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Executive interview questions you should be prepared to answer

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.


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