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Business continuity interview questions for aspiring managers

Business continuity managers must be ready for anything, and that includes interviewing for the role. Here are some common business continuity interview questions to prepare for.

Everyone knows the standard questions that will likely come up in a job interview: What is your management style? What is a difficult situation you've overcome? What drew you to this company/role? Preparation for these inquiries can be predictable, but in an interview for a role in business continuity, applicants will need to go above and beyond to show that they are ready for anything.

The right manager is critical to the success of an organization's business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) strategy, so the stakes in an interview will be high for both parties. The applicant must have the experience, knowledge, foresight and adaptability required in a crisis, and the organization must ask the right questions.

Managers in the BCDR field need a combination of interpersonal, IT and business skills to properly run a team and execute companywide plans. They must be able to acquire and analyze hard data about their organization's preparedness and be ready for numerous unpredictable and theoretical disasters. Business continuity managers must be able to advocate for their department with senior management to acquire funding and support for BCDR initiatives.

Long story short, it's a lot of area to cover -- and it goes beyond whether they consider themselves "a team player." Aspiring managers can prepare for the big day with these business continuity interview questions.

How much do you plan to spend on business continuity and disaster recovery?

Budgets will vary by organization and industry for a business continuity strategy, and not every company will want to invest in one. The aim of a budget-based question may be less in search of a hard number and more of an opportunity to advocate for a business continuity team and funding for the department.

There are numerous ways to stress the importance of business continuity today. The rise in ransomware attacks, increased natural disasters due to global climate change, and zero tolerance for downtime from investors/partners/clients are just three reasons a business continuity plan is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic tested companies around the world, and it required many to maintain business continuity remotely and with a reduced workforce due to illness or the threat of infection.

A business continuity manager should be ready to justify funding a BCDR program that matches the organization's needs. Cite examples of how that money would be spent, such as on off-site storage, consultants, employee training programs, hardware or software.

This is also an opportunity for managers to demonstrate how they will work and communicate with senior management to make important BCDR decisions.

What business continuity systems, activities and assessments have you managed? How do you plan to monitor business continuity readiness?

Much of business continuity planning is in the analyses, tests and exercises an organization conducts prior to a crisis. Managers should not only be able to create a BCDR plan but modify and update existing plans. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are not "set it and forget it" activities. Managers should be prepared to conduct annual tests and audits, as well as assessments after a crisis occurs. This will reveal any vulnerabilities that they must remedy. 

While they may not have hands-on experience with all of these, business continuity managers should at least be familiar with the following:

Managers should also have knowledge of supply chain management and crafting business continuity policies.

What issues could derail a business continuity strategy?

This is akin to the standard question about a challenge that a candidate has faced, but with a BCDR spin. There are many ways a business continuity strategy can go wrong, and most of them aren't clear until a disaster has occurred. Vulnerabilities can include new ransomware technology, unlikely natural disasters or unprecedented pandemics. Risk assessments and disaster recovery testing plans can mitigate these issues.

Another way to prevent a business continuity strategy from going awry is to ensure that all staff are properly trained, beyond BCDR personnel. If there is potential for a companywide risk, a business continuity manager should ensure that employees are aware of the BCDR initiatives and what roles they might have to play in a crisis.  

Business continuity demands that managers be adaptable and flexible. Candidates that demonstrate these capabilities with a willingness to confront a variety of scenarios will stand out.

What are the consequences of a loss of business continuity?

The reality of business continuity is that the BCDR team and the organization as a whole cannot prevent all disruptions and downtime. Candidates should have familiarity with common consequences of downtime, as well as organization-specific consequences. Will downtime violate service-level agreements? Will it disrupt a critical service or function? Will it harm the reputation of the organization?

Knowledge of the challenges of downtime may not prevent it, but it will show that the candidate is informed, realistic and able to tailor a damage control action plan specific to certain scenarios.

What are your certifications?

Candidates likely include BCDR certifications in their resume, but they should be prepared to discuss them in an interview. Certifications are obtained by business continuity managers from organizations such as the Business Continuity Management Institute, Business Continuity Institute and Business Resilience Certification Consortium International. Relevant certifications include the following:

  • Business Continuity Institute's Certificate of the BCI
  • Certified Business Continuity Manager
  • Certified Business Resilience Manager
  • Certified Business Resilience IT Professional
  • Business Continuity Certified Expert
  • Business Continuity Certified Planner

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