Last year, I went through over 30 interviews to find the job that I have now. For one of the companies that I interviewed with, I got to the final round interview with the Chief Executive Officer (interview with the CEO), and was ultimately offered the job shortly afterward.
I ended up turning down that job (I talk a bit about why I turned that offer down in this post), but I did feel like my preparation for that interview was very effective.
So, I’ve taken my 3 best tips and put them in this blog post to help you nail your interview with the CEO and ultimately get offered the job!
Here are 3 strategic interview tips for your upcoming interview with the CEO to help you land the job.
Research the CEO’s LinkedIn / Website To Find Commonalities
As you get ready for your job interview with the CEO, it can be helpful to identify things that you have in common with the CEO.
Having shared interests and past experience or things in common will not only help you appear more likable, but can also help the conversation flow more effortlessly and organically.
Highlighting commonalities with the CEO can also help you stand out in the interview process and highlight you as a good fit for the company.
A great resource to learn more about the CEO and find common ground is on LinkedIn. If the CEO has a LinkedIn profile, you can find all sorts of information like where they went to school and what they studied, where they are currently located, what they are aspiring to from a career perspective, and what companies or organizations they’ve worked for or are interested in.
Personal / Company Website
The CEO may have their own website, or they may have an “About” section on the company’s website. You can find these sources of information by doing a simple Google search for the CEO’s name.
Whether you’re on the company’s website or on the CEO’s personal site, you can find information about the CEO such as a detailed career history, when they started working for the company you’re interviewing for, what experience they have, or what their interests and hobbies are outside of work.
As you note the things that you have in common, write them down
As you do your research and notice things that you and the CEO have in common, write them down. Having just 1 or 2 (if not more) things in common is great, and the key here is to bring these things up in your interview.
Now, during your interview, you don’t want to just randomly throw out that you saw that you and the CEO have the same type of dog (lol).
When you mention that you have something in common, you want it to be natural and relevant to the conversation at hand.
For instance, if the CEO asks where you went to school, and you know you both went to the same college, you can say something like “I went to Harvard. I saw that you went there, too!”.
This will probably kick off a short conversation about your shared experience.
As another example, let’s say that the CEO asks you to tell her a bit about yourself. If you know you both grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, for example, you can say something like, “I grew up right outside of Washington, D.C. I think I saw that you grew up around there, too, is that right?”.
By calling attention to a few things that you have in common, you will appear more likable, and like you did your research, which is always a good thing.
You don’t want to over do it with the commonalities, but mentioning a thing or two that you share in common is a great way to spark familiar conversation and make you more memorable to the CEO.
On the other hand, if you and the CEO don’t have anything in common, no need to worry. This isn’t a make or break aspect of your interview – it’s just something that can help you stand out in the hiring process.
2. Arrive with a list of questions
When interviewing with the CEO, it’s important to ask great, smart questions so that if you are offered the job, you have all the information you need to make your decision.
Think about the things that you really value in a job, and then ask questions around those things.
Here are a few questions I planned to ask the CEO during my interview in order to gain insight on the company:
“Where do you see [Company] in X years?”
I liked this question, because who better to know about the future of the company than the CEO themself? You should pay particular attention to how enthusiastic the CEO is when they answer this question.
Are they excited about the future of the company? Or do they seem burdened and stressed out when talking about it?
If you want to work for a company where the next few years look bright and positive, the answer to this question will be important.
“What brought you to [Company]?”
Asking the CEO what brought them to the company is a great way to see what the CEO values. Did they come to this company because they believed in its mission?
Was this a great growth opportunity for them?
When the CEO answers this question, think about their answer and see if what they say is something that you value, too. If their answer doesn’t spark some excitement for you, pay attention to that.
This doesn’t have to be a make or break thing, but can be helpful when you get the job offer and you’re deciding whether or not to accept.
“What’s your favorite thing about [Company]?”
This is another question where the answer should make you excited. Does the CEO of the company love the company culture? The work-life balance? The growth opportunities?
This question can help you determine if the CEO enjoys working for the company and can give you a good idea of what to expect at the company if you get offered the job and decide to accept it.
The answer to this question will definitely help you in your decision-making process if you get the job offer.
“How has [Company] handled the Covid-19 pandemic?”
This is a great question to ask to see how the leadership team guided the company through Covid-19. Did they have to lay people off? Did they offer their employees any kind of support?
If you want to work for a company that treats their employees well during the biggest challenges, and a company where you feel your job will be secure, the answer to this question can tell you a lot.
“How would you describe your leadership style?”
This is the best way to determine if the CEO has leadership skills that you can mesh with or not! Is their management style a little more laid back or involved?
Are they one for light-hearted, casual conversation? Or do they always stick to talking about business?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask if you are curious how the CEO of a company runs their business.
“What does a strong candidate look like to you?”
This is a great question to see if you and your skills are aligned with what the CEO is looking for.
3. A Little Flattery Never Hurt!
Something I’m really glad I did when I was preparing for my interview with the CEO was comb through their social media listen to any interviews or videos that they were in, as well as read any blog posts that they wrote.
If I thought the topic they were speaking on or writing about was interesting, I listened to or read whatever it was.
This helped me “get to know” the CEO. I was able to learn more about them and see what their personality was like and what some of their personal values were.
This also helped ease my nerves the day of my interview, because I felt like I knew what to expect in terms of who I was going to speak to and what their energy was like. I knew this would make small talk a lot easier.
But perhaps the best thing I did was bring up things that they talked about in their videos or wrote about in their blog posts. For example, the particular CEO that I interviewed with had his own business podcast where he talked about the company’s purpose.
As someone who is interested in business, I enjoyed listening to a few of his podcasts. He also had a bunch of YouTube videos that I watched as well as blog posts that I was happy to read.
Where this really benefited me was when the CEO brought up certain topics in our interview that I knew he had mentioned in some of his podcasts.
When he mentioned things that I recognized from his podcast, I would say things like, “Oh yeah, I listened to your podcast about [topic] and really enjoyed it!” or “I saw you mention that in one of your YouTube videos and thought that was really interesting”.
Of course whatever you say should be genuine, but doing your research and shedding light on that fact can benefit you in multiple ways.
For one, it’ll show the CEO that you must really be interested in getting this job if you are spending your time doing research before your interview.
And two, it can be flattering to the CEO! After all, you took your time to consume content that they spent time creating, and here you are saying that you enjoyed it.
What are some other tips you would recommend to someone that’s interviewing with the CEO? Let me know in the comments section below!
This post was all about 3 strategic interview tips for your upcoming interview with the CEO to help you land the job.
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