The 3 Parts of an Effective Executive Interview

High-level executive recruiting requires interviews to be as efficient and precise as possible. And with the standard of candidates who make it this far, it’s expected to be. Effective executive interviews follow a formula. In this post you’ll learn the value and reason behind three of the most important parts of the formula including types of interview questions, red flags you shouldn’t ignore, and how to create opportunities to discover even more about the candidates. The goal is to use your interview time wisely, understand what to ask a potential executive, and what you can expect from a good candidate versus the best candidate.

What to Ask Executive Candidates

Interviewing a senior-level candidate there are two types of questions to ask your potential executive. Even though a resume tells you a lot, it can never give you the full picture. Situational and motivational interview questions help you get to know the candidate professionally and personally. Here’s how.

Situational Interview Questions: Provide realistic situations that may arise in your organization to discover the candidate’s behaviors and approach to resolving them.

Example: Describe a recurring problem in a previous or current role that you wanted to resolve but didn’t. Why not?

Motivational Interview Questions: Ask questions to discover what motivates your candidate to excel or hinder their progress with your organization.

Example: Which 3 things in your current or last role gave you the most satisfaction? Which things didn’t?

Noticing Red Flags

During an interview, the interviewer often wants to be proven right. But in the search for reasons to hire someone, it’s easy for red flags to fly by unnoticed. Here are a few ways your candidate may unknowingly disclose that they’re not the right fit for your organization.

Lack of Preparation Your executive candidate may not be able to recite your company mission statement during the interview, but the best candidate will know quite a bit about what the company represents, values, and is looking for in an executive. As you get to know your candidates, pay close attention to who is generalizing your company goals and who has actually done the research.

Poor Presentation Skills Your executive is going to represent your company in front of important clients, investors, customers, and other team members. Confidence, clarity, and professionalism in how they conduct themselves and communicate their points are telling of how they will perform as a leading position in your organization.

Arrogance Personality traits are just as important as skill set and experience. An exec with an inflated ego is likely to create a toxic work environment and isn’t as interested in learning and growing. Additionally, arrogance can stifle one’s open-mindedness and is often a sign of limited emotional intelligence. Both of these are critical characteristics of successful executives.

Let the Interview Wander a Bit

A list of questions and a set direction is important for when conducting an executive interview, however, opportunities can be missed if you stick too closely to the script. Let the conversation naturally wander. It creates a more relaxed atmosphere and presents opportunities to really get to know who your candidate is, what motivates them, how they think, and most importantly if they fit with your organization.


Whitham Group has over 12 years’ experience recruiting in renewable energy. We operate as an expert advisor, not a vendor.


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