Are You Ready to Interview For a C-Suite Position?

For many senior-level executives, there comes a time where they consider applying for a C-suite role. Whether this is in their current organization or in a different one, the idea of leading an organization is exciting. However, if they haven’t interviewed for a C-suite position before, it’s difficult to know what to expect. It’s hard to know if you are ready to interview for a C-suite position, whether it be experience-wise or considering your interview skills. In this article, you will see if you’re ready to interview for a C-suite position and how to prepare.

When Are You Ready Experience-Wise?

One of the biggest concerns for C-suite applicants is their work experience. The C-suite board are the leaders of the organization, showing they have the greatest work experience possible. This is why there is a perception that applicants must have dozens of years of experience to be awarded a C-suite position. However, this isn’t entirely the case. The truth is, being qualified to be a C-suite executive is much more than work experience. C-suite executives need leadership skills, compatibility, humility, and resilience according to an article from Inc. While experience is certainly a factor when it comes to leadership skills and resilience, it’s more difficult to develop humility and resilience. For many great leaders, these qualities come naturally to them. And, many leaders struggle to find humility and be compatible with other executives, which is a critical flaw in a C-suite role.

According to research, despite 87% of executives wanting to be CEO one day, just 15% of them actually had the characteristics needed to be successful. Because of the very specific qualities, a C-suite executive must have, there is a small percentage of people who would fill the roles well. With that being said, a C-suite leader needs much more than experience to do their job well. If someone has enough experience to show they have excellent leadership skills and are humble, they may be just as qualified to interview for a C-suite role as someone with decades of experience. So, if you feel your leadership skills are evident and you would be compatible with the current C-suite board, don’t hesitate to apply.

Be Familiar with Their Mission Statement

The mission statement of an organization is the driving force behind what they do. Many of the interview questions for a C-suite role will revolve around how capable they are to work toward the company’s mission. This is why it’s vital for every C-suite applicant to learn the mission statement of an organization. The applicant should agree with the mission statement and feel a sense of passion around it. During the interview, they should answer questions in a way that leans towards the mission statement to show they’re a great fit for the role.

If you are granted the C-suite role, keep in mind everything you do will be with the mission statement in mind. How you lead your teams, how you instruct managers to lead their employees, and even the policies you make will be around this mission statement. So, you should truly feel a sense of responsibility around the mission statement. If you don’t feel this way towards an organization’s mission statement, it may be best to apply for a role elsewhere so you feel more passionate about the role.

How to Prepare For an Interview For a C-Suite Position

For applicants with plenty of leadership experience and have proven they have the characteristics of a great leader, the interview may be their top concern. An interview for a C-suite role is very different from any interview for another position. Even interviews for senior-level managerial roles are drastically different. The reason there are so many differences is that C-suite leaders have the potential to change the organization – for the good or for the bad. So, interviews must be far more in-depth for these executives. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it.

Understand the Organization’s Culture

If you are entering a new organization, you should get a firm grasp of their culture. C-suite executives are often the face of an organization’s culture, and you need to represent it well. You will also feel much more satisfied with your new role if you greatly appreciate the organization’s culture. Considering 58 percent of all employees say corporate culture is more important than their salary, you will need to appreciate the culture of the organization and influence it positively.

There are times where C-suite positions open up because the previous executive encouraged a negative culture. In this case, it may be the new executive’s responsibility to make changes where they see fit. If this is the situation at hand, it’s important to be made aware of this, as changing a culture is a massive undertaking. Setting the new framework for the company’s culture should be the top priority for C-suite executives and the entire human resources department. So, this should be made known in interviews as it will be a major job function.

Prepare Your Resume

Just like with any interview, it’s vital that you prepare your resume. A resume shows the interviewer your potential and your previous experience with leadership. For C-suite executives, it’s even more important, as these roles can dictate the success of a company. These applicants must thoroughly list their experience in leadership roles, as well as the number of people they have led. If they have achieved any major accomplishments that align with the organization’s mission statement and goals, then they should be on the resume as well.

Many interviewers ask applicants questions based on their resumes. For example, if “Led 500+ people and increased sales by 102 percent” is on the resume, they may ask questions about how it was accomplished. They will also ask what the biggest challenges were and how hard they were to overcome. These are operational questions to see how the applicant would lead in the C-suite role. The applicant needs to be able to explain what they did to achieve the accomplishments, as well as show they can do it again in a C-suite role. This is why when listing experience and achievements on a resume, applicants should be prepared to answer questions about these situations.

Calculate Your Quantifiable Successes

As mentioned above, you should list your accomplishments on your resume. It will also be helpful to have a list of quantifiable successes. These aren’t achievements such as, “Improved organization across teams,” as these can be subjective. They should be objective and measurable achievements like ROI improvements, an increase in profits, an increase in diversity, high employee satisfaction reporting, etc. Anything that you have achieved through your leadership role should be written down so you can recall the information in the interview.

For your major accomplishments, it’s best if you can memorize them. This way, you can easily explain why you are the best person for the role and why you think you’re cut out for a C-suite position. Applicants aren’t expected to memorize every accomplishment they have achieved during their leadership experience. However, it’s best to know some off hand to bring up in your interview.

Prepare Questions For the Interviewer

Every experienced C-suite executive knows the culture must be a good fit for them in order to be successful. C-suite executives can make changes to an organization, but if they don’t fit from the beginning, it may not be a long-term job. This is why it’s important for potential C-suite executives to ask the interviewer questions as well. The applicant should feel confident they will fit in with the organization. They should also feel as though the onboarding process will be easy with minimal leadership style changes. Asking questions about the organization and the role also shows the applicant cares about their success and that they are actively listening. Here are some questions applicants should ask during a C-suite interview:

  • Why is the role open?
  • What does the best candidate look like for this role and this organization?
  • What are the biggest obstacles this role will face?
  • Where will this organization be in the next five years in your opinion?
  • Are there any organization-wide changes coming soon?

If any other questions come up, they should be addressed. The responsibilities of a C-suite role are significant. They must enjoy their role and be passionate about leading to achieve the specific goals of an organization. So, asking questions about the role and the organization should be encouraged by the interviewer. This will ensure the applicant is the right fit for the role and they will occupy it long-term.

Prepare For Your Interview

When someone truly believes they would be the right fit as a C-suite executive in an organization, they are likely to do better in interviews. With leadership skills, noting objective and measurable accomplishments, and ensuring you agree with the organization’s culture, you will be much more prepared in an interview. Remember, if you do have some nerves for interviewing for such a significant role, it’s a sign of your humility, which is an important quality for a C-suite role.