Guest Post: The Executive’s Guide to a Modern Job Interview

Wear your finest suit and tie, arrive punctually (or 10 minutes early) for your 2:00 pm appointment, with two printed copies of your resume… you may remember all the components of a classic job interview. But this kind of hiring process is long gone. Skype interviews have been replaced by Skype video interviews, and your future employer may know your entire work history, as well as what you did this weekend and how you spent your summer holidays, with a simple Google search before your first meeting.

Guide to a Modern Job Interview

Tony Restell of has plenty of tips and wisdom to share on how to succeed in today’s war for talent. For hopeful executives and senior managers, treasure this advice – the guide to a modern job interview.

Influenced by the emergence of social media and employer review websites such as Glassdoor, the age of transparency in business, has fundamentally changed the way employers and employees view the leadership function in organizations – as well as what they expect from their executives.

Before the internet, being the mysterious figure in the corner office may have been viewed as a powerful position; but now, the most successful leaders have the ability to influence and create bonds with their employees. This change has caused businesses to have a new set of priorities in mind when recruiting executive talent.

So we’ve identified some commonly asked questions by headhunters and CEOs when recruiting for executive roles. Have you prepared for all of them?

How many people have you managed?

When answering this question, break your response down by who you’ve managed as well. Where were these individuals located? Did you manage remote teams? What positions did they hold in the company? Speak of them highly because they are a reflection of your effectiveness as a leader. Adding that they were a “bright team of engineers” instead of “team of engineers” is one way to reflect your appreciation for the people you manage.

What’s your leadership style?

This question requires a balance between articulating your leadership style in a way that allows room for adapting to unique situations. Articulate your preferred leadership style, but also acknowledge that some situations are best handled with other approaches. To substantiate your answer, give an example of how your main leadership style produced results from your team in your current or previous position.

Study the company’s employer branding. Observe the corporate culture reflected in their marketing, interactions with their social media communities, new talent initiatives announced in news articles, and other sources, to identify patterns that will help you understand the company’s plan for its employees. Making these observations will help you identify the question’s context as well as better understand the people who work there.

How do you balance your loyalty to your customers, shareholders and employees?

When answering this question, tell the interviewer how you see customers, shareholders, and employees related to each other in the context of their business. Part of an employer’s reason for asking this is to uncover if you understand how each category impacts the company.

As an executive, you have more likely than not been in situations where you’ve had to prioritize these three categories of people. If asked for an example, focus on one to discuss in the interview and then break down your thought process. How you came to the decision can be more revealing to an employer than the actions you took.

If the decision left your customers, employees, or shareholders unhappy, how quickly did the benefit outweigh the cost of that dissatisfaction? Were you considering alternative strategies or ideas? How has that decision benefitted the company since?

This question provides an opportunity to present your knowledge and involvement with your company as well. Do you know what aspects of your company shareholders are most attracted to? Has that insight influenced the way you manage employees?

How effective are you at promoting change?

Give examples of company initiatives you’ve executed, programs you’ve implemented, as well as other instances of bringing change into the organization. Then, tell the interviewer about how you’ve motivated employees involved in the process. Were they unhappy or reluctant at first before you found a way to get them to embrace it? If so, how did you turn it around?

Employers want to see that you not only have great ideas, but also have the ability to promote these changes effectively. A “before and after” approach to this question tends to work well by giving the employer a clear idea of how impactful your actions were to the company.

What examples can you give in terms of people development?

This question opens an opportunity to guide the interviewer towards visualizing you in the role. In your response, tie your style and experience to the company’s corporate culture and values. If it is a company that places a strong value on learning and collaboration, then telling them about how you’ve developed a mentorship program, for example, that pairs every new hire with a mentor and holds weekly brainstorming sessions.

People development is a common theme throughout executive interviews. The higher your position is in the company, the more your personality and the way you grow your employees plays a role in the employer’s decision to hire you. Employers want to see how the people who work for you will grow and develop into more talented individuals. This is an optimal time to include information about what a few of the top performers that worked under you have gone on to accomplish in their careers (either within the same company or at a different one).

For example, if you mentored someone who continued to move up into an executive level of a respected company in the field, that would be a valuable story to tell the employer because their success reflects on you as a leader. Include statistics related to growth in your response, such as briefly explaining the standards you’ve set for promotions and then sharing the percentage of employees who have earned promotions in the last 12 months.

Tell me about your experience with transformational leadership, or turning around a company.

Employers hiring executives to be a part of their business’s leadership team expect candidates to identify and articulate how their actions have directly impacted their current or former companies. If this is one of the questions you are asked, then it is an indicator that the company has specific areas of the company that they feel are broken and need to be turned around. Take this opportunity to find out what those are and then take a consultative approach when discussing the business case.

What’s your leadership or management philosophy?

Do you believe in letting low performers go in order to create new openings for better talent, or taking other actions first, such as putting them on a professional improvement plan to improve their performance? Are you an advocate of using metrics to track and reward performance, or do you focus more on empowering your employees to achieve benchmarks? How do you motivate them?

However you choose to answer, be sure to support your philosophy with a comprehensive rationale. Have you seen better results from this way of thinking as opposed to an outlook you held previously? Do you have a different philosophy for leading different teams (e.g. remote or local)?

Bonus: Headhunter Tweetchat Responses

Below are some other questions that participants in Experteer’s #headhunterchat on Twitter last month advise executive candidates to be prepared to answer. Throughout the chat, a frequent piece of advice given for answering these questions was to focus on quantifying answers and achievements throughout the interview.

  • What are your top 3 short-term goals for the company?
  • What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
  • Why would my team want to work with you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

About Tony Restell and Social-Hire:

Tony RestellTony Restell is the Founder of and helps candidates and recruiters leverage social media. Having spent the last 15 years serving the recruitment industry, Tony is a frequent guest speaker on the ever-changing jobs market and how both candidates and recruiters must adapt in order to thrive. A published author and Cambridge graduate, you’re welcome to reach out to Tony on @tonyrestell

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