by Lisa Marsh
Jul 2 2015
No matter how much experience you have accumulated as a senior level executive, attending an interview can be a daunting task. Like with any major career step, the key to a successful interview is preparation. It is universally known that those who prepare for a variety of interview questions perform better than those who do not. Therefore, to assist you on your way to career success, BlueSteps has prepared a list of ten commonly asked senior-level interview questions for you to familiarize yourself with.
1. Tell Me about Yourself?
It is impossible to guarantee that certain questions will be asked during your interview, but it is highly likely that you will be asked this question as soon as the interview begins. The reason why interviewers favor this question is because not only does it allow for a quick segue into the start of formal interviewing, but it also allows them to test how you cope in unstructured situations. The key to answering this question is to demonstrate confidence, provide an explanation of your career trajectory and keep it concise. The question can be answered in many ways, but there is only one way to answer it incorrectly: by asking “what do you want to know?” Work on developing and practicing your answer to create an articulate first impression.
2. What Was Your Reason For Leaving Your Last Employer?
This question can appear a little tricky to answer and so it is important to be honest and straightforward. If a conflict or adverse professional situation was the motivation for leaving your last employer, be sure to avoid being overly negative. Even if the situation was not your fault, potential employers might become wary. Instead, highlight positive developments that occurred as a result of your departure and explain that you are eager to enter the next stage of your career. You could also explain that you were looking for a more challenging role or perhaps summarize important lessons that you have learned as a result.
3. Can You Tell Me About Your Greatest Strength?
When the interviewer has given you the opportunity to discuss your strengths in depth, some people find it difficult to answer for fear of sounding arrogant. If you are conscious of this, in order to mindfully answer this question, it is advisable to select two or three attributes or skills that are relevant to the position that you are applying for and focus on them. It can also be advantageous to cite observations that other people, particularly any superiors, have made about your work or professional characteristics.
4. What Do You Consider To Be Your Greatest Weakness?
After you have discussed your greatest strengths, it is commonplace for the following question to be related to your greatest weakness. While it can feel naturally uncomfortable to highlight any weaknesses to a potential employer, answering this question correctly will allow you to demonstrate your ability to be self-reflective and self-aware; two key leadership qualities. It is best to mention only one flaw, and then immediately describe the actions that you have taken to correct it. For example, if your flaw is that you are a weak presenter, explain that you have undertaken classes to improve your ability in this area.
5. Do You Consider Yourself To Be A Strategic Thinker?
Many interview questions often focus on key skills for the position on offer, so make sure that you have prepared examples of your ability for all key skills that the job requires. Once you have prepared your examples, practice them aloud to enable yourself to speak confidently during the interview.
6. Can You Tell Me About A Failed Project?
Much like with the greatest weakness question, being asked about your failed projects can be another way that interviewers catch their candidates off guard. It is highly important to avoid saying answers such as “but it wasn’t my fault” or “it would have worked if they had listened to me.” The interviewer is not interested in who was to blame, and does not aim to embarrass you on your past mistakes. What they are looking for is someone who is able to learn from their mistakes and have the experience and knowledge to ensure that the mistakes do not repeat themselves. Answering that you “don’t have any failed projects” could show that you lack experience, so it is best to avoid that answer too. Give the interviewer a concise story with an explicit conclusion that demonstrates your ability to learn.
7. What Is The One Thing You Would Change About The Company If You Could Today?
When questions like this appear during an interview, it really highlights the importance of conducting due diligence and research on the potential employer. Executives are hired to make decisions and think on the spot, and so this is a great way for recruiters and potential employers to test this. The interviewer will not expect a fully thought out strategy, but will assess the candidate’s thought process, attitude, and priorities.
8. Do You Understand Our Company Culture?
In today’s professional environment, the concept of culture fit is increasingly becoming a top priority in the recruitment process. The more senior the position, the more important it is to find a cultural fit, as these characteristics will affect their leadership style. Prior to the interview, candidates can gain an understanding of the company’s culture by reading their website, particularly the “About Us” section. Assess how they have chosen to present themselves to their clients, and even the style of the staff photographs. Companies with relaxed and casual photographs of staff are likely to have relaxed and casual environments. The photographs are also a good indicator of the appropriate dress code for their office too.
There are other less explicit ways in which this question can be asked such as “what do you do when you are not working?” and “What inspires you?” so be prepared to speak about yourself on a non-professional topic.
9. Can You Tell Me About A Situation Involving Conflict Management?
Rather than answering that you “have been quite fortunate and have never had a conflict at work,” which can appear to be disingenuous or show that you lack experience in dealing with workplace conflict, instead answer in a way that shows that you are a team player and possess strong interpersonal skills. You could highlight your ability to listen to the opinions of others, negotiate, persuade, and build consensus among your team. Negative sounding questions are often great opportunities to highlight positive attributes!
10. How Much Money Are Your Looking For?
The compensation negotiation question has remained a top dreaded interview question for executives and non-executives alike. Demand too much and you could price yourself out of consideration, but asking for too little can be damaging to your career trajectory for years to come. The best way to handle the question is to attempt to get the interviewer to state a salary range first. Failing that, you could quote your research on what the average pay is for someone in that role in that location, or consult salary comparison websites and quote your findings in your answer. Make sure that you have clearly thought about your cost of living, the cost of a potential move and other additional costs to make sure that the career move would be worthwhile.
Executive interviews can be a stressful experience, but with careful, strategic planning and research, you can improve your performance dramatically. While it is impossible to predict exactly what will be asked, the main point to remember during any interview is to engage the interviewer with compelling answers that showcase the required skills for the role. Rather than describing what you did and what you were responsible for, use stories that illustrate your points and led to results.
If you would like to hear more about how to handle executive interviews, download our complimentary webinar: How to Ace Your Next Executive Interview.
The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Connecting with Executive Search
As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:
- Learn about executive search and how it differs from other forms of recruiting
- Discover the best ways to connect with executive search professionals
- Understand how the search process works
- Implement strategies that will help you become visible to the search community
- And more!