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Squadron Command Team
Nomination & Hiring Guide

Overview

Overview: Airmen are the Air Force’s competitive advantage. Command Teams have the primary responsibility to promote and safeguard the morale, physical well-being, and general welfare of Airmen under their command. With this indispensable responsibility, it is essential the Air Force selects only the right Airmen for these positions. In addition to conducting a thorough review of a candidate’s performance records and considering recommendations from functional communities, nomination and/or hiring authorities should conduct candidate interviews and reference checks to obtain input from diverse perspectives and gain a more clear and accurate understanding of the candidate’s behaviors and leadership attributes before candidates are nominated and/or hired to be on command teams. 

Interviews: Nomination and/or hiring authorities should conduct interviews to ensure candidates are best equipped to lead in alignment with Air Force values. Interviews are an important tool to build awareness beyond what is offered in performance reports, and help stakeholders identify and advance transformative leaders who embody the Airman Leadership Qualities. The most effective interviews are well-prepared in advance and deliberately assess candidates on specific values or competencies. Structured interviews ensure all candidates have an equal opportunity to provide information and are assessed accurately and consistently. All candidates will be asked the same questions and allotted the same amount of time to answer. All candidates will be evaluated using a common rating scale. Nomination and hiring candidates will be made without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), religion, national origin, or other non-merit factors prohibited by statutes and regulations.

Reference Checks: Nomination and/or hiring authorities should conduct reference checks with candidates’ previous supervisors, peers, and supervisees to create a full picture of the candidate’s behaviors while performing previous duties. The combination of observations from multiple sources creates the most clear and accurate understanding of the candidate and helps predict future success. Reference checks give more than just the candidate’s hard skills, but also communicate if they have the right soft skills for Command Team authority and responsibility. Questions for the reference checks should be open-ended, relevant to Command Team positions, and elicit responses regarding both strengths and weaknesses. Reference checks can also screen for values, opinions, and actions taken to advance diversity, equity, inclusivity, belonging; and leader attributes needed to maintain a unit climate free from sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Until myEval 2.0 matures and can produce readily accessible peer/subordinate/supervisor rating chain data, nomination and/or hiring authorities should contact the candidate’s documented previous supervisors to start the reference process and request the candidate’s supervisors provide contact information for peer/subordinate references. Although this is a laborious process, gaining access to non-candidate provided references is vital to capture clear data and understanding of the candidate’s behaviors and performance in duties.

Feedback: Nomination authorities have a responsibility to provide feedback to Command Team candidates regardless of nomination results. The nomination authority should provide developmental feedback, materials, and coaching tools as part of their nomination process, especially if any potentially derailing leadership behaviors surfaced. The attached listing identifies specific resources available to address common reasons for leader derailment. For more resources, visit MyVector.

