Executive Interviews: The All-Important Fit Conversation

Executive interviews are not only about determining if you can do the job — and do it well — but also if you’ll fit in with the people and the environment. Hiring decision makers want to know you’ll be able to operate effectively up, down and across the organization and be able to get your job done through your teams and together with your colleagues. “Poor culture fit” is often one of the reasons why executives don’t succeed in positions (usually observed and addressed quickly), and make their exits — either voluntarily or involuntarily. We see this play out time and time again in the business world. In a 2015 Fortune interview, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, reflects on his hiring — and swift firing — of European retail executive John Browett. “That was a reminder to me of the critical importance of cultural fit,” Cook said about his executive hiring misstep and Browett’s poor fit with Apple’s culture.

Assessing fit in executive interviews is often a challenge for both companies and candidates alike, as it is often difficult to determine if there is full alignment on all value points. I was networking recently with the Head of Talent Acquisition at a NYC-based PR firm and asked her to describe the company’s culture, to which she responded, “scrappy, lean, open-office environment, shared business line P&Ls, very collaborative, casual and non-corporate.” These words conjure up different feelings for people and do not have the same appeal for all individuals. Therefore, during the executive interview, it’s just as important for the candidate to get a true sense of what it would be like working at the company as it is for the company to understand what it would be like working with the individual.

Here are some questions that will help in preparing for the “fit conversation” in executive interviews:

Questions to anticipate:

  • How do others describe your leadership style?
  • What do you value most as a leader?
  • What type of culture do you foster among your team as well as the broader organization?
  • How would you describe your decision making/conflict management/communication style?
  • What factors are most important to you in considering your next role?
  • What factors are most appealing to you about this opportunity?
  • What career successes are you most proud of and why?
  • What was your biggest career mistake and what did you learn from it?
  • What motivates you?

Questions to ask:

  • How would you describe the culture here?
  • What does the organization value?
  • What’s kept you working here?
  • What do you view as the organization’s/team’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What makes leaders successful here?
  • What has caused leaders to fail?
  • How does the organization keep teams engaged and motivated to perform?

If you are looking for a partner to help prepare for your next round of executive interviews, contact me today to learn more about how we can work together.


About Amy Phillip

Leadership Career Consultant/Resume Writer committed to bringing out the best in my clients & helping leaders succeed in their careers.

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