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10 Questions You Should Ask Executive Candidates (VIDEO)

10 Questions You Should Ask Executive Candidates (VIDEO)

When you are interviewing executive candidates, here are 10 questions you should ask executive candidates.


I put together 10 questions that I thought should be asked of each executive that you or your firm interviews. I want to be clear that these questions don't deal with an objective evaluation of their knowledge. These fall into the category of "everything else." If you like to ask knowledge-based questions obviously can't be on the list because I cannot cover every topic. I can have questions that allow people to assess them for their leadership.

1. Describe a time you faced an unforeseen issue and how you diffused and resolve the situation.

2. How have you helped your firm make or save money? How much?

3. In your last position. What was your strategy for building relationships with your team? With your peers? With the people that you served?

4. Tell me about a time where you and or your team faced challenging odds and had you keep them motivated, engaged and inspired to overcome the situation and succeed. I personally like inspired rather than motivated. Inspiration is an internal force; motivation is external… But that's a conversation for another occasion.

5. Explain a time when you had to promote an idea or a project to a group and how did you go about persuading the others?

6. Describe a time when you had to deal with conflict in your department and how did you handle it?

7. (I love this 1 and the next one in particular) Why does your management style work? I think it's an interesting question because you're acknowledging that it does work , but why does it work? Is this just something that they pulled out of the seat-of-the-pants or has there been conscious decision-making about it? I trust that you as the leader of an organization can smell BS. That's the most important factor here.

8. Who are your enemies and how did you make them? This is a new favorite question of mine for leadership interviews. I learned it from someone I'm coaching who is a COO candidate and someone asked of him. I love this question because leaders usually make enemies along the way; you want them to be self-aware enough to notice them. You don't want them to say, " I have no enemies. Everybody loves me. I'm like a good puppy.. Everybody loves me."Everybody makes enemies.Someone has to be prepared to divulge that so you know that there are honest.

9. What professional accomplishments are you most proud of and why? This is a softball question. If they can't answer that one with a big smile on their face, there's something wrong here.

10. (Notice I built up through some challenging questions and then throw in a softball. Now this 1) What is the hardest criticism you've heard over the course of your management career ( or your leadership/Executive career)? This is an opportunity for the person to be self-aware in front of you; they have a chance to talk about their successes and mistakes..You want to hear about the mistakes and flush them outBut you also want to get a sense of the character of the individual here in order to find out whether they can be trusted with the keys to your organizational "car."

Most people this level have a great propensity for preparation and the ability to present things in cogent ways. Questions 7, 8 and 10 are designed to be personally revealing. You'll learn a lot from their answers but they are set up by the others.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and leadership coaching. offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.


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