Key Account Managers are above and beyond the ordinary. When you are interviewing potential talent for your team, be sure to ask questions specific to a KAM’s leadership role at your firm. Why? The best KAMs have qualities of a leader, even if they aren’t one in the company.
Do you interview future KAMs in your company? Learn five questions that could help you determine if a prospective KAM is worthy of managing your most valued clients. Don’t make the mistake of asking generic interview questions. Those are too predictable, and thus will only produce predictable answers.
What are three emerging trends in (your firm’s) industry?
If you stump your candidate with this one, the interview is already over. A solid KAM is an ardent researcher and meticulously prepared. Your ideal candidate should leave you coming away from the interview better informed about your industry. Bonus points if the candidate is familiar with your key clients and the trends making news in their market environments.
How do you manage stress while at the office?
This is a fairly broad question, yes. Short of the candidate telling you about her collection of engraved flasks, there are few wrong answers, and many angles from which to approach the topic. The bottom line with this question is that your future KAM needs to have a way to manage stress that works best for him. For the job, it’s not a matter of if they will endure stress, but when.
The following are a samples of responses that indicated healthy self-care and self-awareness skills:
- “I’m not afraid to take a deep breath and excuse myself for a moment to cool down.”
- “Sometimes stress is due to a misunderstanding. I’ll reach out to the other person, state how I interpreted the situation and ask if that matches their perspective.”
- “I might review my strategies and organization practices and find out what isn’t working. For me, stress is a byproduct of chaos.”
When is it wrong to put others before yourself?
You want to know if your potential KAM has healthy personal boundaries and is savvy with time management. You don’t want your new team member to burn out from going overkill in his first few months. This question will likely put the interviewee off guard for a moment, but his comeback should not make you regard him as a doormat with a tie. An ideal candidate will convey aptitude for balancing client needs, your firm’s goals, and his own ability to be realistic about his limits.
With what personality types do you find it difficult to share an office, or to do business?
No sane or honest person will ever answer, “Oh, I get along with everybody.” As the interviewer, you are responsible for finding a candidate who is compatible with your company culture and with your Key Account contacts. A confident KAM candidate will be honest and open with her answer because she knows that “difficult” doesn’t mean “impossible”, and that her candid response will ensure that, should she be hired, she is matched with compatible clients.
What are your three favorite productivity tools, and why?
Organization skills are paramount to the success of a KAM, and the candidate should quickly be able to identify at least three methods of keeping track of customer accounts. Ideally, the named tools should be applications or software. Wall calendars and bound day planners are nice, but a good KAM should be able to share information with associates and backups at the touch of a button.
Does your candidate mention metrics? Analysis? Market research? He should indicate that his toolbox allows him to stay informed of both your firm’s markets and your clientele’s industry and overall goals.
When interviewing a new KAM, you should act like a KAM. Use your listening skills to get a sense of how the candidate is responding to questions. His answers will tell you as much through body language and demeanor as they do with words.
Be sure to humanize the experience. A more casual approach to the interview will help you determine what drives the candidate in his career and in his personal life and will encourage a dialogue that helps you explore the potential KAM’s personality. The more you know about the candidate—as with your Key Account contacts—the better you can position him for success as a strategic partner.
Finally, as with your clients, you reap what you sow. Diligence in asking the right questions of your candidate, and listening for the entire spectrum of their answers, will help you find the right fit for your firm and your Key Accounts.