We’ve worked with thousands of job seekers, and know from our executive search practice that nearly all interviewers rely on a fairly standard set of executive interview questions.

While it’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll be asked, chances are you’ll see some variation of these questions. You can give yourself a leg up and walk into the interview more confident by preparing your responses to these interview questions in advance.

We’ll start by giving you the formula to use to answer ANY behavioral interview question and then we’ll dive into ten executive interview questions you should absolutely expect to be asked.

The formula for answering behavioral interview questions

While there may not be a “right” answer for most behavioral interview questions, one of the aspects your interviewer will evaluate is how well you structure your answer.

The PAR technique provides an easy structure for answering behavioral interview questions. PAR stands for Problem, Action, Result.

  • Start by describing the Problem or situation was that you had to handle.
  • Next, explain the Action you took to address the problem.
  • Finally, describe the Result of your actions and decisions. Make sure to quantify the results.

10 commonly asked executive interview questions

1. What is the greatest accomplishment of your career?

This is a classic interview question and one you should absolutely be prepared to answer. It is also a great opportunity to practice the art of the humble brag.

Describe a great challenge you overcame, how your work helped your company achieve a milestone record or a personal goal that you set for yourself and surpassed.

Don’t be arrogant or smug (here’s where the “humble” part comes in) but describe how your hard work helped to make a positive difference for your company or coworkers.

2. If you could change anything in your past, what would that be?

Interviewers ask this question to get an idea about your attitude and your character. Be honest with your answer but put a positive spin on it.

Talk about what you learned from a mistake, how it changed you for the better and how you’ve been able to help others from repeating the same mistake.

3. What skills are you lacking?

Tread lightly here. You don’t want to highlight any areas that would be a red flag on your ability to perform this job well.

Describe areas where your skills are not as strong and then describe how you’re working to strengthen them.

4. What do you dislike about your current job?

This is not an opportunity to bash your current company, talk about how much of a monster your boss is or whine that you’re overqualified for your current position, but they just won’t promote you.

Whatever your job is lacking should be something that this job will fulfill, as well as something that you can help the company with.

5. Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.

You probably tailored your resume to match the qualifications for this job description, in which case, you should have plenty of other skills to discuss. Talk about an attribute or some unique experience you have that could help you in this new position.

6. Tell me about a time when you clashed with your supervisor.

This question shows the interviewer your problem-solving skills and how you handle disagreements with superiors.

Be mature in your response and make sure the story ends on a positive note.

Describe how you worked through the situation, while remaining professional and productive.

7. What makes you excited about Mondays?

This is simple – what do you like about your career? What are you passionate about?

Be positive and upbeat in your response. Let your passion for the job shine through.

8. What will your team learn from you?

Highlight your best leadership qualities and the value your experience and knowledge will bring to a team.

Give examples of how your coaching abilities have helped employees improve their skills in previous jobs.

9. Why do you want to work here?

This is your opportunity to show off how much research you did before this interview.

Give specific facts about the company that you like. Maybe it’s their corporate values, their community involvement or a great new product they’re bringing to market.

10. Why should we hire you?

Put on your salesperson hat to answer this question.

Based on what you’ve gathered from your research, the job description, and the interview process, what is it that they need that you can provide?

Explain how your qualifications and experience make you the absolute best fit for this position.

Tips for acing executive interview questions

When you’re using examples in your answers, always quantify them if possible.  You can tell your interviewer you’re a “fast runner” (for example) but it paints a different picture about your dedication and skill level if you tell them you “run a 4-minute mile.”

Also, keep your answers to a maximum of 90 seconds.  Failing to be concise in your answers can cost you the job. This is the second biggest reason, just behind lack of preparation, that hiring authorities cite for cutting candidates. 

While it’s important to fully answer the question, if your response goes on more than about a minute it’s usually too long. Ensure you’re monitoring the body language of your interviewer as well; they’ll usually start giving you clues if you’re rambling or speaking too quickly.

Practice makes perfect

Preparing for an interview is crucial for a success. By understanding common interview questions and practicing your responses, you can confidently showcase your qualifications and fit for the role.

If you’ve been sending out tons of resumes and not getting any interviews, NOW is the time to put proven executive job search strategies into action.

