups of people, including management teams, employees, vendors, contractors, and others inside and outside your organization. In doing so, they represent your brand, so it’s important to feel confident that this candidate will maintain a high degree of professionalism and be able to collaborate effectively.

What to listen for:

  • Proven interpersonal skills—the candidate should be able to find common ground with people from various backgrounds.
  • A vested interest in stakeholder satisfaction and in developing long-term relationships. 
  • Great candidates will place an emphasis on strong communication.

Why this matters:

While daily operations look extremely different across industries and settings, the operational specialist’s goals remain constant: coordinate with teams to ensure a streamlined production flow across departments, functions, and timelines. Your future operational specialist should be able to demonstrate their excellent organizational skills, knack for team building, and familiarity with relevant compliance standards.

What to listen for:

  • Look for an emphasis on communication with team members—a process is only as good as the training provided to the people who follow it.
  • Evidence that the candidate is familiar with safety and compliance standards that pertain to your industry.

Why this matters:

A key challenge for this position lies in balancing empathy with effectiveness. This question can help you evaluate the candidate’s people skills, empathy, and ability to handle conflict, small and large. Does the candidate understand the need for setting expectations for employee conduct? Do they show a willingness to motivate employees and help them improve?

What to listen for:

  • Listen for a conflict management style that matches the way your company or organization handles conflicts.
  • A great candidate will emphasize the importance of clarity and calmness when things are tense.
  • Observe the candidate’s attitude. Do they show empathy?

Why this matters:

An operational specialist can be tasked with making strategic improvements to day-to-day operations: simplifying and perhaps automating processes, increasing accuracy and consistency, keeping staff spirits high, and improving margins. This question gives you a snapshot into the candidate’s history and experience, and allows them to showcase work they’re proud of.

What to listen for:

  • Strong candidates will show an eagerness for spotting areas of opportunity throughout their organizations.
  • Demonstrated experience in streamlining processes and facilitating work.
  • Pride in their impact on the bottom line. 

 

Why this matters:

Operational specialists are often responsible for helping to interview and hire new employees. This question should highlight their experience with hiring, as well as reveal their approach when it comes to screening and evaluating candidates for their skills, their experience, and their cultural fit.

What to listen for:

  • If the candidate has experience with hiring, then listen for a compelling approach to evaluating candidates.
  • How much does the candidate value hard skills and soft skills?
  • See if the candidate places an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

 

Why this matters:

Operational specialists often have to work on complicated, high-level projects with many moving parts, including a mix of tools, teams, and timelines. Your ideal candidate will understand the need for top-notch organization and communication to better coordinate both the human and technical elements of the work.

What to listen for:

  • Look for the candidate’s ability to solve problems and proactively respond to challenges.
  • Listen for a knack for project management, including deadline orientation, exceptional organizational skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Why this matters:

An operational specialist often implements new tools to help improve your internal processes and your workflow. They must have a firm grasp on the key challenges of your industry, and a forward-thinking approach, as they recognize areas of opportunity within your organization.

What to listen for:

  • A willingness to deepen their knowledge and understanding.
  • Openness to new methods and technologies—and a sense of initiative in finding them.
  • Evidence that they’ve already thought about how they can use tools or knowledge from past experiences to advance your organization.

Why this matters:

To solve problems and get input about day-to-day, on-the-ground issues, your operational specialist needs to be comfortable working both independently and in close collaboration with others. This requires a strong understanding of the importance of teamwork, and the ability to leverage the skills of others to successfully drive projects to completion.

What to listen for:

  • Great answers will place an emphasis on communication and collaboration.
  • Candidates should be able to honestly evaluate their contributions, and credit their colleagues where due.