Executive Interview Questions

When hiring senior leaders or executives (CEO, CMO, CFO, COO, VPs and more) your interview should focus on strategic, leadership, and management-level interview questions.

Executive interviews are often more difficult (and costly!) and you’ll require a senior recruiter or other senior executives within your company to help make the best decision possible.

While you’re still able to use some core concepts in interviewing such as behavioral based interview questions, you’ll definitely want to tailor them to the executive level.

Executive Interview Questions

Below you’ll find our list of executive interview questions that you can use to identify your next senior leaders. We’ve broken these down into four key areas: leadership/management, strategic, experience, cultural fit.

Leadership and Management Interview Questions to Ask Senior Executives

The executive you’re planning to hire will be one of the leaders/figure-heads of your company and will have far reaching influence in your organization. You’ll want to understand their leadership and management style, because their leadership can have an impact on the organizational structure and culture of the company.

  1. Think back to the best partner or manager you’ve ever worked with. What did you like about the person’s management style?
  2. How do you keep your team focused?
  3. How would you describe your management style?
  4. Tell me how you have created a shared purpose among people who initially differed in opinions or objectives.
  5. How would you boost staff morale?
  6. How do you influence and sell to co-workers?
  7. What do you look for in an employee? What behaviors and performance levels do you expect of an ideal employee?
  8. Have you ever had to terminate an employee? How did you handle it?
  9. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with other executives. What did you do?
  10. What would former subordinates say about working with you?

And for good measure…

Here are some more behavioral leadership interview questions.

Leadership Behavioral Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about a time when you and your team faced challenging odds. How did you keep them engaged and motivated to overcome the situation and succeed?
  2. Explain a time when you had to promote an idea or project to a group. How did you go about persuading them?
  3. Give me an example of a method you have used to successfully encourage/motivate your staff.
  4. Describe a time when an employee came to you with a complaint. What did you do? What was the outcome?
  5. Describe a time when you confronted an employee whose results were inadequate.
  6. Describe a time when you had to deal with difficult or unmotivated staff. How did you motivate them or improve their attitude?

Executive Interview Questions for Strategic Insight

A key part of making an executive hire is determining if they have the right long-term and short-term view for your company. Executives take a heavily strategic role within your company and are hired for their vision and ability to align their department with the company’s overall objectives.

Here are some of our best executive interview questions to determine strategic fit and vision.

  1. Describe the most difficult professional decision you’ve ever had to make. What was the outcome?
  2. Describe a time where you had to create change in a company. What steps did you take? How did you create alignment? What was the outcome?
  3. What support do you think is necessary from the company for you to be successful in your mission?
  4. Tell me about a time when you brought productive change to a company. How did you implement this change?
  5. If you’re hired, what would be your priorities in the first 30 days? 90 days? 6 months?
  6. What are your plans to make our organization better?
  7. Tell me about a time you experienced resistance to one of your ideas or projects. How did you handle it?
  8. What do you think are the biggest challenges you’ll face in your ability to hit your goals within our company?
  9. How did you sell a new idea to your management team (describe in detail) and what was the result?
  10. What are two things you believe our company is doing well? What’s one thing that you think we should change?

Executive Interview Questions to Evaluate Experience

When evaluating executives and leaders for your company, it’s important to not just look for the candidate with the best resume, but also one who has experienced relevant challenges and worked through different mistakes.

  1. What types of decisions are most difficult to make? Tell me about a time where you had to make one of these decisions.
  2. What recurring problem did you have in a previous (or your current) role that you wanted to resolve but didn’t? Why not?
  3. How would you handle an unforeseen obstacle or a situation that resulted through a third-party, that affects your bottom-line?
  4. Tell me about a time you dealt with challenging staffing issues. How did you handle it?
  5. Has there ever been a time you had to handle difficult financial issues? What did you do?
  6. Describe a time you faced an unforeseen issue on the job and how you diffused and resolved the situation.
  7. What did you do to increase company revenues at your current company?
  8. What is the harshest criticism that you’ve gotten over the course of your management career?
  9. Describe one decision you’ve made professionally in the past that you wish you could take back or tackle differently.
  10. Tell me about a time you met resistance from your C-Staff or Board. How did you overcome this? Did you? What was the outcome?
  11. Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment. Who else was involved? How did you coordinate efforts to reach this accomplishment?

Executive Interview Questions to Evaluate Cultural Fit

So your executive has checked all the right boxes when it comes to strategy, vision, and experience. But do their answers align with your culture?

Below are some top interview questions to evaluate cultural fit for executive staff and leadership positions.

  1. What is your vision for our company? What has attracted you to taking this position?
  2. Describe the biggest organizational change you’ve ever dealt with. How did you adapt?
  3. Which three aspects of your last role gave you the most satisfaction?
  4. What factors make you most effective at work?
  5. Have you thought about leaving your present position before? If yes, what held you back?
  6. What makes you think you’re a good fit for our company? Why are you interested in leading our company?
  7. How have you evaluated an employee’s job performance? Do you think this would be a good way to do so within our company? If not, what would you change?
  8. Describe a time you had to confront an employee who was producing inadequate results? How did you do this? What was the outcome?
  9. How do you prefer to communicate with your peers and team?
  10. , What was your strategy for building relationships with your team members and peers at your last company?
  11. Describe a time where you had to deal with a conflict with another person in your department or reporting directly to you. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?

Final Thoughts: Executive Interview Questions

When it comes to evaluating executives and leaders for your company, it’s important to have the right sourcing tools in place.

Executive hires are hard to find. Lever Nurture is the perfect compliment to Lever Hire ( the applicant tracking system for top companies) and helps you source the right leaders for your organization. With Lever Nurture, you can even send emails on behalf of your CEO or executive team to drive more intrigue into your open leadership and senior management roles. To learn more about Lever Nurture, download this free data sheet.