In our work helping thousands of executive job seekers, we’ve found that most people start their job hunt without a clear plan of attack. They start out feeling optimistic and applying for every job they see and quickly become frustrated when they don’t get results.

Ultimately those most successful in their executive job search have a clear set of strategies in place before they apply for their first position.  

Here are some of our proven executive job search strategies to help you quickly gain traction and land your next position. 

Executive job search strategies for success

1. Ensure you’re clear on your ideal next position

The first step in any executive job search should be to spend time reflecting on what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish in a new position.  Make sure you’re able to honestly answer to yourself why you are seeking a new position. Are you running from something or running to something? Are you seeking more money? Greater responsibilities? Less travel?

Before starting the job search process, ensure you have a clear vision for what your next position needs to offer. Consider which aspects of your “wish list” you’re willing to compromise on if needed and those you need to stand firm on.

Deciding to take a new position can impact the entire family, particularly if relocation is involved, so it’s important to get their buy-in prior to starting your search.  We’ve seen many candidates start pursuing their dream jobs in a new city only to realize that their family isn’t on board with a move; take the time up front to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as relocation.  Make sure you carefully consider the costs associated with relocation as well.

2. Create a plan for your executive job search

Having a well thought out plan will shorten your search duration.

An effective job search plan includes time allocated to each of the following components:

  • Networking – researching, contacting, and following up with people in your network
  • Online research – developing and refining a list of target organizations and researching companies
  • Searching for and responding to job postings – checking sites like Indeed, LinkedIn and executive search firms’ websites for job openings and applying
  • Job search correspondence – updating your resume, drafting cover letters, sending timely follow-up and thank you emails
  • Maintaining interview preparation – identifying common interview questions and practicing your responses; ensuring you are confident interviewing on video
  • Managing the process – keeping clear records of where you’ve applied, staying organized, and self-care so you stay focused and motivated

Consider what percentage of your time you’ll dedicate to each of these items.  What are you committing to doing daily to move your job search forward? Weekly?  Set specific, measurable, result-oriented goals so you stay focused and can track your progress.

Decide where you will regularly check for posted positions (industry websites, Indeed.com, etc.) and get in contact with a reputable search firm with expertise in your area.  Develop a plan for how you’ll tap into your network and reach out to your professional contacts.

3. Make sure your resume adequately showcases your accomplishments

When you’re updating your resume, make sure it’s an effective marketing piece for you by selecting a simple, easy-to-read design.

When picking a resume template, keep in mind that at the executive level, candidates typically have greater success if they use more conservative resume formats and avoid trendy resume designs.

The number one resume mistake we see is failing to quantify accomplishments. To set yourself apart from other candidates, ensure your resume content focuses on the results you’ve achieved (rather than your duties).

4. Clean up your social media profiles

Know that as you progress through the job search process, potential employers will most likely “Google” you and check out your social media profiles.

Make sure that everything is “professional” and that nothing on your LinkedIn profile contradicts the information on your resume.

Keep in mind that potential employers may go so far as checking out your spouse’s or kids’ social media profiles and make judgments (we’ve seen this happen!) so consider having your family members adjust their social media privacy settings if warranted.

5. Prepare your references

Ensure you’re ready when you’re inevitably asked for references.  It should go without saying, but give your references a heads up about your job search and ask for their permission before listing them as a reference.

Early in your executive job search, put together a list with your reference names, contact info, and relationship to you so you have it ready to go.

6. Practice your interviewing skills

Most interviewers use variations of common questions, so it’s a good idea to do some research and prepare ahead of time for the questions you’ll likely encounter.

As a reminder, when interviewing, keep your answers to a maximum of 90 seconds.

Failing to be concise in your answers can cost you the job. This is the second biggest reason, just behind lack of preparation, that hiring authorities cite for cutting candidates.

Practice being interviewed for a position by someone who will give you objective feedback on the content and delivery of your responses.

Employers are increasingly using video interviews as part of their process.  We conduct dozens of video interviews each week, and we’ve found that few job candidates excel at video interviewing.

Practice video interviewing so you’re comfortable and take the time to learn video interview best practices on everything from where to position yourself relative to the window and how to ensure your internet connection is fast enough.

