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CEO interview questions and answers

These CEO interview questions will help you identify candidates with top executive skills and find the best leader for your company.

Alexandra Marinaki
Alexandra Marinaki

Alexandra is a psychologist with a MSc in Talent Development and Creativity.

10 good CEO interview questions

  1. What do you think our company’s mission and vision are?
  2. What changes would you implement during your first year in the company? How would you build a 5-year plan?
  3. What would you do in your first 30 days as CEO of our organization?
  4. Who do you believe are our biggest competitors? How do we differ from them?
  5. What do you think are the biggest challenges our industry will face in the next 5 years?
  6. What are the most helpful technological platforms and tools you have used? Would you implement them in our organization?
  7. What is the most innovative product or service you’ve worked on at a previous company?
  8. Describe your rationale before you make a big financial decision. What criteria do you use to decide which products or services to invest in?
  9. In 5 minutes, prepare a small pitch to present our company to a potential investor.
  10. Imagine that a product or service we launched recently failed our expectations. What are your next steps

Choosing the right CEO is pivotal for a company’s direction, culture, and overall success. Here are 10 essential interview questions to help identify the best candidates for this leadership role.

1. What do you think our company’s mission and vision are?

This question assesses the candidate’s understanding and alignment with the company’s core values and objectives.

Sample answer:

“Your company’s mission is to provide innovative solutions to everyday challenges, and the vision is to be a global leader in your industry, setting standards for excellence.”

2. What changes would you implement during your first year in the company? How would you build a 5-year plan?

This question gauges the candidate’s strategic thinking and long-term vision.

Sample answer:

“In the first year, I’d focus on strengthening internal communication and team alignment. For the 5-year plan, I’d prioritize market expansion, R&D, and enhancing customer experience.”

3. What would you do in your first 30 days as CEO of our organization?

Understanding the candidate’s immediate priorities provides insight into their leadership style.

Sample answer:

“I’d spend time understanding the current operations, meeting with department heads, and gathering feedback from employees at all levels.”

4. Who do you believe are our biggest competitors? How do we differ from them?

This question tests the candidate’s industry knowledge and analytical skills.

Sample answer:

“Your main competitors are X and Y. However, your company stands out due to its commitment to sustainability and customer-centric approach.”

5. What do you think are the biggest challenges our industry will face in the next 5 years?

This question assesses the candidate’s foresight and industry awareness.

Sample answer:

“The industry will likely face challenges related to regulatory changes, technological disruptions, and evolving consumer preferences.”

6. What are the most helpful technological platforms and tools you have used? Would you implement them in our organization?

This question evaluates the candidate’s tech-savviness and adaptability.

Sample answer:

“I’ve found platforms like A and B extremely beneficial for data analytics and project management. If they align with our needs, I’d consider implementing them.”

7. What is the most innovative product or service you’ve worked on at a previous company?

This question probes the candidate’s experience with innovation and product development.

Sample answer:

“At my previous company, I spearheaded the development of a smart home device that became a best-seller in its category.”

8. Describe your rationale before you make a big financial decision. What criteria do you use to decide which products or services to invest in?

This question tests the candidate’s financial acumen and decision-making skills.

Sample answer:

“I prioritize ROI, alignment with company goals, market demand, and scalability. Every financial decision is backed by thorough research and analysis.”

9. In 5 minutes, prepare a small pitch to present our company to a potential investor.

This question evaluates the candidate’s ability to quickly synthesize information and present it compellingly.

Sample answer:

“Our company is at the forefront of innovation, with a proven track record of growth. With our dedicated team and unique products, we’re poised to redefine industry standards, making it an ideal investment opportunity.”

10. Imagine that a product or service we launched recently failed our expectations. What are your next steps?

This question assesses the candidate’s problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Sample answer:

“I’d initiate a thorough analysis to understand the reasons for the shortfall, gather feedback, and then pivot the strategy or make necessary improvements.”

Why it’s important to ask ceo interview questions

The CEO is the driving force behind a company’s strategy, culture, and overall direction. Asking the right interview questions ensures that the selected individual aligns with the company’s values, understands its challenges, and possesses the leadership qualities needed to steer the organization towards success.

Red flags

  • Vague answers: A CEO candidate should be able to provide clear and concise responses, demonstrating their understanding and decision-making abilities.
  • Lack of industry knowledge: If a candidate isn’t well-versed with the industry’s current trends and challenges, they might not be prepared to lead effectively.
  • Overemphasis on past achievements: While past success is important, a CEO should also demonstrate forward-thinking and a vision for the future.
  • Poor interpersonal skills: A CEO needs to build relationships, inspire teams, and communicate effectively. If they lack these skills, it’s a concern.
  • Inconsistency: If a candidate’s answers contradict each other or don’t align with their resume, it might indicate a lack of honesty or clarity.


How to prepare for a CEO interview 

A CEO is the highest-ranking executive in an organization. Recruiting CEOs can be challenging as they play a huge role in the company’s success. They make important company decisions, build business strategies, and shape the organizational culture. The ideal candidate for this position usually has many years of experience as a CEO or in another C-suite level role. It’s best to look for candidates who are familiar with your industry, as they’ll better understand your company’s challenges and objectives.

When you identify your top candidates for the CEO position, schedule an onsite introductory interview to talk about their skills and your business needs. Prepare CEO interview questions that assess candidates’ management and problem-solving skills. Use tangible criteria to understand if they’re a good fit for your company, for example, find out how well they know your company and your competitors and ask what changes they plan to implement if hired. Consider including board members and other executives in the hiring process to select candidates who are a good fit for your executive team.

Interview questions for CEOs can also reveal which candidates have the characteristics that make a good leader, such as resilience, patience, and an influential flair. A CEO makes important financial decisions and regularly communicates with shareholders and potential investors. So, look for candidates with a data-driven approach, attention to detail, and sharp negotiation skills.

Below, you’ll find the best questions to ask a CEO in a job interview divided into specific types.

Operational and Situational questions

  • What do you think our company’s mission and vision are?
  • What changes would you implement during your first year in the company? How would you build a 5-year plan?
  • What would you do in your first 30 days as CEO of our organization? 
  • Who do you believe are our biggest competitors? How do we differ from them?
  • What do you think are the biggest challenges our industry will face in the next 5 years?
  • What are the most helpful technological platforms and tools you have used? Would you implement them in our organization?
  • What is the most innovative product or service you’ve worked on at a previous company?
  • Describe your rationale before you make a big financial decision. What criteria do you use to decide which products or services to invest in?
  • In 5 minutes, prepare a small pitch to present our company to a potential investor.
  • Imagine that a product or service we launched recently failed our expectations. What are your next steps? 

Behavioral questions

  • What personality traits make a good leader?
  • What is the best and the worst part of being a CEO?
  • Name two strengths and two weaknesses you have and how they can impact your responsibilities as a CEO.
  • What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with your team to assign responsibilities to them? 
  • What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to people management?
  • How would others define your communication style? Do you prefer to be close to your employees or maintain a healthy distance, and why?
  • Describe a time when two team leaders or executives had a conflict. How did you handle the situation?
  • Describe a time you had to make a tough decision (e.g. budget cuts, organizational restructuring, market withdrawal, etc.). What did you do and what was the result?

Did you find this CEO interview questions template useful? Feel free to download the PDF for future use.

Frequently asked questions

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