So, why are you here again? What IS the best executive-level interview question?

Written by: James Dunne
Published on: 31 Oct 2016

    If you are applying for a job, or if you’re a senior executive about to sit on a recruitment panel to assess your next Finance Director, it’s worthwhile having some great, really penetrating, questions up your sleeve, if only to impress the HR team who, being more used to this sort of thing, tend to have (and forgive me HR people if this doesn’t apply to you personally), a series of stock questions, even for exec level appointments.  Something like the following...

    "Tell me about yourself?"

    "What are your weaknesses?"

    "What is your greatest accomplishment?"

    "Why did you leave your last job?"

    "Why do you want to work with us?"

    "Why did you apply for this position?"

    "What would you like to be doing five years from now?"

    "Why should I hire you?"

    Most experienced, director-level candidates should be able to handle these fairly easily, but we all know that there are other, more taxing questions that tend to come our way at senior management interviews.  So, if you are currently either job-seeking or, better still, about to go for an interview – or conversely if you’re on that recruitment panel next week - then you may be tempted to fire up Mr. Google to see what’s flavour of the month in interview questions.

    I did just that recently, using various search strings along the lines of “what is the only interview question that matters?”  I then collated the results to see if there is any common thread or body of opinion that might help.  The good news is that there is one question that does seem to be “the one” in that it comes up the most often.

    That said, most online articles on this subject have headlines like “The Three Questions that matter” or “The Five Questions that really matter.” Having had a good rummage around online – even going as far as pages 2 and 3 of the search - we find the more interesting ones.  Hidden in amongst the list below is that “one question that really matters” – so see if you can spot which it is!

    “Would you rather be respected or feared?”

    “What do you think will constitute success in this position?”

    "Tell me about the relationships you've had with the people you've worked with. How would you describe the best ones? The worst?"

    "What have you done professionally that you succeeded at, but isn't an experience you'd want to repeat?"

    “Why are you here today?”

    “What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?”

    “What’s your biggest dream in life?”

    “What is your favourite property in Monopoly, and why?”

    “Tell me about when you failed.”

    “Talk to me about when you were seven or eight. Who did you want to be?”

    These are all interesting, but the business of interviewing, assessment and selection is a science as well as a craft.  We’ll look at this in my next blog, along with more of “the only questions you need” and some slightly more interesting ways of separating the sheep from the goats.  In the meantime, the next time you’re selecting a new Sales or Production Director, you can impress your fellow interview panel members by trotting out one of the belters above.

    James Dunne,