20 Executive Job Interview Questions and Answers – CV Nation

20 Executive Job Interview Questions and Answers

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The ultimate guide to executive-level job interviews, with 20 executive job interview questions and answers.

Job interviews for executive roles are difficult. Competition is tough and you only get one chance to make a positive impression.

To help you ace your executive interview, we’ve detailed 20 of the most common interview questions for executives. We also explain how to answer these questions and provide sample answers.

This guide includes the most common interview questions for all executives, including CEOs, COOs, CFO and CIOs.

1. Tell Me a Bit About Yourself

When answering this question, you want to frame your answer in a way that shows you’re the perfect candidate for the job. Instead of ‘tell me about yourself’, think of this question as ‘tell me why you’re a suitable candidate for this role’. Avoid answering this question with information that is not related to leadership.

Here is an example answer to this question:

I’m a CEO with over 10 years’ experience in executive roles. During this period, I have headed all strategic and operational aspects of large businesses, managing budgets of over 400-million-dollars and providing leadership to teams of up to 2,000.

I’m an enthusiastic and passionate leader. I lead by example and I have a reputation for getting the best out of colleagues.

I’m proud of my ability to making positive changes at organisations and leave businesses in stronger positions than I found them. In my previous role as CEO of Example Company, I restructured all internal departments and overhauled operational processes, leading to 82% sales growth.

Note that the example answer above demonstrates the candidate’s suitability for the job.

2. What Makes You the Right Person for This Role?

This question gives you the chance to stand out from the competition. Explain what makes you unique and how you can help the company achieve their goals.

You can also use your research, which you should have done before attending the interview, to explain how you are aligned with the company’s culture.

Here is an example answer to this question:

Having served as CEO for multiple large companies, I’ve developed a proven track record of generating growth and leading organisations to success. Most recently, while employed as CEO of Example Company, I oversaw the company’s transition from an underperforming outfit to a business with one-hundred-and-ten million dollars of net profit.

I believe that if I took on the role of CEO of your company, my skills and experiences would make me the perfect candidate to deliver against targets.

3. What is Your Leadership Style?

When interviewers ask this question, they are trying to determine what type of leadership you will bring to their organisation. If you’ve done your research, you will be aware of the kind of leader they’re looking to hire, and you should be able to prepare your answer in line that.

As an executive, you may utilise multiple leadership styles in various situations. Most leaders don’t stubbornly adhere to one leadership style, so if you utilise multiple leadership styles be sure to highlight this in your answer.

View our guide to leadership styles, which explains the five main leadership styles.

Here is an example answer to this question:

I would describe my leadership style as transformational. My recent roles have involved executing and delivering large-scale change initiatives while providing over 50 direct reports with the vision and capabilities to achieve their goals. The most recent change initiative I headed was a 40-million-dollar project to overhaul Example Company’s processes.

At times, my leadership style could also be described as laissez-faire, allowing my subordinates to take control of key projects while I focus on overall strategy. This has been beneficial in recent years as I worked with highly-skilled subordinates who flourished when allowed the freedom to make their own decisions.

4. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?

Interviewers ask this question to find out if you’re aligned with their company’s values and culture. They want to hire an executive who understands their company and is enthusiastic about contributing to its success.

If you can answer this question in a way that shows you understand the company and you’re aligned with its culture, you’ll stand a much greater chance of succeeding in your job interview.

Again, research should come into your answer. Spend time to learn about the company’s values and culture. This will enable you to tailor your answer. Of course, you should never lie during a job interview. But research can help you learn how your skills align with the company’s requirements.

Here is an example answer to this question:

One of the key reasons I want to work for your company is the strides the company is making in the renewable energy sector. Green energy is something I have been passionate about for some time, so I feel aligned with your company’s values.

Having spearheaded multiple mergers and acquisitions, I also feel that I possess the skills to help your company achieve its goals of expanding across America and Asia.

5. Describe a Time When You Managed a Crisis

Those operating in executive roles often have to steer companies through crises. These may be major crises that receive widespread media coverage or internal crises that impact daily operations.

People who operate in executive roles, such as CEO roles, are responsible for guiding companies out of crises. This is why interviewers want to know if you possess the skills and experiences to effectively manage crises.

When answering this question, show how you maintained your composure and generated solutions. If possible, try to show how you persevered to achieve positive outcomes.

Here is an example answer to this question:

I served as the CEO of Example Hotel Group when we experienced a major hurricane. As the hurricane was a threat to guests’ safety, I decided to evacuate all guests to one of our hotels in California. As some guests were unhappy about this, we refunded their entire booking as guest safety was our main focus.

I believe I made the correct call as the hurricane turned out to be much more devastating than was predicted, with significant damage caused to the hotel. No guests were harmed as a result of the hurricane and the Group received a good deal of positive media attention for our handling of the crises.

6. What Are Your Key Strengths?

The goal of this question is to determine if your key strengths match the ones that the company is seeking in candidates.

Try to focus on strengths than solve problems for the company. For example, if the company aims to expand its operations in Asia, you could highlight your ability to lead expansion initiatives.

