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If you’ve been invited to interview for an executive role, you’re probably excited to prepare. You research the company, remind yourself of how your qualifications match what they’re looking for in the role, and review your resume to identify what you want to remember to tell the hiring committee.
But then, you start worrying about the tough executive interview questions they might throw at you. How can you prepare for complicated questions?
The most important thing to remember to do is figure out what you want the hiring manager to know about you. Usually, you can find ways to weave in compelling examples and relevant accomplishments in response to similar variations on the same question employers often ask.
At the same time, it’s a great idea to find common tough executive interview questions and practice them. Specifically, make a list of what you want to discuss if asked that question, and then practice sharing your response with a colleague or friend.
Ready to get started? Here, we’ll share seven common tough executive interview questions and then offer our advice on how to answer them.
Tell me about yourself.
This question often starts an interview, letting candidates work into the tougher questions. But this is a hard question – because you’re supposed to encapsulate your career in no longer than three-and-a-half minutes.
Your response should have three components: a discussion of who you are beyond the resume, a mention of how this position relates to and furthers your career, and a snapshot of who you are as a person, not just a worker.
Think of this question as a preview of what you’ll say in the rest of the interview.
Why should we hire you?
This is a similar question to the first one, but it asks you to think about what you want the hiring manager to remember about you. So, you don’t want to go into a bullet-by-bullet summary of what your resume says; they have it in front of them.
Instead, offer a brief refresher of who you are, mentioning critical accomplishments in your past positions. Choose three or four essential qualities – choosing unique wins that you think set you apart from others likely applying for this role.
What’s something about you that goes beyond your resume?
Your resume and cover letter discuss your qualifications and skills that would make you successful in this role. But hiring managers want to glean information about you that wasn’t easily conveyed on paper.
So, they’re going to ask questions that help them determine if you would fit into the company culture and be a compatible colleague for the team.
“This helps you gain more insight into the candidate’s personality, aside from what they wanted you to know in their CV. It helps to dive deeper into what they are like as a person beyond the standard resume content,” said Newman Stewart.
How do you know you’ve done quality work?
This question is a behavioral question that asks you to share one or two specific examples. When constructing your response, use the PAR (Problem, Action, Result) acronym to remind yourself how to structure the answer:
- Describe the Problem. In this case, the problem was determining how to measure your success.
- Next, share the Action you took to solve the problem.
- Last, add in the Results of the actions – in this case, you will share how you measured your success. Add quantifiable measures if possible.
What are your six-month and year-long goals in this role?
This question demonstrates that you understand your role and the company’s processes. It also makes sure that your objectives match what the company is looking for.
Be sure to lay out at least a few project ideas that you could complete during this timeframe and explain why these are your priorities. Finally, describe each project idea completely, rather than just mentioning an idea you have without fully exploring how you would put it into practice.
Why are you leaving the job you’re in currently?
In its subtext, this question considers what kind of employee you would be at this company. Would you be loyal and private? Or do you take the question to speak badly about your current employer?
Don’t do the latter. Even if you’re unhappy with your current position, you don’t want to speak badly about your supervisor or company.
Instead, move quickly past your current employer into discussing why you would be excited to be hired at the company where you’re interviewing.
Example: “I am leaving my current role because I am inspired by [COMPANY NAME]’s mission to [MISSION], and I’m seeking new, exciting challenges. My experience in my current role really lends itself to pushing the envelope here. I look forward to leveraging that experience to help [COMPANY NAME] achieve its goals.”
Why are you interested in our company?
This question is important because it sets you apart from candidates applying widely without a particular interest in this company. Before the interview, you want to prepare for this question (which is almost always asked in some capacity) by researching the company’s most interesting initiatives and successes. Be specific and demonstrate that you’ve done your research – sharing something obvious or generic will not impress.
Then, you can talk about what spurred you to apply for this position. After that, be sure to link what you’re excited about at the company to the job expectations in the role to which you’re applying.
How to Answer Tough Executive Interview Questions
You might not get all of these questions, but preparing answers to questions like these is worthwhile. More often than not, you’ll be asked questions similar to these. Moreover, any forethought and practice before an interview will help you identify what you most want to highlight in the interview itself.