November 23, 2017

20 interview questions you should ask executive-level candidates

Written by: Bob Hennessy
Managing Partner AIMS International Philadelphia

You can learn a lot from a candidate’s resume. But what you really want to know from an executive interview is how the candidate will perform in YOUR organization.

The questions you ask executive candidates during an interview therefore should lead the candidate into a discussion which reveals more about the person, leadership abilities and cultural fit.

What questions are those? We took advice from some of the executive candidates we‘ve placed through the years to develop a list of questions a prospective employer SHOULD be asking. The resume and references give you insight into job qualifications and career history, but you need to know what type of leader you’re getting, too.

Here are our 20 favourite executive candidate interview questions and what each one reveals:

  1. Have you thought about leaving your present position before? If yes, what held you back? What you’ll learn: Values and how motivated your candidate is to find a new opportunity.

2.  If you had a choice of any job and any company, where would you go? What you’ll learn: Personality, other interests and creativity.

3.  What makes you effective? What you’ll learn: Work style and whether it complements your company’s culture.

4.  Describe the biggest change you’ve ever dealt with. How did you adapt? What you’ll learn: Whether they have the experience to take on a stressful role.

5.  Think back to the best partner or supervisor you’ve ever worked with: what did you like about the person’s management style? What you’ll learn: The leadership skills your candidate strives for.

6.  In what areas would you like to further develop yourself? What you’ll learn: Potential for growth within your organization.

7.  What types of decisions are the most difficult for you to make? Why? What you’ll learn: Weaknesses that may affect the role.

8.  Which three things about your last role gave you the most satisfaction? What you’ll learn: Values which the candidate will bring with them to this role, too.

9.  How did you sell a new idea to your management team (describe in detail) and what was the result? What you’ll learn: Leadership abilities and interaction skills.

10.  How do you keep your team focused? What you’ll learn: Motivational and leadership personality.

11.  How do you influence and sell to co-workers? What you’ll learn: Ability to manage and/or influence laterally.

12.  Describe a time when your supervisor criticized your work. What you’ll learn: Reactions to perceived missteps and/or failures.

13.  What have you done to improve your verbal communication skills? What you’ll learn: Verbal communication skills.

14.  What are you doing to improve your listening skills? What you’ll learn: Whether they actively work to respond to other people meaningfully.

15.  How would you describe what WE do? What you’ll learn: Depth of understanding of your company’s mission.

16.  What recurring problem did you have in a previous (or your current) role that you wanted to resolve but didn’t? Why not? What you’ll learn: Goals, potential weaknesses and possible motivation for role change.

17.  Describe the toughest decision you have ever had to make at work. What you’ll learn: If they have the experience necessary to face the challenges of this role.

18.  What support do you feel would be necessary for both you and the company to be successful? What you’ll learn: Whether expectations and requirements match resources available to the company.

19.  What’s the most interesting thing about you that isn’t on your resume? What you’ll learn: Personal values and other interests.

20. Describe yourself in one word. What you’ll learn: The candidate’s strength and/or perception of self.

Written by: Bob Hennessy
Managing Partner AIMS International Philadelphia

Related posts:
What assessments and personality tests for candidates are good for and what not
It’s all about people, not systems and compliance 
Challenges of talent management 2014
How headhunters look at your profile 



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