How to ace your executive interview

AboveBoard | Jan 17, 2022

Strategies to help you land your dream leadership role.

Interviewing for an executive role can be nerve-racking.

The recruiting process for C-suite and executive-level positions is oftentimes more exhaustive and time-consuming than their entry and mid-level counterparts. 

The best way forward? Preparing for both executive interview questions and the process that follows. That way, you can set yourself apart from other highly qualified candidates. 

With that, let’s dive into how you can prepare with questions to ask in an executive interview, ways to set yourself apart from other candidates, and a few executive-level interview tips to get you going. 

Preparing for an executive interview

Like any job interview, preparation is key. Knowing your worth and your qualifications aren’t enough in an executive interview. Remember, they’re probably talking to multiple candidates with impressive resumes, so preparing appropriately can help you stand out. 

Here are a few ways to prepare for an executive interview.

Executive interview tip #1: Do your research and prepare for tough executive interview questions

Our first executive interview tip is simple. Like all interviews, candidates should do their research on the company and organization. But for executive roles, this early research will also need to get a little more specific. 

For ultimate preparedness, we recommend researching the company’s current executives. What are their backgrounds? Where are the similarities to yours and where can you offer a unique and dynamic experience to the table? By getting a better understanding of the company’s present executives, you can get a better idea of where you fit and how you can contribute—meaning you’ll be able to present your best self during your interview. 

Executive interview tip #2: Enhance your digital presence 

Executive candidates are scrutinized more than entry or mid-level candidates. After all, you’ll have a higher compensation package and likely will have responsibility for a large portion of the company. 

You’re not running for office, but you can count on decision-makers (and participants) to scope out your social media—especially LinkedIn. That’s why a crucial part of preparing for an executive interview is enhancing your online presence. By doing so, you can show other leaders your accomplishments beyond your resume and give them insight into your values and thought leadership. 

Executive interview tip #3: Acknowledge the staff

Another executive interview tip? Acknowledge the staff. This seemingly small gesture can really win people over. If you become the next executive at the company, you’ll be working with everyone, not just the people making the hiring decision. So friendly staff acknowledgments can help. 

Of course, this is definitely more challenging in the Zoom era of recruiting. But if you’re able to connect with other staff members in small ways, it’s encouraged. See if there’s an opportunity to meet mid-level and entry-level staff via video calls. It could be a potential bridge to connect with more people in the organization and give your potential employees more confidence in your work. 

Executive interview tip #4: Be prepared to sell yourself

You know your worth, and you know the value you can bring to the organization. Sell it. No one knows what you can offer more than yourself, so being your own advocate in the process is huge. 

Grounded confidence is a sought-after trait for leadership roles. Think of grounded confidence as more than external, peacock feather confidence. Instead, it’s understanding your worth and others’ worth—and how the two can work together.

Common executive interview questions

You’ll never know exactly what questions arise in an executive interview. Still, you can expect the interview to cover some common bases. And preparing for those common questions will help you better navigate your answers (and show grounded confidence when answering them). 

  1. What are your biggest areas of opportunity? 
  2. What is something a challenging direct report would say about your leadership?
  3. How do you know when you’ve been successful in your role? 
  4. What would the first 30 days look like if given the job? 
  5. How would you describe our company? And why do you want to be a leader in it? 
  6. What is an example of a time where you had to motivate your staff?
  7. How do you reward your employees for adequate and exemplary work? 
  8. What are some challenges you’ve faced as a leader? 
  9. How would you improve or enhance workplace culture? 
  10. What is your management style and what does leadership mean to you? 
  11. How do you address conflict amongst your team and/or peers? 

Of course, your interview doesn’t end there. Once you’re prepared for those interview questions, it’s paramount that you prepare for executive interview questions to ask employers, too. 

Questions to ask during an executive interview

Executive interview questions to ask an employer can be tricky. Often, the interview process is less transactional and more of an organic dialogue between leaders. So prepare questions you’d like to know when you leave the interview. Jotting them down prior to the interview will help you remember when (or if) the conversation veers in different directions. 

Here are some great executive interview questions to ask employers. 

  1. What do you love about your job? What is challenging about it? 
  2. What initially brought you to this role as a leader in the company? 
  3. What are some of the biggest challenges you think I’ll face in this role? 
  4. What type of person do you think would be successful in this role? What skills would you like them to have? 
  5. Is there anything that concerns you about my past experience or resume when it pertains to this role? 
  6. What is your management style and what does leadership mean to you? 

With these interview questions in your back pocket, you’ll be sure to establish yourself as a thoughtful, well-rounded candidate.

The best way to ace your executive interview? Prepare, prepare, prepare!

The executive interview process is no joke. Congratulations on making it this far! We hope these executive interview tips help steward the process and support you in standing out as the unique leader you are. 

For more executive-level interview tips—from preparing for an executive interview to questions to questions to ask during an executive interview— and transparent access to executive leadership roles, join AboveBoard today. Membership is free and confidential.

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