Interview Questions for Executive Leaders

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Interview questions for executive leaders are much different compared to other positions that you’re trying to fill. These senior leaders or executives (CEO, COO, CTO, VPs, etc.) require an in-depth focus on their management experience, leadership skills, strategic thinking, and culture fit.

Interviewing executive leaders can also be more challenging and costly, and you’ll more likely require an experienced senior recruiter and other top-level managers within your organization to help make a unanimous decision.

These may be tough positions to fill but, by asking the right questions and hiring the perfect candidate, you’ll see growth in your company like never before-- making all the time and effort invested worth it.

Interview Questions for Senior Management Leaders

We’ve segmented the interview questions into four categories: management experience, leadership style, strategic planning, and corporate culture match. These four important aspects will help you determine the right fit for the job. Here are the best questions to ask.

Management Experience

The executive that you will hire will be one of the prominent leaders of your organization. Their actions will trickle down to all your staff, therefore have a strong influence in the company. You would want to make sure that the person you’re interviewing has adequate experience and knows what they are doing because the way they manage people can leave a lasting impact on the structure and culture of your business.

  • Describe your management style.
  • What kind of management style do you prefer? Please provide an example of how this looks when applied.
  • How do you keep your team motivated?
  • How do you motivate and instead of your team?
  • How do you influence your colleagues?
  • Recall the best partner or manager that you have worked with. How was their management style?
  • How do you set a common goal for people who initially have a different opinion or objective in the matter?
  • Was there ever a time when you had a disagreement with other executives? What did you do about it?
  • What do you think your former colleagues would say about working with you?
  • Have you ever terminated an employee? If yes, how did you go about it?
  • What did you do to increase the sales and revenues of your previous company?

Leadership Style

Next, it’s vital that you learn more about how they lead and influence the people around them. This can make or break your employees’ morale.

  • How do you define company success?
  • There is a conflict among your employees. How do you deal with the situation?
  • Your team is facing a challenging situation. How do you keep your team motivated to do their best to overcome the problem?
  • How do you deal with an employee whose output was lacking or not at par with the expected standards.
  • How do you deal with unexpected problems or situations that affected your front-liners because of a third-party?
  • Describe a time when you wanted to promote an idea or project to the team. How did you sell it to your colleagues?
  • Describe a time when an employee came to you about a complaint. How did you handle the situation?
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with an unmotivated employee. What did you do to help?
  • Describe a time when you had to come up with a new approach for your organization. Why did you do it and how did you implement it?
  • Describe the biggest organizational change you’ve ever experienced. How did you adapt to it and helped your team do the same?

Strategic Planning

Another key aspect that you must determine is the executive’s long-term and short-term vision for the company. This influences their actions and decision-making processes. You must ensure that the person that you hire has great strategic planning skills that could propel your company forward towards its goals and objectives.

  • What will be the first action in the company that you will take once you get the job?
  • If you were successfully hired, what would be your initial goals for this role and to the organization? How about in the next 3 years?
  • Once you’re hired, walk me through your priorities over the next 3 months and 6 months.
  • What is your basis of “quality work”?
  • What are your action steps to improve the company?
  • What is your vision for this organization?
  • What do you think will be the biggest struggles you’ll face in your current role?
  • Were there any recurring issues in your previous role that you wanted to resolve but weren’t able to? How would you learn from that and apply it to your current role?
  • How would you deal with conflicts over ideas or projects?
  • What are the things you think that our company is excelling at? Is there anything you wish to change?
  • Have you ever thought about leaving your post from your previous position? If yes, what stopped you from doing so?

Executive Interview Questions to Evaluate Cultural Fit

You’ve got the first three parts covered. Now, it’s time to see if the candidate aligns with your company's culture.

Ask these questions to determine if there is a culture fit or not. This is vital because your leaders must be a good example and role model to the people around them-- displaying characteristics and values that your company upholds.

  • What makes a good company?
  • What are your passions and interests?
  • Who do you look up to and why?
  • Where do you find sources of information to nourish your knowledge?
  • Which three aspects about your previous role did you like the most?
  • What prompts you to be effective and efficient in your field?
  • What was the most painful criticism you have received and how did you take it?
  • What kind of decisions do you think are hard to make? Tell us about a time where you had to make this type of decision.
  • Are there any decisions in the past that you wish you’ve made differently? If so, why?
  • Why do you think you’re a good fit for this company?
  • What kind of employees do you value the most? What behaviors and traits of theirs do you appreciate?
  • Have you ever evaluated the performance of an employee? Do you believe that this is good practice? Why or why not?
  • How do you communicate with your team?
  • What was your strategy in establishing a healthy and professional relationship with your colleagues at your previous company?
  • What was the achievement that you were proud of the most? Tell us more about it.

Final Thoughts: Executive Interview Questions

It’s hard to find the perfect fit for executive-level positions. However, by asking the right questions and focusing on their experience, management style, and overall vision in the long run, you’ll be able to determine the right leader for the betterment of your organization.

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