Nowadays, it’s not unusual to meet with a company’s CEO at some point during their interview process. While some people may only get the chance to meet the CEO when interviewing for high-level positions, at other companies, every employee— all the way down to the interns— may have the opportunity to speak with the company’s leader.
Regardless, asking good questions during an interview with the CEO can help you gain valuable insights into their leadership style, the company, and the industry as a whole.
Remember, this is also an opportunity for you to get to know them and determine if they are the kind of person you want to work for.
Do your research before talking to a CEO
Before we dive into questions, let’s talk about research. It’s a theme you’ll see pop up across many of our blogs— but only because it’s that important.
Coming prepared with knowledge about the company will in and of itself demonstrate a few things about you, including your energy, enthusiasm for the company, and your attention to detail. It’s a small step that can go a long way.
Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for conducting research on the company and the CEO:
- Read the company’s website and any recent news articles or press releases
- Look up the CEO’s background, career history, and any recent interviews or speeches they have given
- Check out the company’s social media accounts and any relevant industry publications or reports
This knowledge will also help you tailor both your interview answers and questions to the specific company, making you stand out as the right candidate for the job.
Take initiative during your interview
It’s also worth mentioning the importance of taking initiative during the interview process.
Your interview with the company’s CEO is also an opportunity to showcase your go-getter attitude. Instead of simply waiting for the questions to come to you, show the CEO that you will be a proactive member of the team.
In addition to thoughtful questions, you can do this by coming prepared with ideas and suggestions related to the company’s business, strategy, or your specific role. For example, if you’re interviewing for a product role, you could share your ideas for developing new product features. If you’re interviewing for a customer service role, you could demonstrate your proactive nature by sharing your ideas for improving the customer experience.
By taking initiative during your interview, you can show the CEO that you’re a self-starter who will bring new ideas and energy to the team.
Questions to ask a CEO in an interview
Use your research to ask informed questions that demonstrate curiosity and interest in the company. There are five categories of questions that you can ask about.
- Company culture questions
- Leadership style questions
- Questions about how the CEO thinks
- Company questions
- Industry questions
Let’s dig a little deeper.
1. Questions about the company culture
A CEO’s beliefs and priorities play a crucial role in shaping the culture of a company. The CEO has a significant impact on the organization’s values, vision, and mission. The CEO’s beliefs and priorities trickle down through various channels, and their words and actions set an example for the rest of the organization.
Therefore, an opportunity to speak with a CEO is the perfect time to better understand the company’s culture and whether or not it aligns with what you’re looking for in a company.
There’s no right or wrong here— so ask about topics that are important to YOU, whether it’s inclusion, flexibility, or anything in between.
For example, if joining an inclusive organization is important to you, you can ask the CEO what they do to ensure all employees feel welcomed and heard. If flexibility and work-life balance is a priority, you can ask what the CEO does in their own life to maintain a balance between work and their personal life.
2. Questions about the CEO’s leadership style
You may not directly report to your CEO, but their leadership style will be felt throughout the entire organization. Asking about the CEO’s leadership style can give you valuable insights into how they approach decision-making, collaboration, and management.
For example, asking how the CEO handles difficult situations or decisions can give you a sense of their problem-solving skills and how they prioritize different stakeholders. Additionally, asking how the CEO motivates and inspires their team can give you insight into their management style and how they foster a positive company culture.
3. Questions about the CEO’s thinking
Learning more about the CEO’s career can help you better understand their motivations, achievements, and experiences.
For example, asking what led the CEO to their position can give you insight into their career path and the experiences that shaped their leadership style. Additionally, asking what the CEO considers to be their most important decisions as a CEO can help you understand their priorities and goals. Lastly, asking what the CEO wishes they had known when they first became a CEO can give you valuable insights into their learning experiences and how they have grown as a leader.
4. Questions about the company
If there’s one thing a CEO should be an expert on, it’s their company! Asking about the company can help you better understand the company’s offerings, strategy, and values.
Asking about what sets the company apart from its competitors can give you a sense of the company’s unique value proposition and competitive advantages. Additionally, asking what the biggest challenges facing the company are can help you understand the company’s priorities and areas for growth. Questioning how the company approaches innovation and change can help you gauge the company’s willingness to adapt to new trends and technologies.
You may also get some bonus points and ask a timely question related to a recent decision the CEO made. For example, you may say something like: “I read about the XYZ decision you all made. I’d love to hear more about the thought that went into that decision.”
5. Questions about the industry
Getting a clearer understanding about the industry can give you valuable insights into the company’s positioning and future prospects.
For example, asking about the biggest trends or changes in the industry can help you understand the competitive landscape and where the company fits in. Inquiring about how the company is adapting to these changes can give you a sense of the company’s strategic priorities and long-term goals. Asking what the CEO believes the future of the industry looks like can give you insight into their vision for the company’s future direction.
You should also feel empowered to also share your perspective and ask about what you are missing in your assumptions. An interview can— and should— be a thought-provoking learning opportunity for both parties.
The bottom line
Interviewing with the CEO of a company can be a valuable opportunity to gain insights into their leadership style, the company’s culture and strategy, and the industry as a whole. By doing your research beforehand and asking thoughtful questions, you can demonstrate your interest and knowledge of the company and industry, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the company’s priorities and goals. Additionally, by taking initiative and showcasing your proactive approach, you can demonstrate to the CEO that you’re a self-starter who is eager to contribute to the team.
Remember to tailor your questions to the specific company and CEO and to come prepared with your own ideas and suggestions. With these tips in mind, you can approach your CEO interview with confidence and make a positive impression on the CEO and the company!
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