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103 CEO Interview Questions

        posted by , February 01, 2013

The recruiting, interviewing and selection process for a CEO is normally grueling and extensive.

CEOs are largely hired based on their personal brand, reputation, demonstrated results, strategic knowledge, network of influence and executive leadership skills.

The CEO position requires a broad range of skills and abilities that are difficult to judge in an interview. Nevertheless, interviews are a important part of the selection process.

The following questions target the key skills for CEOs.

Core CEO Capabilities

1. In your current role, how have you protected your firm's reputation?

2. How do you sell a firm's mission so that it inspires your organization?

3. What are your professional values?

4. What makes you the leader (why is your team inspired to follow your direction)?

5. What's your approach to providing transparency to the board of directors?

6. How do you avoid conflicts between large external stakeholders in the firm?

7. How do you ensure that shareholder interests drive a firm's strategy and execution?


8. How do you ensure that your competitive strategy aligns with the market?

9. What metrics have you used to measure strategy execution?

10. What does sustainability mean to you?

11. Can you give me an example of a corporate social responsibility initiative you championed?

12. How did you improve operations in your current role?

13. How do you keep an entrepreneurial spirit alive in a large organization?

14. What steps have you taken in the past to identify and evaluate market opportunities?

15. What's the most innovative strategy you've successfully executed?

Executive Management

16. How do you manage a business unit that's failing to produce results?

17. How do you manage stockholder expectations?

18. What steps have you taken in the past to ensure your firm is valued fairly on the market?

19. What techniques have you used to raise capital?

20. How do you ensure that priorities are clear to everyone in your organization?

21. What's your approach to managing quality?

22. How do you ensure that an organizational design is optimal?

23. How do you set strategic objectives for business units?

24. What's your approach to developing and sustaining strategic alliances?

25. How do you forecast key markets?

26. Why do some firms struggle with entering new markets?

27. What's your approach to continuous business improvement?

28. How do you hold your team accountable for results?

29. How do you motivate your team?

30. What metrics do you use to keep a pulse on operations?


31. How do you develop the top talent on your team?

32. How often do you meet with employees below your direct reports?

33. What techniques do you use to discover issues before they become problems?

34. What's your definition of a high-performance culture? How do you create and maintain a high-performance culture?

35. Can you tell me about a time you supported the professional development of leaders on your team?

36. How do you assess the performance of your team?

37. How can you tell if employees at every level of your organization support your important programs and initiatives?

38. Can you give me an example of an important partnership or alliance you've established?

39. How do you lead outside of your authority (for example, across an industry)?

40. Can you tell me about a time you removed obstacles for an important initiative?

41. What's your style of leadership? How do you want to improve as a leader?

Decision Making

42. How do you apply data to financial and operational decisions?

43. Do you use any decision making methodologies?

44. When do you make gut decisions?

45. How do you model solutions to complex multidimensional problems?

46. What's the worst decision you ever made? What did you learn?

47. What's the best decision you ever made?

48. How do you spot leaders who are good decision makers?

49. How do you improve the decision making capabilities of top talent?

50. When do you delegate decisions?

51. When do you ask for advice?

Legal, Risk & Compliance

52. What can you do as CEO to ensure compliance with the law?

53. How do you provide the board of directors and stockholders with transparency into liabilities and risks?

54. What regulatory compliance challenges have you faced?

55. Can you tell me what you've done to manage legal liability in your current role?

56. If I asked you to re-evaluate the legal structure of our organization what steps would you take?

57. How to you ensure that risk-reward is appropriately balanced across a firm?

58. How do you keep an eye on counterparty risk?

59. How do you maintain oversight of operational and financial risk?


60. How do you incorporate technology change into your business strategy?

61. What technology trends are likely to transform our industry over the next 5 years?

62. What metrics have you used in the past to manage your firm's technology investments and operations?

63. How did you govern IT in your last role?

64. What percentage of revenue is appropriate for technology spending in our industry?

65. What technologies are you most excited about?

66. What do you look for in a CIO?

67. What can you do as CEO to empower technology innovation?

Soft Skills

68. How do you achieve long term plans when short term targets are demanding?

69. What's your style of diplomacy?

70. What was your biggest diplomatic (i.e. negotiated result) success ?

71. How do you balance the demands of your position and family life?

72. What makes you passionate about your career?

73. If you could meet any business leader from the present or past, who would it be? What would you ask if you had only one question?

74. Can you tell me about a time you went beyond the call of duty to achieve a result?

75. How much trust do you give the leaders in your organization? How do you verify?

76. What innovation are you most proud of in your career?

77. How do you network with other executives in our industry?

78. What negotiation strategies have you employed in the past?

Mergers, Acquisitions & Divestiture

79. Why do some firms struggle with integrating acquisitions?

80. What are good reasons to divest a business?

81. When does an acquisition make sense? When does organic growth make sense?

82. What's your approach to strategic business development?

83. How do you place a valuation on an acquisition?

84. How do you provide the board of directors and stockholders with transparency through the M&A process?

Marketing & Sales

85. What can you do as CEO to drive higher revenue?

86. How do you improve margins?

87. What metrics have you used to measure sales effectiveness?

88. What's your approach to marketing?

89. What revenue-driving initiative or program are you most proud of?

90. How do you ensure innovation in product development?

91. What percentage of revenue is appropriate for R&D in our industry?

92. How do you measure the potential of new markets?

93. How do you identify fast-breaking market opportunities?

94. What tactics have you used in the past to improve sales?


95. How do you plan for regulatory change?

96. What are the 4 most important numbers in a firm's financial statements?

97. What steps do you take to monitor and control budgets?

98. What tax strategies have you used in the past?

99. If you assume this role, what will you do to drive revenue?

100. If you assume this role, what will you do to manage costs?

101. What financial metrics do you most rely upon?

102. What internal auditing standards does our firm need?

103. What regulatory trends are you keeping an eye on?

This article is an installment in the ongoing series how to win your next job.

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