Have you ever wondered how other industry leaders interview and select amazing talent? Do you wonder what it takes to get to the highest levels of your organization?

During this year’s Global Best Practices Conference pre-conference Workforce Symposium, Lou Kaucic (CEO & Founder, Coaches Collective International) chaired a panel with Jennifer Hartley (VP of PeopleWorks, Chili’s), Carin Stutz (President, McAlister’s Deli), and Lon Ledwith (EVP Operations, BJ’s Restaurants Inc.) Read on for great insights – and potential interview questions – from these industry leaders.

What’s a classic mistake you made in your career that you’d love to warn others about?

— Not giving the people you’re talking to your attention.
— Retaining people for too long. Businesses change a lot, especially with private equity in the mix. You don’t always have the time to develop people, so it’s critical that you have talented people who are ready to contribute immediately.
— Don’t just be a functional expert; instead, be a business partner. A visitor should be confused as to who’s in marketing, HR, finance, etc. Look at your business from an interdisciplinary approach.

What comes first in the deepest part of your heart: employees, customers or shareholders?

— Employees always come first. If we embrace them and let them lean into their strengths they can deliver for shareholders and customers.
— It’s always a challenge to reconcile these factors when a company is pushed for better shareholder returns. Invest in learning and education so your employees have the knowledge to succeed. It’s hard to risk that expense, but it becomes easier when you find smart and passionate people with great ideas.

What’s the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made in your career?

— Sending out a blast email when you thought it was going to one recipient. For example, sending a proposed offer letter to a regional team instead of to the candidate.
— Being the President of BJs and saying, “I’m glad to be here at Chili’s” at your first major meeting at BJs.

What’s the biggest misconception others had about you or your career?

— People find me intimidating. I’m not a big extrovert so I have to work hard on it. With respect to our business, there’s a misconception that BJ’s is just a pizza place.
— People think I’m taller than I really am. I wish they thought I was younger!
— I bring my whole self to work. I’m an introvert and tried to be loud and boisterous but I messed up my metaphors.

How important has networking and establishing relationships across brands been to you in your career?

— I wouldn’t be in my position today if it wasn’t for people I’ve met through the Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) Global Best Practices Conference. Come to events like this to build your network. That’s how individuals find positions today.
— How many people will be in the room to make a decision to promote you? How many people do you think will support your decision? Of those 7 people, how many have you sought out in the last year to ask them your opinion on something you’re working on? And vice versa? What makes you think that anyone is even thinking about you for that position? Establish relationships, talk about goals, and explain why you want that position
— It’s very rewarding to help people out when you can. I’m not good at meeting new people, but my small network is a critical support system.
— I’m an omnivert (sometimes I pull back). Take a little bite out of networking. Tell yourself that you’re going to meet two people today. Break the ice by saying, “I wanted to meet a few people tonight, and you look like an interesting person.” Tell yourself that you’re going to meet some new friends. You’ll be amazed by the quality of people you’ll meet.

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1f8e46dLiz D’Aloia is the founder of HR Virtuoso, a mobile recruiting company based in Dallas, TX. She is an HR professional, employment attorney, speaker, and blogger. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso Liz worked at national transportation companies and at a global retailer. Connect with Liz on LinkedIn and follow her at @hrvirtuoso.