An executive job interview takes on a slightly different tone than your average interview. The structure is similar, and even some of the questions overlap from interviews for lower level positions. What’s expected of you, however, is on another level.
For C-level positions, hiring managers are looking for a leader . . . someone with natural born instincts but also a portfolio of experience showing they’ve managed a team before and can do it again. Vague and passive interview conversation really won’t fly during these senior level executive job interviews.
9 Things To Say in an Executive Job Interview
Read on for a few tips on what to say during an executive job interview (and how to say it) to showcase what you can bring to the company as a leader.
1. Say What You Mean
A good leader is calm and self-assured, so your questions and answers should be clear and concise. Don’t talk around a point or ramble to buy yourself time. It comes off as wishy-washy, and it will appear like you don’t have a sufficient answer.
If you need a second to think about your answer, pause and consider. You can also ask for clarification about an aspect of the question. This buys you time and provides a clearer direction while responding to broad questions.
Then be crystal clear about your answer. If the interviewer asks about your contributions in your last position, literally answer, “I contributed by…” rather than speaking vaguely about your role at the company. You’ll seem more certain, and your interviewer won’t be left trying to decode your answer.
2. Talk About Company Challenges
Early on during the interview, ask about the company’s biggest challenge or the most significant challenge of the position. This gives you the rest of the interview to cater your responses so that they address this problem. Knowing early on where the company has room to grow allows you talk about where you would contribute as a leader and problem solver in this specific company.
3. Integrate Current Events
Supplement your responses with current events and other recent developments in the industry. Keeping your answer relevant to the question, mention that you just read about a new development or are fascinated by some research that just came out.
Or if it doesn’t suit the question, feel free to ask your interviewer their thoughts on the topic later in the interview. However, you choose to do it, incorporating current events shows that you’re a flexible, curious, and modern leader.
4. Tell a Story in Your Executive Job Interview
Always have a few multitasking examples up your sleeve that you could use to address a few different questions. Then, engage your audience with your anecdotes. When you answer a question that requires you to give an example from your past experience or solve a case study, don’t just state the problem and solution. Instead, draw your audience in with a plot line.
First, set the scene:
- What was the job?
- Who was there?
- What did you do?
- What things happened?
For the rising action, explain how the obstacle came about in the first place and any attempts to overcome it that initially failed. The climax is that “aha” moment where you solved the problem or came to some realization that helped you put everything back in order. Be sure at this part in the story to give credit to anyone who helped you.
Then, describe the aftermath:
- What did you learn?
- Were there larger implications for the company or your career?
- Why is the situation applicable to the current opening?
5. Talk As If You Were Hired
Don’t be arrogant, of course. But do set the scene for you interviewer. Discuss what you would like to do at their company and help them imagine what the company would look like with you in it. By connecting each of your answers back to their company, you can help them see exactly where you fit in and why they need you.
6. Include Metrics of Success
If you’re interviewing for a c-level position, the expectation is that you can achieve results and foster growth in the company. Show that you can by showing that you’ve done it before. And don’t be vague about it. Support responses with real growth metrics that you’ve accomplished in the past, such as improvements in sales, revenue, leads, or customer loyalty.
7. Explain Your Unique Management Style
Your description of how you manage a team should not sound like it came straight from your college business textbook. Professionals’ management style, like the rest of their work ethic, evolves over time.
Ideally you should have adapted your methods over the course of your career, based on what has and hasn’t worked, so at least to some extent, it should be a personalized approach. Presenting a vanilla management style will make you blend in with any other candidates, and the interviewer might perceive that you aren’t able to evaluate team progress and adapt accordingly.
Talking about how your leadership style has changed over time demonstrates humility and self-awareness . . . both valuable qualities for a senior level position.
8. Ask Where You Stand
Find clever ways to assess your progress during the interview. For most companies and positions, it’s completely acceptable to ask questions throughout the interview. It’s okay after answering a question to ask if your answer was sufficient, how your response compared to other people’s answers, or how successful executives before you have approached the question.
By implementing this technique sparingly and inquiring with a respectful tone, you can foster a more conversational tone for the interview and also get insights about how you’re faring so far as a candidate. Plus, it portrays leadership and curiosity by indicating that you’re there to learn and grow from this interaction. If you frame asking for feedback in a growth-oriented light, they’ll appreciate your genuine interest in professional development rather than perceive it as crossing any lines.
9. Avoid Broad Questions in Your Executive Job Interview
When it finally comes to that part in the interview where you’re expected to ask the questions, impress the hiring manager by asking specific, insightful questions. Instead of asking what the company culture is like, ask how the company is organized, which divisions collaborate and how often, or how the company resolves communication issues.
Breaking out of the passive interviewee role gives you the opportunity to showcase self-assurance and self-awareness while also showing that you are eager to grow and foster growth in their company. If you want to communicate leadership ability, craft dynamic questions and responses.
Supplement your interview answers with substantive details. Use numerical growth rates, real names of contributors, and current events to lay a clear picture of what you would look like at the company. Don’t just tell them that you can drive change. Show them.
More About Executive Job Interviews
About the Guest Author
Chad Warner is a writer who works with CulverCareers, an award-winning national recruiting agency specializing in sales and marketing. They’ve spent more than 30 years honing their craft, building their networks, and establishing a reputation as a trusted recruitment agency.