7. Perfect the PAR technique for answering behavioral interview questions

While there may not be a “right” answer for behavioral interview questions, one of the aspects your interviewer will evaluate is how well you structure your answer.

The PAR technique provides an easy structure for answering behavioral interview questions. PAR stands for Problem, Action, Result.

  • Start by describing the Problem or situation was that you had to handle.
  • Next, explain the Action you took to address the problem.
  • Finally, describe the Result of your actions and decisions. Make sure to quantify the results.

You’ll be judged by your appearance and what you wear when you’re interviewing.

Always play it safe by wearing business professional clothing – a suit and tie for gentlemen and a business dress or suit for ladies. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Make sure you have what you need when you’re kicking off your executive job search so you don’t have to scramble to find an appropriate outfit when you get your first interview.

Keep in mind that many major department stores have stylists to help you build your professional wardrobe.

If you have a suit sitting in the back of your closet, try it on and consider taking it to the dry cleaner so it’s ready to go.

9. Consider the total package when evaluating a job offer

We sometimes see candidates place too much emphasis on the compensation package.  While money is certainly important, we recommend that candidates consider job opportunities more holistically.

When candidates take the time to carefully evaluate the position and offer details, we find they ultimately have increased job satisfaction and success.

In addition to considering the alignment of the new position with the criteria you identified as important at the start of your executive job search, we recommend you evaluate an offer on the following:

  • Compensation Package
  • Company Reputation
  • Corporate Culture
  • Team and Boss
  • Advancement Opportunity

10. When you find the right position, resign gracefully

Always remember your candidacy will be stronger if you are still working. We advise our candidates to wait until you have an offer letter in hand before resigning.

Give sufficient notice, thank your employer for the opportunity and offer to help find a replacement.

It’s always best to avoid burning your bridges if possible. After all, you never know when you might meet your former colleagues under other conditions — and then it’s better for everyone if there are no hard feelings.

You CAN change the trajectory of your executive job search

Searching for a job doesn’t have to be painful, and if you put these executive job search strategies into practice, you’ll get results faster.

We encourage you to get started today by picking just one or two of these areas to focus on first.

Many organizations use panel interviews as part of their executive interview process. 

While this type of interview can be intimidating, your chances of succeeding will improve if you carefully prepare.

From our over thirty years of working with executive job seekers, we know that people only get hired if they adequately prepare for their interviews. Panel interviews require even more rigorous preparation than other interview types. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to feel confident and prepared when facing a panel of interviewers.

Why organizations use panel interviews

For executive interviews, the panel interview usually consists of several members of the organization’s executive team. 

Organizations use panel interviews because they are an efficient way of getting buy-in and feedback from multiple stakeholders. 

If executed well, they should reduce bias in the hiring process and result in a more thorough examination of each candidate. 

Panel interviews can provide insight into the organization’s culture for the candidate. You’ll get a glimpse into the interworkings of the team by the way panel members communicate with each other. 

Preparing for a panel interview 

The ultimate goal of your interview is to demonstrate your qualifications and showcase how you can contribute to the company’s mission. 

As you would with any other interview, make sure you:

  • Research the company
  • Practice responding to common interview questions
  • Prepare examples of past successes that demonstrate your capabilities for the role you’re interviewing for
  • Prepare thoughtful questions about the position and organization

In addition, ask the organization for the names of the panel members ahead of time. Then, take the time to research each person. 

Look for interviewer bios on the company website and check out each person’s LinkedIn profile. Note titles, career trajectories, and key accomplishments while with the organization. 

During the interview, you’ll want to engage with each panel member. Address each interviewer by name and focus on building rapport using the information gathered during your research. 

Consider what perspective each interviewer may have because of their job function. 

For example, a CFO may be particularly interested in hearing how you saved a previous employer money. The COO may be more concerned with how a project impacted customer engagement. 

Where possible, address areas important to each stakeholder when answering questions. 

Answering panel interview questions

First and foremost, listen carefully before responding to get all the information and context clues the interviewer provides. 

Then, you’ll want to ensure you fully answer the question without rambling. (If your answer is over 90 seconds, it’s too long!) 

When appropriate, provide examples demonstrating how your experience applies directly to their needs.

For behavioral interview questions, make sure you structure your answer. The PAR technique (Problem, Action, Result) provides a good framework. Always make sure you quantify the results.  

