The strategy of an executive-level interview from the standpoint of both interviewer and executive is the same. Interviews at the executive level are a conversation, both sides enter cautiously optimistic, using answers to determine if the other party is the right fit. Due to the gravity of this decision neither side wants to rush into a potentially costly move. Both sides analyze the other to determine if the executive fits within the company. Specifically, the questions asked during an executive interview serve to examine the depth of an executive’s conceptual ability and fall under heavy emphasis as so. An executive has the opportunity to engage the interviewer with pointed, research-based questions, and gain an essential definition of the position.

Executive interviews rely on a degree of preparedness. In interviews of this caliber, all details are held to account. Conducting researching on the company, the hiring managers background, and industry are all mandatory homework before stepping foot in that building. However, it’s more than general knowledge of the company. Executives are expected to bring insight into an interview, strategic and tactical plans, while not fully developed they should conceptually exist. While there’s no set of standard questions to expect, the executive’s ability to make inferences may be more telling than the general answers they give. The true defining point of an executive interview is the executive’s questions. 

Despite the most insightful answers, executives may be truly measured on the questions they ask. The range and depth of questions asked, reveal valuable insight into the executive’s ability and disposition. Executive roles demand an acute ability to derive insights from data, be that environmental, social, or numbers based data. Able executives exercise their deductive reasoning by posing pointed questions, revealing inferences derived from research and the conversation.  Proving ability in the moment is significantly more compelling than reading about it in a resume.

Here are pointed questions to further develop the conversation, and engage the interviewer:

What are the biggest challenges this role and the company face?

This question aligns the executive with the interviewer and implies that that executive has the potential to solve or at the least lessen these threats. When applying research provided context to this question it becomes much more pointed, showing the executive’s ability to infer from collected data.

What do the top five percent of high performers have in common?

This question relies on a paretoian ratio within the company. It fuels reflection on the side of the interviewer and can lead to a deepening conversation.  Understanding what constitutes a high performer within the company, set a foil for the executive to compare their ability to.  

How is success measured?

Grasping the commonality that determines the level of all achievement within the company is necessary to understanding where an executive’s abilities lie in comparison. Giving this question context by mentioning a recent achievement of the company and then defining that achievement within their construct of success displays critical intuitive thinking.

What does success look like here?

As an external executive, this question works to frame the corporate culture and motivations of the workforce. A sense of both is an incredibly functional bit of knowledge. Knowing if the culture will fit the work style fo the executive, and setting potential goals for success are important to succeeding in the role.

What are the expectations of the board?

This question draws out the greatest challenges to the role directly. Grasping the goals of the business, and strategic plans preemptively set a potential hire for success in the role.

What is the degree of decision and control inherent in the role?

Gaining insight into the level of control the position has in terms of decision making is often critical. Knowing how decisions are made and the authority the role possesses is imperative to define the role.

In Conclusion

An executive interview differs radically from the traditional interview process due to the weighted emphasis on questions. Both interviewer and executive alike, rely on questions to develop a sense of the opposite. Questions asked by the executive serve both the define the role and to also engage the interviewer, displaying the unwritten skills the executive holds.