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Interview Questions to Ask a Chief Executive Officer

by Debra Kraft

Chief executive officers can lead companies to the top of the mountain or the bottom of the dumpster. When it comes time to find a new CEO, the board of directors and the interview team must perform due diligence to make sure they select a leader who can drive the company in the right direction. Interview questions should address candidates' performance records with previous employers, the hiring company's recent performance trends and future expectations.

Strategy Development

Each CEO candidate should have a track record of successfully leading teams through the process of establishing winning strategies. Explore approaches to strategy development. Ask each candidate to describe a high-level process for assessing company performance and building strategic plans. Next, find out how candidates align strategic plans with maintaining or enabling a competitive advantage.

Real-World Scenario

Any candidate who is truly ready to take on the role of a CEO should have taken the initiative to investigate the company before an interview. For a publicly traded company, candidates should have accessed and reviewed financial reports to see performance trends. Information isn't as accessible for private companies, but candidates should still be able to perform some degree of research. Ask candidates what they know about the company's current industry, market and financial positions. Based on that knowledge, find out where candidates see the company going in the short and long term.

Past and Future Performance

The interview committee must also perform research of its own before the interview. Explore the performance results for each candidate's past employers during the candidate's tenure as a leader. Ask candidates to describe the challenges they faced and how they overcame those challenges. Consider how each candidate's approach to the challenges discussed would work in the hiring company's workplace. Introduce scenarios that currently exist and ask for each candidate's input as to how she might address actions for improvement.

Communication

Successful CEOs understand the importance of great communication. They need to inspire employees and their leadership teams to introduce positive change. Evaluate each candidate's communication style during the interview, including body language. Ask each candidate to discuss the communication approach used to translate strategic objectives into meaningful plans to inspire employees. Finally, ask candidates to discuss the role a CEO plays as the chief communicator in the workplace.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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