Interview Questions To Ask Executive Candidates

Great teams start with great interviews.

By recording live interviews, our platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help teams run a faster, better interview process.

Request a Demo

Interview Questions To Ask Executive Candidates

Interview Questions To Ask Executive Candidates

The C-suite is responsible for the trajectory of a company. Executives play pivotal roles in creating and shaping the company's vision, steering culture, driving growth, and crafting strategies that become the "ethos" of the brand. As such, the decision to hire an executive should be taken very seriously. For better or worse, this single decision will shape every facet of the company's direction and operations in the future.

Well-chosen executives serve as the cornerstone of a resilient organization - capable of navigating the challenges and complexity of modern markets with ease. They bring a wealth of experience and fresh perspectives that challenge the internal status quo, inspiring innovation, driving growth, and opening new lines for the company to expand.

But the company's trajectory isn't the only thing this hiring choice will affect. Diversity, company culture, and team morale are also shaped by each new executive addition. These individuals take on the heavy burden of shaping people and setting the tone for the company. Consequently, to make a great C-suite level hire, you'll need a rock-solid executive recruitment process in place- and this starts with the quality of your interview questions.

Interview Questions to Ask Executive Candidates

The most important factors to consider when hiring for higher-level positions are experience, skills, strategy, leadership style, and culture. When interviewing for these key roles, interview questions to ask should focus on uncovering whether or not the candidate has the qualities to lead at the level your organization requires.

Unlike individual contributor or even manager questions, interview questions to ask executives differ significantly, so let's take a look at some of the top questions you may want to ask executive candidates during the recruitment process.

  1. Can you describe your leadership style and how it has evolved over the course of your career?

This question should be core to candidate assessment as this individual will be responsible for leading and motivating others to achieve the company's goals. Look for candidates who can clearly articulate their leadership style and how it has evolved over time as this demonstrates self-awareness and adaptability. As an add-on to this question, here's another that focuses on how others perceive their leadership.

  1. If your former team were asked how you were as a boss and they knew you'd never hear their response, what would they say about you?

Executives are often faced with difficult decisions and must be able to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics. This question will help gain insight into the candidate's leadership approach and how they are perceived by their former team members.

  1. Can you give an example of a time when you led a company through a major change or challenge? How did you handle it?

The C-suite is responsible for steering the ship through turbulent times. This question assesses the candidate's ability to handle high-pressure situations and make sound decisions. Look for candidates who can provide concrete examples of their leadership in action.

The markets are complex, and people are even more so. Therefore, the interview questions you ask should be meticulously tailored to reveal insights into the candidates' ability to drive growth, manage crises, and inspire teams. Using this approach, you can do a deep dive that will uncover the full potential of executive candidates, ensuring a match not just in competencies but also in values and organizational vision.

If you'd like to see some structured interview questions to ask in your next executive interview, click here and paste your job description into the text window. In a few minutes, we'll send you a personalized interview guide with questions specifically for your role. These questions can be added to our interview intelligence software with just a few clicks making executive interviews simple.

Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

The ability to deploy strategic thinking is a non-negotiable trait for C-level executives. "Strategy" directly influences the company's direction and enables a team to thrive amidst competition and rapidly changing market conditions. Therefore, strategic interview questions to ask candidates are vital to an effective hiring process. Well-crafted questions should not only uncover a candidate's ability to think ahead but also reflect their readiness to tackle complex challenges that will arise in the course of business- often unexpectedly.

When considering which interview questions to ask manager candidates, opt for the ones that most accurately explore a candidate's experience, and how they've previously navigated strategic challenges that contributed to their organization's long-term success. In this case, behavioral-based interview questions offer the best solution. Questions like, "Can you provide an example of a time when you had to make a strategic decision that greatly impacted your organization? How did you approach it and what was the outcome?" This question will uncover a candidate's ability to think strategically and showcase their past successes in similar situations.

But just analyzing the past won't give you a complete picture of the candidate, you must also use situational-based interview questions to assess their critical thinking skills, ability to think on their feet, and how they would approach strategic challenges in the future.

Asking a combination of both behavioral-based and situational-based interview questions will help you gather a complete understanding of the candidate's strategic abilities. Questions that will help you gather details like: "What was the situation? And what was the outcome?" or "How would you approach (x) problem, with (y) data, to accomplish (z) results?"

In essence, you're trying to find an executive who will drive positive change no matter where the markets go, and that takes an assessment process that can identify candidates who are not only capable of guiding your company through present challenges but are also equipped to steer it towards a better future.

Gauging Cultural Fit

Gauging the cultural fit of an executive or manager is key to their long-term success with a company and the team's morale. Gauging cultural fit, requires you to go a level deeper than just assessing a candidate's skills and experience. Cultural fit is about alignment- with the company's mission, core values, diversity, inclusion, and the overall ethos of your organization. "Cultural fit" is super important to a team's morale and how a brand interacts with customers and the marketplace. An exec who lives the company "vibe" can inspire and engage their team far more effectively than one who doesn't click with the culture. I know this is a bit ethereal, but it makes a huge difference to the team.

On the phone screen, you may want to focus on preliminary questions like "How do you define successful leadership, and can you give an example of how you've embodied this in a past role?" Good phone interview questions to ask candidates revolve around basic qualifications, skills, experience, and leadership style to assess initial "fit." The phone screen is often used to weed out the low-hanging fruit, so you can focus on more in-depth questioning during subsequent interviews.

Once you've been through the screening process and first interview, good second interview questions to ask candidates can go deeper into cultural fit and leadership style. Once again, using behavioral-based interview questions to uncover how they've applied their leadership skills in various cultural situations helps identify the right hire. Questions like, "Can you give an example of a time when your leadership style didn't align with the company culture? How did you handle it and what was the outcome?" This question will reveal how they approach situations where ideas must be held in tension and reveal their ethics and priorities.

By the time you get to the third interview, you'll want to focus on deeper aspects of cultural fit like company vision and team alignment. Third interview questions to ask candidates should focus on the hypothetical situations they'll face in the role and how they think through addressing them. These situationally-based interview questions should cover scenarios like a SWOT analysis or industry-specific challenges to reveal how they think through potential obstacles that the business may face.

Third interview questions like, "Imagine you are leading a team through a significant transition that's been met with internal resistance. How would you ensure that the team remains productive, motivated, and aligned with the company's vision?" can provide insight into their leadership style and ability to maintain cultural integrity under pressure. This will help you better assess a candidate's compatibility with the company culture and their potential to drive success in the role.

In conclusion, gauging a candidate's cultural fit requires understanding them on many levels. What they say, what they do, and what their experience shows you they're capable of should all align with your organization's values and goals. This nuanced approach will allow you to gather a holistic view of the candidate's true potential.

If you're currently searching for candidates at executive levels and you'd like deeper interview insights to help you make better hiring decisions, book a demo of Pillar today. We'd love to show you how interview intelligence can help you find great leaders who drive team success!