How to Find the Right Leader: 7 CEO Interview Questions

Selecting a new CEO can be transformative for a company. The CEO impacts all aspects of a company, steering its direction and making major decisions.

The weight of a CEO selection makes the interview process significantly more time intensive than for a mid-level hire. There is no one-size-fits-all CEO; each company will have different specific requirements and personality needs. Much of this information can be uncovered in an interview.

The expert recruiters at Ciresi & Morek compiled the best CEO interview questions to unveil the right leader for your company.

1. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE SUCCESS OF THIS COMPANY?

This question reveals what their main goal and performance metric would be. Are they profit-driven? Relationship-driven? Mission-driven? Here is your chance to find out if their goals align with the direction the company needs to move in.

It’s also an opportunity to gauge how much they know about your organization and its mission and values.

If not provided in their answer, asking, “Why?” as a follow up can help illuminate their thinking and what they believe to be priorities.

2. WHY THIS COMPANY?

Experience is meaningless without passion and vision. A CEO must have an intrinsic drive to make the company succeed—and in order to receive buy-in from others, the CEO must be bought in.

This question shows why the candidate is interested in your company and industry, giving you a glimpse into how they’d fare as the leader.

3. WHAT TRAITS DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THE LEADERS AROUND YOU?

As the C-suite leader and authority on executive hires and fires, it is vital to know who the CEO will prefer to be surrounded by. This question also reveals their leadership style.

A good CEO must recognize their own weaknesses and where they need a strong team to compensate. Look for someone who wants a team of experts, not a team of yes-men.

4. TAKE US THROUGH YOUR DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.

This may be a good chance to pepper in situational questions, but at the heart it aims to reveal how the candidate takes calculated risks. There are appropriate situations for a drawn-out evaluation process and times for efficient, strategic thinking. Find a CEO who can accomplish both.

5. WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?

This quintessential interview question is just as vital when hiring a CEO as an entry-level employee.

Realistic optimism and understanding are crucial for a successful CEO. This question aims to find the balance between confidence and arrogance. Ideally, their answer to this question aligns with the traits they look for in the leaders they want to work with.

6. WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU MAKE IF HIRED AS CEO?

This question circles back to vision, but also must align with the needs of the company. Do you need a CEO willing to come in and make radical changes on day one? Or do you need a CEO who will build rapport with stakeholders and employees and make slow, positive change?

It also shows whether the candidate has adequately researched your company prior to the interview and knows about the latest news and updates.

7. WHAT COMPANY CULTURE AND BRAND IMAGE DO YOU FEEL IS NECESSARY FOR THIS COMPANY TO THRIVE?

From the inside out, creating a positive company culture that extends to the consumer is key. This question helps predict the happiness of both employees and customers. If the candidate expresses a vision for a different culture or brand image than what you currently have, don’t be afraid to ask how they’d achieve it.

NEED HELP GETTING STARTED?

Hiring a new CEO is a big job. Half the battle is getting an excellent pool of candidates to choose from. An executive search firm can help by learning the ins and outs of your company, pulling from their expansive databases of qualified candidates, and recommending the right fit for you.

Contact a Ciresi & Morek executive recruiter today to find the best leader for your company.

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