Aim for a conversational feel during the interview. 

Convey that you listened carefully with phrases like “As Eileen mentioned earlier…” or “As I mentioned…” 

There may be underlying biases among certain members of an interviewing panel. Try not to let any negative comments or facial expressions affect your performance. Focus on responding positively regardless. 

Appearing confident and capable  

Body language can make or break an interview.  

Many experts believe it is just as important as the words you say when it comes to landing a job. For executive job seekers, this is especially true. 

As mentioned above, it’s crucial to connect with each interviewer. 

When responding to a question, focus initially on the person who asked the question. Focus on the other panelists while elaborating on points or providing examples so that everyone feels included in the discussion.

To appear confident, sit up straight and avoid fidgeting.

Keep your hands still on the table and use gestures sparingly but purposefully when making a point.  

Smiling can go a long way toward putting people at ease. However, if you smile too much, you can come off insincere. 

Practice makes perfect

Recruit some friends or hire a job search coach to help you improve your interviewing skills. 

Your mock interviewers should ask you commonly asked questions and dig into your responses with follow-up questions. 

Having them probe your answers will make you feel more comfortable with this format during an interview. 

How to deal with rapid fire questions 

You will likely be asked another question before fully answering the last one in a panel interview. Or, you may be asked multiple questions at once. 

When this happens, it’s essential to control the pace of conversation. Pause before responding and carefully consider what you want to say.

Writing down notes can help you keep track of your talking points or questions asked in quick succession.  

If an interviewer cuts you off while you are still in mid-sentence, assess whether what you had left to say was critical for them to know. 

If so, politely ask: “Before I answer your question, may I share a final thought on the last?” and complete your previous response. 

Preparing for an online panel interview  

Video panel interviews can be extra tricky, especially when there are lags in audio or video. You’ll want to pause before answering questions to avoid talking over someone. 

Here are a few quick video interview tips: 

  • Speed check your internet (ensure an upload or download speed of at least 5 Mbps)
  • Install (and test) the video software ahead of time
  • Make sure you have a professional background
  • Position the camera at eye-level 
  • Ensure your face is well-lit (avoid backlighting)
  • Wear a suit; avoid busy patterns
  • Arrive early
  • Look directly at the camera when speaking
  • Remain unflustered if you experience a technical challenge

Following up after a panel interview 

Send thank you notes promptly after the interview.  

We recommend sending an email thank you note the same day. Reiterate your interest in the opportunity if you want the position. 

If there were any questions asked during your interview that you couldn’t answer fully, use this opportunity in your follow-up letter to provide more detailed answers. 

Interviewers may compare notes, so write something unique for each interviewer. 

Following these panel interviewing tips will help ensure you perform well and convince the employer you’re the best candidate for the job.

Reflecting on your panel interview experience

Regardless of the outcome, every panel interview is a chance to gain insight into your strengths and areas for improvement. Take time to reflect on the experience and use it as a learning opportunity for future interviews.

Your resume is the ticket to the job of your dreams, so it’s critical to avoid making these common resume mistakes that will cause hiring managers and recruiters to put your resume into the “no” pile.

We receive hundreds of resumes each month, and those that stand out have a clear focus, content that showcases the results the executive has achieved (rather than duties), and a simple, easy-to-read design. 

To ensure that your resume is an effective marketing piece for you and gets you interviews, ensure you avoid these common resume mistakes.

Resume errors to avoid

1. Listing duties but not accomplishments

A long list of all of the things you’ve been responsible for in your previous jobs means very little to a potential employer.

Instead, discuss what you’ve accomplished through those responsibilities.

Recap your successes in each position and list challenges you’ve overcome. These will have far more impact than simply stating that you managed projects and implemented new procedures. Re-position your duties as accomplishments that demonstrate your capabilities and qualifications.

2. Failing to quantify your impact

Before making a big purchase, you likely do a little research first. In your research, you probably see facts like 95 percent of users gave a 5-star review or four-out-of-five doctors recommend this product. Isn’t it more reassuring to see a list of these hard numbers rather than just a list of attributes about the product on the company’s website?

Now apply that thought process to your resume. Failing to quantify accomplishments is the number one resume mistake we see!

