Really Hard C-Suite Interview Questions
Will you really ever be asked them?
You have received the phone call. Your prospective employer would like to meet with you for an interview. Nice work! But then, before you are even done with the happy dance you were doing around your living room, the fear sets in… an INTERVIEW! Your mind starts swirling through all of the variables. What should you wear? Are they friendly? And most importantly, what kinds of different questions will they ask you? How can you nail this interview, even the really tough questions? Read on, and I assure you, you will be well prepared!
Preparation is the Key for Hard C-Suite Interview Questions
I know, you have heard this phrase so many times. But, I would like to remind you that any situation that we face becomes easier if we are prepared. It is those moments (or questions) that catch us completely unaware that cause us to falter. We are valuable, we are assets to the company and are worthy of the time they are taking out of their busy schedules to meet with us. Now, all we have to do is convince them of that. Review possible questions. You should focus on appearing prepared but not seeming to be rehearsed. Study the company. Talk to other employees where possible. If you are given the name of the Interviewer, see what you can find out about them. Don’t assume that just because they are doing the interview they are good at interviewing. Be prepared to own the conversation and keep it focused in your direction, shining on your accomplishments. Be confident and do the work necessary to gain the reward you seek.
Below are some of the tough questions you are likely to be asked along with some advice on how to answer them.
Tell me about yourself.
Here is the often heard, sometimes dreaded, opening question…It’s tricky, open ended and an easy question to handle incorrectly. They are looking for a quick, two or three-minute summary about you, your history and why you would be a good match for the position. Don’t go any further than that! Save it for the remainder of the interview. The famous “Tell me about yourself” question isn’t an invitation to tell your life story… just tell them what makes you the best candidate.
What do you know about our company and why do you want to be a part of it?
This is where they are checking you out to ensure that you have done your homework. Make sure you have! Have as much information as possible about the company and position that you are applying for. Demonstrate your knowledge and use what you have learned to show the amount of respect for and interest in their company you truly have. This is a great place to show how well your experience will add to and blend in with their needs.
What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?
These are such unfair questions! Who likes to revel or even discuss their weaknesses—or brag about their strengths? It may play well to come up with a somewhat clever answer for these questions, such as,” I can’t think of any reasons not to hire me, but I have many reasons why you should!”
Give them those reasons! As far as addressing the weakness aspect, be honest. Maybe let them know about an area that you have been working on and improving in, perhaps something that you turned into a strength.
Don’t present the often advised trick of turning a strength into a weakness, such as working too much. This is a tired response; they have heard it countless times before. It also misses the point of the question.
Talk about a time you failed. What happened? What would you do differently?
We tend to make this question harder than it really is. You know where you have been and what you have experienced. As long as you have an event in your mind that you have reviewed, thought through, and are prepared to discuss in your interview, you will be fine. Think of a situation that went differently than planned, that is all it really is. It needn’t be a catastrophe. People make mistakes, everyone knows that so don’t pretend that you never have. Own it, discuss the solutions and lessons learned and move on. It shows experience and demonstrates that you would not make the same mistake in the future.
Why we should choose you over the other applicants that we have interviewed?
Don’t let this be your undoing. This is a very common question. Re-visit your strengths with added enthusiasm. Show them that you are professional yet personable and friendly. They want to know that you are dependable and competent.
They will undoubtedly ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Of course you do! They are not the only one trying to determine if this position is a good fit for you. You need to be doing the same. These questions should be important to you. There are things that you really need to know, such as:
- What type of candidate are you looking for?
- Why did this position become available?
- How would you define success for this person who receives this position?
- What are the most important skills needed to be successful in this position?
- What would my first several months be like if I were offered this position?
- Is there opportunity for growth and advancement in this company?
- Are you aware of any major changes coming that I may need to be informed of?
- How do you see this company growing, changing, etc. in the next five years?
Before the interview be sure to do your research into possible, realistic compensation for the position. You won’t know ahead of time if you will reach this level of discussion, but in case you do, be ready. Be aware of your “walk-away number.” You may not realize it, but the income of top executive’s is often public information. Try checking Salary.com or Glassdoor.com.
What NOT to do…
There are, of course, some guaranteed ways to make a negative impression on these important decision makers. Let’s be sure to avoid the following mistakes:
- Don’t be arrogant. Acting as if you are better than any lower level candidates, assistants, receptionists, etc. will be certain to leave a negative impression. Instead, impress them as well, with your kindness and genuine interest in them.
- Don’t “dress down;” be dressed and groomed appropriately for the position.
- Don’t be negative in general but especially about the economy, the company, or even the competition. A positive attitude will always leave a better impression.
- Don’t exaggerate or over-sell your skills, work history or abilities. Be honest.
- Be direct and decisive. Don’t give long, rambling answers to questions. Every minute counts.
- Let them know that you are genuinely interested in the job. Playing hard to get doesn’t usually pay off in the end.
Final Thoughts about Hard C-Suite Interview Questions
The only guaranteed way to make an interview harder is to not be prepared. Interview questions are not hard if you have anticipated what they may be asking and prepared sincere answers. Know detailed information about the company, the position and most of all yourself! Be relaxed and articulate. Even though there are really no wrong or right answers, there are definitely memorable answers that leave a positive impression. Demonstrate you vision, your drive and your complete confidence in your abilities. They are sure to be impressed!
By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor