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6 Tips to Win - Executive Level Interviews

For those who are looking to move up the career ladder, this article is great for you.

Succeeding at senior interviews may be your final steps in landing that dream executive position. Imagine this - you have been working hard in the middle management for years, and then the opportunity finally presents itself; a senior executive position with your name on it. Not only do you need to demonstrate skills to win over those interviewers, you also need to redefine your interview techniques against the big guns. However, the leap to executive requires more than just interview and business skills, it is a whole different level.

Follow these 6 tips and walk into your first executive interview like you already owned it.


It is all about the research.

Get your hands on all the data you can find for insights to the company's position in the industry; who the firm's competitors are, what are the company's competitive advantages. Avoid trying to go through many other different industries while considering how they should best go forward in your area of expertise. Focus instead on just a few relevant key industries. At the junior level you have to know how to do the job well, but at the executive level you have to know how all of the different components of the business fits together – not only internally inside the organization, but also how the organization integrate with it’s customers and partners from the outside world.

You have to be the general contractor, not the plumber, to be strategic enough see the blueprint of the organization

Look out for as much information as you can online about the company and anyone you will be interviewing with. Know the company, their industry, their competitors, and use their product if it is available. Being able to converse about all these things in your interview will not only convey your expert knowledge, but you also portray to the interviewer that you are thinking two steps ahead with them on the same page.

What you want to do is to know as much as possible about the company and the people you will be meeting. Armed with these knowledge, you can then ask specific, probing questions of your own, which will give you a major advantage against other prospective candidates.

The biggest mistake you can make at the executive level is asking a question that can have otherwise find the answer to on your own. At the executive level, you have to be able to see the full picture and where their opportunities are. So, get that research done.


Leaders should put the interests of their firms above their own.

It is easy to see why companies would want to encourage such ownership to their employees. It is fine to share what you are going to do during interviews, but do not dwell on your personal history.

Successful Leaders with exceptional ownership see the company as an extension of themselves - When someone praises the company, it feels like a personal compliment

Start with your most recent employment and explain why you are well qualified for the position. for everything that you do and discuss (stories about your past, about the company’s future etc.), make sure that they are all within the context of the organization you are exploring.

Speak about how your proposals are going to influence the organization, more so that the details of what you exactly did previously in detail. The key to all successful interviewing is to match your experience to what the interviewer is looking for.

In short, you want to be selling what the buyer is buying.


It is always about the benefits you have achieved and impacts that you made.

It is less important about how exactly you did it. Do not get to hung up about how many people you managed or how big a group you were in-charge of.

Think about it, the most successful organisations only have a few immediate reports under their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). They typically come in the form of C-suites; Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officers (CFO), Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the list goes on.

We all know that successful leaders have a team to delegate, not spending time focusing on doing it themselves

It is almost humanly impossible to micro manage 30 direct reports and be able to manage all projects at one go. The more direct reports you have, the more it shows that you are a micro-manager who may not know how to trust your team, or poor at structural planning - a strong red flag that might swing your interview outcome otherwise.


It’s about their future, not your past.

If you are speaking too much about your past, the interview is not going well - the interviewer is in evaluation mode of you. When you speak about their future, you are essentially shifting the discussion away from evaluating you to more about imagining what it is like to have you managing an arm of their company.

Share about what you see of the organisation in the future, how you are going to change it, what needs to be done to get there. They can then envision how it will be like to have you, and the impact that you will bring in changing it. That will give the interviewer an indication of your past working knowledge, what your professional experience taught you.

Your goal is to discuss about situations about the company that has yet to occur

If you are stuck in the past, then it may not be convincing to the interviewer that you know how to do the job to guide them to where they aspire to be.


Never start from the bottom and go up.

Always start at the highest level about macro view points and work your way down. You, as a future executive should never reach the bottom by dwelling too much into the micro details on how you did everything. Stop about 2/3 of the way through.

Get the interviewer knowing that you are looking at the right direction first, without immediately going into what you think the answer really is

Speak about "Here’s what the goals were", "Here's what the strategy was" and/or "Here’s what we had and what we achieved". Be prepared to be shifted quickly to the future, and be questioned about how you would apply experiences you shared to what they want to do. You can control the interview by constantly shifting them to the future by asking: “I'd like to know how I can use my experience to what you need me to do”. Assumptions are often made on what answers the interviewers want to hear, instead of focusing strategies involved.

To ASSUME is to make an ASS out of U and ME. verb. To believe something is true based upon general unproven observations

Stories are powerful and are also what people remember most. Give the interviewers a chance to know why you are the best person for the job by remembering you.


Come to the interview with some intelligent questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the company as well as your intent. If you say, "No, not really," he or she may conclude that you're not all that interested in the job or the company.

Interviewers always ask if you have any questions, and no matter what, you should have one or two ready

At the executive level, a few good all-purpose question could be, "If I were to be offered this position, what would success look like a year from now?" or "If I were to be hired for this role, what would surprise me within the first 2 weeks of joining?" The first question immediately gives you the key performance objectives as a leader for the entire year (also for you to consider if they are realistic and achievable). The second question gets you mentally prepared for what is coming, and if they are things that are within your acceptance boundaries. No one wants to leave an organisation as quickly as they came in, especially at the executive level - so choose wisely.


All the above excludes all other pre-requisites such as polished communication skills, and the look. Your stomach may be full of butterflies, but leaders need to be smart, charismatic and inspirational all at the same instance. Thankfully, your body language, speech patterns and clothing can be used to project your confidence. There are so many things that could go wrong during an interview, and appearance is something that is totally up to your control. By displaying that confidence, they know that things are going to happen (that you are going to make them happen), with you taking that responsibility.

Now make your interviewer's experience an unforgettable one by doing yourself a favour from the very moment they get to see you.

Show them that you are the only one they need to move the needle in their company.

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