Filling your resume with flowery language about how you led your team to success or implemented new systems means very little to a hiring manager without quantifiables to back up your claims. When it comes to landing an executive-level position, you need to be specific about exactly what you’ve accomplished.

Perhaps you increased sales by 78 percent or helped decrease employee turnover by 20 percent.

Including quantifiable, hard facts helps to validate your achievements in the eyes of the hiring manager.

3. Over-designing your resume

Incorporating fancy graphs, charts, colors or images into your resume may capture a recruiter’s attention, but it might not be for the right reason.

Elaborately-designed resumes are often more difficult to decipher and cause the reader to have to hunt for relevant information.

Picking an ineffective resume template is one of the most common resume mistakes we see.

Unless you’re applying for a job in a field like graphic design, it’s better to stick to a resume in a classic format with a simple, black, sans-serif font. You won’t get an interview if the hiring manager can’t read your resume.

Remember, your resume is the first impression a potential employer will have of you, so take the time to tailor it to the job position and tell your career story as effectively and efficiently as possible.

4. Including too much or not enough

Like Goldilocks, you want to make sure your resume is not too short, not too long, but just the right length to highlight your greatest accomplishments and your breadth of experience.

There’s a common misconception that a resume should be no longer than one page, but that is simply not true nor is it feasible for a professional who has reached an executive level.

Even if you don’t have years of experience under your belt, by the time you’re ready to take on the C-suite, you’ve likely got more experience and knowledge than one page can contain – at least not without using an unreadable small font.

It’s also important not to try to fill up several pages just to make it look like you’ve got a lot of experience. Listing out every single job responsibility you’ve ever had on your resume is a waste of your time and your potential employer’s time.

While a good rule of thumb is to aim for three pages or fewer, remember that your resume should be only long enough to give the recruiter the information they need to determine you’re a qualified candidate for the position.

5. Using a one-size-fits-all resume

Just as you should tailor the suit you wear to the interview, you need to tailor your resume to the job description. Taking the time to customize your resume to the keywords in the job listing will help you stand out as a qualified candidate.

However, do not lie or stretch the truth about your work history to make yourself look like the right person for the job.

You must have the experience and knowledge to back up what your resume says; if you don’t have the right experience, look elsewhere, but if you do, then make sure that is very clear in your resume.

6. Including an objective statement

While objective statements were a resume trend in the past, including one is now a resume mistake.

A potential employer doesn’t need a summary of what you’re looking for in a job.

Instead, tell them what you are brining to the position. These are called executive statements, and they are essentially just a few sentences that describe your qualifications and what you have to offer to the position.

As with the rest of your resume, it’s important to tailor this summary to the position.

7. Writing with lazy language

An executive’s resume needs to be filled with powerful, action-oriented words. A resume with half-sentences about improving processes and meeting quotas is lackluster at best.

When you’re vying for the C-suite, use energetic and authoritative words like launched, initiated and motivated. Be proud of the accomplishments you’ve made and use language that reflects the importance of what you’ve done.

Action verbs will keep the reader interested and help improve the flow of your resume.

8. Skipping spell check

This is one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, and unfortunately, one of the most common. Spelling and grammatical errors may not seem like a huge deal, but they are often deal-breakers for hiring managers.

Think about it from your potential employer’s perspective: If you can overlook typos on your resume, you can probably overlook errors in your work.

Small errors can lead to costly mistakes that an employer may not be able to afford, especially from an executive-level employee.

Take the extra time to proofread your resume and run it by a colleague or friend as well to ensure you don’t overlook anything.

9. Overusing buzzwords

Saturating your resume with industry buzzwords will probably do nothing but irritate the hiring manager. You certainly need to understand and be able to properly use your industry’s key buzzwords, but you don’t have to prove your knowledge of them in your resume. It’s acceptable to incorporate them sparingly where appropriate, but if you stuff your resume full of industry jargon, you run the risk of looking like you’re trying too hard and getting your resume tossed in the trash.

Make your resume work for you

Before you submit your resume, we encourage you to carefully evaluate your resume against this list to make sure you’re not making these common resume mistakes. 

It takes courage to admit something isn’t working with your resume.

But the sooner you fix your resume mistakes, the faster you’ll be on your way to career success.