How to survive an interview with a CEO and still look smart

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A regular interview with a company’s hiring manager or a recruiter can be tough. Having an interview with the CEO of a company is a whole different matter. Even the average CEO carries a level of professionalism that makes any applicant interacting or giving a presentation to them have jitters. The truth is, CEOs are not like regular recruiters and interviewing with them will need special preparation.

Are you nervous about your upcoming interview with a CEO? In this article we will share with you:

  • Tips on how to succeed in an interview with a CEO
  • Intimidating CEO interview questions and how to answer them
  • Lots of interview questions you can ask a CEO

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Prepare to Answer Interview Questions with a CEO Adequately

When you are interviewing with the CEO, who is the most authoritative and experienced person in the company, you must realize that their opinion of you alone can determine whether you secure the job or not. Therefore, prepare for the interview thoroughly so that you use the time they give you effectively. Remember, lack of proper preparation is one of the reasons applicants don’t get hired after a seemingly wonderful interview.

Rather than memorizing answers, focus on being informed on possible discussion topics and answer questions authentically. Also, prepare to interview the CEO just as much as they will interview you. Many company founders and CEOs appreciate job candidates who are determined and confident. So, have relevant, analytical, and candid questions ready.

Conversation with a CEO before Executive Interview Questions

The best advice for talking to an important person is to be yourself, avoid antagonizing topics like politics, and know when to end the conversation. However, to leave a mark on the CEO, have some excellent conversation starters at the top of your mind. Examples of things you can ask a CEO about:

  • Inquire about their latest business trip.
  • Compliment what they are wearing (clothing, accessories, etc.).
  • Compliment their recent keynote, product release or initiative.
  • Ask about their last or upcoming weekend plans depending on which one is closer.
  • Ask their recommendation for work-related things such as local attractions for a potential employee visiting the town or city for a few days, appropriate places to take a client for a business lunch, and so on.

Also, remember it is not just about what you say, but how you say it. By taking the time to prepare for a casual conversation with the CEO who will be interviewing you, you can be warm, and keep your cool during the interview.

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Best Way to Answer Interview Questions Presenting to a CEO

CEOs and higher-level managers are often busy people. They may show up late for the interview or receive calls during the meeting. While not all CEOs are like this, you shouldn’t take their behavior personally or lose your cool when they interrupt your presentation with a call or show up 30 minutes late. In most cases, they could have been handling a higher priority matter before the interview. That call or email that cuts through your presentation could also be crucial for the company. So, be patient with them, stay professional and go back to a point you’ve already discussed if you need to.

Avoid PowerPoint presentations if you can and instead, go for in-depth conversations of the topic in question. It will be hard for the CEO to pick up all the information you want them to if they are reading text on a screen and listening to what you are saying at the same time.

Recovering from an Awkward Interview Answer/Moment Before a CEO

There are a couple of things you shouldn’t say in an interview. However, even the most confident people are not immune to embarrassing or awkward moments when they are in front of the senior employees in the company. But you can always recover from such moments if you practice answering with good-natured humor. If you behave awkwardly, quickly apologize, smile and invite them to laugh it off. Don’t beat yourself over it after. CEOs encounter possibly hundreds of people daily and those few embarrassing seconds will be balanced out by lots of other interactions they will have with people.

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10 Tough CEO Interview Questions and How to Answer Them Smartly

It is a given that preparing for an interview can be a daunting affair. Regardless, things are bound to become even more stressful when the interview you have is with the CEO of the organization. But there is no need to worry. If you have an upcoming interview with a CEO, here are some of the questions they might ask you and how to respond:

1.      Why Have You Held X Number of Positions in the Last X Years?

What can you include in your answer? You should emphasize the experiences that shaped your career positively. Case in point, say that you have been looking for the right role that complements your career goals and the vacancy you are interviewing for matches these specific goals.

2.      What Do You Wish to Accomplish Within One Year?

Many CEOs want to know what an applicant hopes to accomplish upon being hired for a particular position. So, when asked this question, the best way to respond is by telling the recruiter about your vision as a worker in their organization. Given that the employer already knows your qualifications from your papers, all you have to do is describe how you will assist their organization in achieving its goals. 

3.      Would You Leave Your Position If You Won the Lottery, Even If You Loved It?

When answering this question, be sure to be one hundred percent candid and honest with your answer. Whether you are passionate about your career or you just want an income, elaborate your opinion and the reasons for your reply.

4.      What Accomplishment Shaped Your Career?

Undoubtedly, many employers love hearing success stories. Apart from showing that you are qualified, stories on accomplishments show what sets you aside from other applicants. In your response, share a success story that is relevant to the position you want.

5.      What Project Made You Creative and Innovative?

For this one, describe a project where you had to tap into your resourcefulness and think outside of the box. This way, you will help the recruiter understand your willingness to try new things and take risks.

6.      How Would Your Past Employer Describe You?

If you had a negative experience in your past role, respond to this question by explaining what you learned from the mistake and how you made it a positive experience.

7.      What Do You Value the Most About Vision and Culture?

For this question, you need to provide an answer that emphasizes what you have grasped about the values and mission of the company.

8.      What Activities Do You Enjoy in Your Free Time?

When responding to this question, be sure to talk about your hobbies and interests and how they have shaped you. Remember to provide answers that are appropriate for the interview setting. 

9.      What Excites You About Mondays?

Respond to this query by talking about the things that motivate you the most in your career and how you use your passion as inspiration throughout the week.

10.  Why Work in This Industry?

For this question, provide a story about the time that you got interested in your particular career in your response. For instance, an experience that attracted you to the role, an internship, etc.

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20 Good Questions to Ask a CEO of a Company as an Applicant

Here are some excellent questions you can ask the CEO during an interview:

  • What do you expect me to accomplish in the first three months?
  • What company culture is senior management promoting?
  • What do you feel is the biggest strength of our company right now?
  • What is holding the organization back?
  • When it comes to the company, what are you most proud of?
  • How do you motivate and develop talent?
  • What goal do you have for the company? What more can I do in my role to help achieve it?
  • How do you describe your leadership style?
  • What do you want me to accomplish in this position?
  • How does this organization boost leadership across various levels?
  • How do you see this company changing?
  • When and how are the goals for this company set?
  • In what direction is the industry moving?
  • How does senior management communicate to other levels?
  • If you could change one thing about the company, what would it be?
  • How is good performance rewarded here?
  • What future initiatives by the company do you find exciting?
  • Where do you the organization focusing or expanding its efforts in the short term?
  • How is this organization planning to evolve to ensure competitiveness?
  • What is the role of my department in the growth of the organization?

To conclude, you are now aware of some of the questions you can expect from a CEO and how to respond to them. Also, you have seen some of the questions you can ask to show your professionalism, excitement for the role, and confidence. But even with that said, you need first to make it to the interview stage. So, here are easy steps to help you create a stunning CV that will get you invited for interviews.

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