Here is an example answer to this question:

One of my key strengths is my ability to lead growth and expansion initiatives. When I was the CEO of Example Company, I spearheaded the company’s entry into new markets in the United States, China and East Asia. Within 12 months of penetrating these markets, I secured the company’s position as a market leader, with over 39% of the market share.

I am also a naturally effective communicator. I enjoy communicating with people from all backgrounds and this benefits me a great deal in my role as a CEO. I’m a firm believer that businesses can’t operate efficiently without good communication, and this starts with the CEO.

7. Tell Me About a Time When You Demonstrated Excellent Leadership Qualities

With this question, you have the opportunity to provide a concrete example of why you’re the perfect person for the job.

Consider using the STAR methodology to answer this question. STAR is a method used to answer job interview questions in a specific structure. When using STAR, you start by explaining the situation you were faced with, followed by the task at hand, the action you took and the end result.

Here is an example answer to this question:

When I was joined Example Company as CEO, I discovered that the business was underperforming massively. The company had been making a significant loss for over five years, morale was low among the staff and there was a negative culture within the organisation.

In response to this, I restructured the company’s Sales and Marketing departments, renegotiated contracts and developed a positive, customer-focused culture among staff members. Within three years, the company had been transitioned from a loss-making outfit to a company with annual profits of over thirty-million-pounds. When I eventually left the company after eight years, it was a market leader in its industry, with consistent year-on-year sales growth.

8. We Anticipate Periods of Significant Change in the Coming Years. How Would You Intend to Manage That Change?

All businesses face change. And CEOs and executives are usually the drivers of organisational change. As such, interviewers may want to know that you’re capable of managing change.

Here is an example answer to this question:

I have over 10 years’ experience managing change at executive level, including the management of many mergers and acquisitions during recent years. This involved managing all aspects of the change process, including changing cultures and restructuring operational processes.

I am familiar with the change you anticipate in the coming years, and I feel I possess the skills and experiences required to implement the change efficiently. I would do this by developing robust plans, aligning organisational strategies with change plans and implementing appropriate support structures.

9. What Are Your Values?

This is another question that aims to find out if you’re aligned with the company’s values. When interviewers ask this question, they also want to discover what type of leader you would be.

So, use your research when answering this question tie your values in with the values of the company.

Here is an example answer to this question:

One of my key values is empathy. By listening to people and understanding them, I have been able to build stronger, more effective teams. For this reason, I always endeavour to build cultures of integrity throughout organisations.

Another one of my key values is empowerment. Empowering others to achieve their full potential through training, mentoring and workshops has enabled me to improve team performance, build cohesive teams and develop great leaders.

10. What Would You Intend to Achieve in the First 30 Days if We Hired You?

This question is about your transition to your new role. When they ask this question, interviewers are trying to figure how long you will take to hit the ground running and learn about the goals you will be setting yourself.

Ideally, your answer to this question should be prepared in line with your research. For example, if the company is recruiting a CEO to execute major change initiatives, your answer would be based on getting started with the change programme.

Here is an example answer to this question:

Within the first 30 days of employment, I would expect to have developed a robust strategy for the implementation of the company’s change plan. I would also expect to have built positive relationships with colleagues and members of the Leadership team, before getting to work on developing a productive workplace culture.

11. What is the Biggest Challenge You Have Experienced?

This question allows interviewers to assess your problem-solving skills and your ability to overcome challenging situations.

When answering this question, don’t describe your weaknesses. Instead, focus on explaining how you overcome challenges to achieve positive outcomes.

Here is an example answer to this question:

When I joined Example Company as CEO, I was faced with an underperforming Sales department. The company was making a loss due to poor sales performance. I introduced workshops and sales training programmes and recruited new Sales staff. I also restructured sales processes and established robust channels of communication between internal departments. Within 12 months, the company was making a profit due to my changes.

12. What Are Your Weaknesses?

When answering this question, try to avoid describing weaknesses that recruiters may see as a red flag. For example, you wouldn’t want to say your weakness is leadership.

Try to find a genuine weakness that you possess that doesn’t cause significant problems in your job and touch on the measures you take to improve on the weakness.

Here is an example answer to this question:

I am often shy in public situations. As a CEO, I often attend conferences and public engagements where I am required to speak to large audiences. My shyness has not prevented me from participating in such events and I have taken steps to build my public speaking skills. In recent months, I have noticed my training had paid off as I have been much more confident while delivering speeches.

Further Leadership Questions
13. How Would You Ensure Our Company Grows During the Coming Years?
14. How Do You Intend to Succeed in This Role?
15. How Would You Develop a Positive Culture Within Our Organisation?
16. What Would You Aim to Achieve Within 30/60/90 Days?
17.What Are Your Long-Term Goals?
18. How Do You Maintain Your Professional Development?
19. How Would You Build High Performing Teams?
20. Do You Have Any Questions for Us?

We hope you’ve found this guide to executive interview questions helpful. When looking to land executive roles, you’ll need a strong CV. Take a look at our guide to writing a great executive CV, which includes 3 executive CV templates.

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