When you are interviewing for an executive level job, you can expect that a lot of the focus will be on your leadership style.
At this career level, you will be in a leadership position, responsible for setting and meeting lofty goals and making sure that the people you manage are in a position to support these goals as well.
People in C-level positions are expected to make important decisions and deliver results, so come prepared with examples of how you have done so in previous positions.
Get more insight into what to expect during an executive level job interview and how to prep for the experience.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
Interviewers are looking to get a sense of your leadership style and how it will fit in with company culture. Some companies may look for leaders who are autocratic while others may value a more motivational, coach-like style.
You can expect to receive a lot of questions concerning how you would manage employees (and how you have done so in the past). Plus, interviewers will inquire about how you would implement change.
Before an Interview for an Executive Level Position
As with any interview, advance preparation gives you a huge advantage. Plan your interview outfit the day before. Make sure to wear something that is appropriate. Planning your outfit ahead will help you avoid unpleasant day-of realizations, like that you have a stain on your favorite interview shirt, can't walk confidently in your shoes, or have an itchy tag on a new interview outfit.
You don't want to look like you're playing dress-up during the interview; you should comfortably inhabit your clothes.
Thoroughly research the company. That way, if you are asked about specific company-related strategies or to share feedback, you can provide a thoughtful response.
As well, practice your responses to commonplace interview questions. Think: How would you describe yourself? What's your biggest weakness? or Where do you see yourself in five years? You should also feel ready to answer common executive level interview questions. By thinking through your responses beforehand, you'll be able to speak confidently and coherently during the interview.
How to Answer Questions During an Executive Level Interview
Avoid rambling or disjointed answers. If you are unsure what you want to say, pause for a second to frame your thoughts. Try using stalling phrases such as "That's a really thought-provoking question" to buy yourself a bit of time to formulate your thoughts.
Look for opportunities to brag—humbly, of course.
While you don't want to come across as smarmy or boastful, you do want to use the interview as an opportunity to share your accomplishments as a leader.
As well, remember that the interview is a two-way street: Not only should you ask questions yourself, but also if the interview does not touch on something you believe is relevant to the position, you can bring it up yourself.
Executive Interview Questions
Here are a number of questions you might be asked during an interview for an executive level position.
- How would you describe your management style?
- Why are you interested in our company?
- What do you think makes you a good fit for this position? Thinking about this specific role, what aspects do you think would be the biggest challenge for you?
- What is the most difficult thing about being an executive or manager?
- What are the methods you typically use to evaluate an employee's job performance?
- Tell me about a time in which you brought productive change to a company. How did you implement this change?
- Describe a time when you had to deal with difficult or unmotivated staff.
- Describe your experience reading and interpreting accounting and financial reports.
- If you were hired, what would be your priorities in your first three to six months on the job?
- How would you describe our company?
- What are two things you believe our company is doing well? What's one thing that you think we should change?
- What do you look for in an employee? What behaviors and performances do you expect of an ideal employee?
- Tell me how you have created a shared purpose among people who initially differed in opinions or objectives.
- Give us an example of a method you have used to successfully encourage/motivate your staff.
- How would you handle an unforeseen obstacle or a situation that resulted through a third-party, that affects your bottom line?
- What's your communication style?
- Describe a time when you confronted an employee whose results were inadequate.
- What did you do to increase company revenues at your current company?
Tips for Giving the Best Answers
- Show off. Be sure to highlight your accomplishments and make it clear what you'd bring to the company.
- Share stories. Use the STAR interview response technique to share anecdotes without getting too wordy.
- Look to the future. Make the case for how you'd lead the company to a bright future and positive results.
What Not to Do
- Don't ramble. Give full, thorough answers, but make sure not to go on too long in your responses. Be aware of the interviewer's body language, and wrap things up if the interviewer seemed bored or inattentive.
- Don't be unprepared. Interviewers will expect you to have knowledge about how the company operates and its goals. Of course, you can't know everything, but you should show basic awareness of recent news stories about the organization and any other public-facing knowledge. You should also be prepared to speak about industry-level trends.
How to Make the Best Impression
PREPARE BEFOREHAND: This is no time to wing it, so take the time to practice your responses to common interview questions.
DISPLAY YOUR KNOWLEDGE: Research the company, industry, and your interviewer beforehand so you can have a smooth conversation. Incorporate your understanding of the company and industry into your responses.
SHOW OFF WITHOUT BRAGGING: Use questions as an opportunity to share your accomplishments (from increasing employee retention to improving sales) without becoming boastful.