Young female entrepreneur enjoying business and job success against city and sunset background. Successful businesswoman smiling outdoors

Download Our Free Report

Get my concise, FREE report for step-by-step guidance to STAND OUT & WIN in interviews!

Questions to Ask a CEO in an Interview

by THEA kelley | June 1, 2022

Executive listening; questions to ask CEO in an interview“I’ve got an interview with a senior executive at (company). What questions can I ask to get a sense of how their style and priorities will affect my day-to-day work? What are the best questions to ask a CEO in an interview?”

I was asked this question this morning in coaching a client. Her interests–company culture, leadership styles, and the health of the company–may be a lot like your own, so let’s explore how you might learn what you need to know.

Best questions to ask a CEO in an interview:

What kind of company culture is filtering down from senior management?

  • “How does communication happen between senior management and other levels?”
  • “How are the values, vision, plans and strategies communicated?”
  • “How does this company reward good performance?”
  • “How would you describe the company culture here?”
  • “How is that culture evolving?”

Is senior management committed to the department I’m interviewing in?

  • “Where do you see the company expanding or focusing its efforts in the next few years?”
  • “What upcoming initiatives do you find particularly exciting?”
  • “How do you see (relevant department)’s role in the company’s growth?”

Do they set direction in a firm, consistent way?

  • “How and when are goals for this department set?”

I like working under management that has a “servant leader” style where the leader shares power and emphasizes developing people. Does this executive believe in this, and practice it?

Asking directly about a specific style may cause the executive to become defensive or question your compatibility with the organization. Instead, ask more general questions and “listen between the lines.”

  • “Can you describe your leadership style for me?”
  • “What’s your ideal or philosophy about senior management’s role in the company?”
  • “How does this company foster leadership at all levels?”
  • “What is your approach to motivating and developing talent?”

What is holding the company back?

  • “How is this company looking to evolve so that it continues to compete effectively, and how could a person in this role support that evolution?”

Obviously, these are more questions than most candidates will have a chance to ask, but they can guide your own company research as well. Read up on the executive in the business press and on social media. Talk to people who know the company. Then prioritize your questions for the interview. You may get a chance to ask many of them, or just one question–or none, if the interviewer talks the whole time!

Choose your questions wisely.

The questions you ask the CEO during an interview say a lot about you. Are you excited about the role, or worried? Interested in the big picture (the executive hopes so!), or just your own job?

The best questions to ask at the end of the interview depend on many factors, including the roles, authority levels and personalities of the individuals involved. For example, if you’re an executive yourself, you may not need to be as deferential as a mid-level candidate. Consider the suggestions above as “food for thought” – and use your own good judgment.

Keep in mind, also, that the executive may not simply answer your question. He or she may ask counter-questions such as, “Why do you ask?” or “What leadership style do you prefer?”

Be prepared to bring a harmonious blend of authenticity and strategy to this conversation.

More guidance for your interviews with senior executives:

Now that you know some good questions to aska CEO during interviews, your next step is to understand How to Ace an Interview with the CEO.  You may also want to review the Interview Questions CEOs Ask and How to Answer Them. Ace this final interview and get the job! (This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.)

RELATED POSTS

Young female entrepreneur enjoying business and job success against city and sunset background. Successful businesswoman smiling outdoors

Download Our Free Report

Get my concise, FREE report for step-by-step guidance to STAND OUT & WIN in interviews!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

FREE Gift!

Get a FREE report & find out how to STAND OUT & WIN in interviews!

x
Share17
Share9
Tweet