An Executive interview is possibly the most unique interview that a person is ever going to experience. Partly because the interview itself can to so varied and can consist of multiple stages from a formal conversation (about the role and your experiences) to a highly structured behavioural and strength based interview. However from our job interview coaching experience here are a number of questions that do tend to consistently come up at an executive level interview and therefore it’s important to have fully pre-pared for these questions prior to the interview itself.
Tell us about yourself? (variations include, talk me through your CV?)
This is one of the most common executive interview questions. One of the biggest challenge is that because it’s so open and generic. This makes it difficult to know where to start and also where to stop what things to actually talk about and how long should the answer be. This is especially difficult when you have had a long career. The key to successfully navigating this answer is to use your CV as a template and use that as the parameters and boundaries of your answers. Secondly is to think about breaking that career history up in to small sections. For example you could have your early career, mid career and most recent career. Within each section I usually suggest that you highlight 3 points which are relevant for the role that you’re applying for. In this way you have highlighted 9 points in total with each point being relevant for the role that you’re applying for and those providing value.
Describe your Leadership Style?
This is a very popular executive interview question. From our training experience there are a number of ways to approach this questions. Firstly you have to be authentic and describe an approach which is true to you rather than trying to give the interviewer what they want to hear. Secondly focus on three key areas that you feel summarise your leadership style i.e. egalitarian, lead by example, results orientated then go in to further detail regarding these areas in more detail, explaining why you like this approach and a brief example of where it’s been successful.
What would your plans be for the first 90 days?
This is one of those executive interview questions that can potentially catch the most articulate, composed and quick witted of people off guard. Although it’s not a 100% guarantee that this question will come up by simply preparing for it, it will provide you with a lot of focused and relevant topics to talk about if the interview meanders in to a conversation which tends to happen at the most senior levels. Therefore despite it being rather cumbersome to prep it really is a win-win question to have prepared.
The way to approach the question what would you do in your first 90 days? is to break it up in to three sections, 30 days (month one), followed by what you would do from 31-60 days (month 2) and finally from 61-90 (month 3). Then anchor some keywords to each section for example “the first 30 days are really about building relationships and reviewing the business!” then use those words to help build your strategies around, ensuring that you’re speaking from a context of their business and where your experiences could add value.
Provide an example of a key strategy that you’ve help devise which has resulted in business success (operational improvement, efficiency, sales, growth etc.)?
This executive interview question maybe worded differently but it has one purpose which is to assess your strategic thinking but also to be able to successfully implemented and deliver. Firstly it’s important to remember that this question is a behavioural question (competency based) therefore it’s important to use the STAR method when preparing for this question. The big trap many professionals fall in to during a senior management interview is that they focus on either the devising of the strategy or it’s implementation. However the key to this answer is to cover both and ensuring that whilst developing a strategy it is grounded in the market and operational realities of the business and therefore is successfully implement through a number of key steps over a 1-3 year period etc. Also don’t be afraid to talk about any adjustments of the strategy after year 1 or 2. This will show that you’re someone who’s adaptable and has the aptitude and ability to change directions when required to ensure that the business positioned inline with the market.
So there you have it my top Executive interview questions I highlight recommend that you must be prepared for, because from my experience there is very little doubt that if not all but at least one of these questions will appear in your next interview. As famous saying goes, fail to prepare then be fully prepared to fail!