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5/14/23 - Mastering common questions at senior-level interviews

Cracking the code:  
In this guide to cracking the C-Suite interview code, we’ll discuss the most common questions for senior-level interviews and tips on answering them effectively.

Today’s executives are facing increasing pressure to deliver on multiple fronts. From uniting a workforce that ranges from entry-level to senior management to meeting growth targets and staying ahead of the competition, the job is far from easy.

Throw in unexpected markets and increased shareholder scrutiny, and it’s no surprise that interviews for senior-level positions can be stressful and intimidating. The 2022 Odgers Berndtson Leadership Confidence Index found that 24% of companies surveyed lack tangible, effective leadership.

Teams are hungry for passionate, ambitious leaders. They desire executives who can assess situations, strategize solutions, and inspire success without compromising quality or values. Bring a fresh sense of enthusiasm and promise to the interview, and you may rise above the competition.

In this guide to cracking the C-Suite interview code, we’ll discuss the most common questions for senior-level interviews and tips on answering them effectively.


Naturally, you’ll want to arrive at any executive leadership interview with a portfolio of your accomplishments and ideas for the business. But no matter how many successes you’ve had in the past, an executive position requires more than just hard data.

Success in any executive role takes a cocktail of hard and soft skills. Hiring managers want to know you have the technical chops, but they also need assurance that you can lead a team, foster collaboration, and inspire others to work towards common goals.

Let’s look at some executive-level interview questions that work to gauge your proven experience with the soft skills that employees desire in their leaders:

“What Do You Believe Makes You The Ideal Candidate For This Leadership Role?“

This question is a way for the interviewer to gauge your self-awareness. When you answer, refer to specific experiences that have prepared you for the role.

Come prepared with qualitative and quantitative evidence to support your statements and show the hiring manager you are right for the job. But don’t forget the intangible qualities; don’t be afraid to share how your passion and enthusiasm can bring a unique perspective to the team.

“Describe A Time When You Had To Make An Unpopular Decision As A Leader.”

PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey found that 75% of CEOs believe their organization’s growth will slow in the coming years. So how will you handle restructuring, downsizing, or other unpopular decisions?

Interviewers often design this question to gauge how well you can stand by decisions that may not be popular with your team or other stakeholders. It’s often an unpopular decision that can lead a team through a difficult situation, so the interviewer wants to know how you handle and communicate such decisions.

Stay focused on the outcome of your decision and provide concrete examples of how this choice helped or benefited the team or company in some way. Showcase empathy and understanding for those affected by the decision.

“How Have You Handled Leading A Diverse Team?”

Diversity is an essential topic in today’s market. Corporations prioritizing diversity and inclusion outpace their competitors by 35%. You must come prepared to explain how you view DEI initiatives and how you’ve successfully led a diverse group.

Share how you’ve led an initiative that improved collaboration and communicated a sense of inclusion among the team. Explain how you would implement similar tactics in the future, and emphasize how it will benefit the company beyond the bottom line.

“Describe How You’ve Managed A Crisis.”

Crises are unavoidable in executive positions, so be prepared to explain how you have handled tough decisions in the past. Demonstrate that you can remain calm under pressure while making sound judgments. Share how your actions positively impacted the organization.

Highlight successes that arose despite the challenge—such as technology solutions you implemented or innovative strategies you developed. Showing you can think on your feet and turn a potential disaster into an opportunity will go a long way.

“What Strategies Do You Have For Leading Change?”

Change is inevitable, but successful executives can embrace it and lead their teams through any transition. But surviving change isn’t enough—companies want to know how you met or exceeded expectations and what strategies you adopted to ensure success.

Be prepared to explain how you’ve successfully implemented change in the past. Share any lessons that you have learned from these experiences and discuss how they will inform your decisions going forward.

Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of communication when leading a team through change, and emphasize that you are a leader who will guide the group through any transition.


While correctly answering a hiring manager’s questions is important, it’s how you present yourself that will truly get you the job.

  • Show genuine passion and enthusiasm for the opportunity to demonstrate why you are the best candidate.
  • Practice your responses to the most commonly asked questions so that you can comfortably answer them during the interview.
  • Share real-life examples and provide concrete evidence to support your points.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the company’s goals. Show that you know their needs and how you can help them reach their objectives.
  • Demonstrate that you are engaged in the conversation and setting the groundwork for the future. Active listening and thoughtful follow-up questions will go a long way in showing your interest and understanding.

By understanding the most common questions asked in senior-level job interviews and these tips on answering them confidently, you will be better prepared to demonstrate your value and make a great impression that could result in a job offer. And in a world where genuine leadership is in high demand, your success may be just one interview away.

Tim Madden is an Executive Coach and former Headhunter. Founder of Executive Career Upgrades, he’s on a mission to help accelerate careers.