Sample Interview Questions

Start the interview with professional introductions. Set expectations for process and agenda. The interview should include 3-5 questions (last about 30-60 mins) and provide candidate opportunity to ask questions/provide closing remarks. All candidates should be asked the same questions. Effective interviews require preparation. As the candidate responds, take notes and assess the responses immediately following the interview.
Questions
Integrity Sometimes we have to weigh the costs of being truthful about an issue against the costs of staying silent. Describe a time when you faced a difficult decision about whether to speak up and tell the truth or stay silent.
Integrity Despite your best efforts, you completed a task incorrectly. No one knows about your role in the situation, but it’s clear that others have been negatively impacted. Taking responsibility could increase frustration levels and will not fix the problems. Describe your thought process in determining if and how you would act in this situation.
Integrity A colleague submits a report to leadership that contains some inaccurate data. You are part of the team that prepared that report, and you agree with your colleague that the errors are minor and don’t impact the recommendations. Your colleague agrees to take responsibility if anyone notices the mistakes. Describe your thought process in determining if and how you would act in this situation.
Integrity  (Courage) Throughout history, many leaders have convinced others to take action based on an idea that initially had little support. Describe a time when you had to persuade others to adopt an approach or idea that was not popular.
Integrity  (Courage) On a command team you can expect to make tough decisions that affect others. Tell me about a time when you had to make an important decision that had a significant impact on you or others. How did you approach making the decision?
Service Before Self (Loyalty) A senior leader has just announced that a new organizational strategy is being implemented which will dramatically change how your team operates. You and your teammates disagree with the new strategy and feel the organization is headed in the wrong direction. Describe how you would handle this situation.
Service Before Self (Duty) Your team is tasked with a challenging yet undesirable task. You know you will face resistance from team members, yet the team must come together to successfully complete the work. How would you handle this situation?
Service Before Self (Respect) We often work with team members who may not share the same backgrounds or perspectives. Describe a time when you leveraged the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of your team members to positively impact the mission.
Excellence (Discipline) Fulfilling our obligations is not always easy. Tell me about a specific time when someone was counting on you to follow through and complete a difficult task or responsibility.
Excellence (Discipline) While not ideal, sometimes we have no choice but to make decisions quickly and under stress. Describe a situation when you unexpectedly had to make an important decision within a short timeframe.
Excellence (Discipline) Despite our best preparation, our work is often disrupted due to changes beyond our control. Please describe a time when you had to deal with unexpected change.
Excellence (Innovation) Whether through process improvements, innovation, or creativity, we all have opportunities to make things work or run better. Describe a time when you proactively identified a new or better way of doing something that made a difference.
Excellence (Innovation) Sometimes we rely on assumptions without realizing we are doing so. Describe a situation in which you recognized and challenged an important assumption.
Excellence (Teamwork) Many times a leader’s attitude or spirit is what ultimately drives a group’s success. Share a specific time when your attitude made a difference in helping a team move forward.
Excellence (Teamwork) Teamwork is an essential part of effective performance. Discuss a situation when the help or support you gave another team member had a notable impact on results.
Excellence (Teamwork) You inherit responsibility for a team that has worked together and performed the same function for many years. There are no issues with work quality or timeliness, but there is a clear sense of complacency and satisfaction with the status quo. How would you approach this situation?
Excellence (Teamwork) Your team is responsible for producing a high-priority report within a short timeline. The work requires extensive research, analysis, and fact checking. Unfortunately your team misses an early deadline due to factors outside of their control. This creates a major risk for completing the work on time. Describe in detail how you would approach the work.

For detailed guidance, reference AETC/A3J’s Structured Interviewing Best Practices; rating criteria to evaluate candidate responses (distinguish effective and ineffective responses) to each question are available here.

Reference Check Questions

Contact references who have observed the candidate from different perspectives; the candidate’s current and previous supervisor(s) should identify peers/subordinates of the candidate who have had sufficient opportunity to observe (e.g., worked directly with the candidate for at least 3-6 months). Start with a brief position description, then move to open-ended questions. Follow up questions may be used to obtain information on a candidate’s behaviors in specific situations (“Tell me about a time when he demonstrated that trait….”).
Questions
Have you had sufficient opportunity to observe this candidate to be able to provide feedback about their performance or ability to lead in alignment with AF values?
When was the last time you worked/interacted with the candidate?
What are the candidates’ top 3 leadership strengths? Of the top 3 leadership traits, what is the weakest?
Of the candidate’s leadership traits, what may present the biggest obstacle when serving on a command team?
Based on your observations, how has the candidate demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Would you trust this candidate to handle an incident of unit sexual harassment or sexual assault appropriately?
Are you aware of any behavior displayed by the candidate that fails to align with AF values or that would be concerning if the candidate was in a position of increased authority and/or responsibility?
What else should we know about the candidate that may speak to his or her potential in a command team role?
Would you hire this candidate for a command team role from amongst a pool of competitively selected peers?

Resources to Address the Top Five Causes of Leader Derailment

Leadership Derailer

Developmental Resources [Access at https://digitalu.af.mil/ using hyperlinks below]

Difficulty Adapting to Change

Adapting to Change:

Growth Mindset:

Resilience & Stress Management:

Difficulty Building and Leading a Team

Build & Lead Collaborative Teams:

Feedback and Developing Others:

Failure to Deliver Results

Goal Setting:

Productivity & Time Management:

Delegation:

Lacking Broad, Strategic Orientation

Strategic Thinking:

Difficulties with Interpersonal Relationships

Emotional Intelligence:

Active Listening:

Conflict Management:

Additional leadership courses, beyond those listed here, are available at https://digitalu.af.mil. Leaders may also use a confidential 360 degree feedback tool (Pathfinder) at MyVector to improve self-awareness and access resources. From the lower left of the MyVector splash page, select “AF Competencies.”

Additional resources:

Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belongingness

Fostering Belonging & Inclusion

Inclusive Leadership 

Unconscious Bias

Sexual Harassment/ Sexual Assault Prevention and Victim Care

Sexual Harassment Prevention

Sexual Assault Prevention

Victim Care

(as identified by Center for Creative Leadership)

Sample Letter

Click image to download. 

The appearance of external links on this site does not constitute official endorsement on behalf of the U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense.

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