When we speak about middle-sized and big companies, you won’t meet with the CEO unless you interview for an executive position, or for a top management job. Even in this case you won’t talk to the head of the company before passing a series of other interviews, led by HR employees and mid-level management.

In small companies, however, the situation differs. CEO can often lead every single job interview, simply because they do not have in their team any skilled interviewers or HR managers, or because they do not trust anyone else when it comes to hiring new employees. Let’s have a look at few things you need to do well to succeed in this interview.


What questions to expect from a CEO?

Besides inquiring about your past projects, and the things you did and achieved in your former jobs (your track record, which, after all, tells the most authentic story about your qualities), CEO will ask you mostly behavioral (scenario-based) questions. Let’s have a look at a short list, consisting of both types of questions:

  • What have you done on a position XY? Can you tell me more about your duties and responsibilities on this position?
  • Did you have any goals on a position XYZ in ABC company? What were your goals? Did you achieve them, and how did you achieve them? If you failed to achieve them, why did it happen?
  • Can you tell me more about the latest project you worked on? Did you face any problems and challenges? Explain how you tackled them.
  • Tell me about a time when you showed initiative in your last job.
  • Describe a time when you felt overwhelmed with work. What did you do to get back on track?
  • What do you think matters the most in our business? What is the difference between the winners and the losers in this industry?
  • If your boss told you you were doing something wrong, but you knew you were doing it right, what would you do?
  • Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleague in the past.
  • How do you imagine your future in our company? What position would you like to have in five years from now?
  • Describe a situation when you had to motivate someone in work (your colleague, your subordinate, or even your superior, the CEO).
  • Tell me about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with an angry or upset client (customer).
  • When you had to work on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?

Special Tip: If you aren’t sure how to deal with these questions, or you remained silent when you heard them in your last job interview, have a look at our eBook, Ace Your Behavioral-Based Job Interview. Up to 7 sample answers to 31 most common behavioral interview question will help you streamline your interview preparation, make an impression the CEO, and get a job.


CEO cares for their business. But do you care?

CEO cares for the results of the business more than anyone else in the company. You can be sure it won’t be easy in an interview with them, and you will have to convince them that you care for their success.

On the other hand, CEOs are not always skilled in interviewing job applicants, they do not always excel in recruitment. What does it mean for you?

It means that when you manage to build a good connection with the decision maker during the interview, they may hire you–even if you do not give the very best answers to their questions.

If you interview for a job in a big company, however, and it goes about the final interview (led by CEO), you can be sure that the employees from HR department informed the CEO about your strengths and weaknesses.

Unlike any other interview

CEO has a different way of thinking: They see you as a potential asset, and as a regular expense for the company. CEOs care mostly about two things: revenues and expenses (and at the end of the day profit, which is the result of the two numbers combined).

If you convince them that the value you can bring to the company exceeds the sum of money they will pay you on a monthly basis, they will hire you.

Try to demonstrate, on practical examples from your past working experience, how their company can benefit from having you in their team. That means:

  • Speaking about your achievements, from the point of view of your former employers. Did you help to increase the revenue of the company? The level of customer satisfaction? Did you help to reduce expenses, or helped the company to save money in any other way? What did you did for your former employer?
  • Showing them that you understand their values, what they try to achieve in their business, and how you can help them achieve their goals. A good research you do prior to the interview will help a lot in this case. Try to learn as much as you can about their products, customers, vision, and goals. The information will help you to come up with a good answer to any question that relates to their business.


Conclusion and next steps

CEOs do not specialize in leading job interviews. They want to hire people who care for their business, who talk about their business. They like to hire people they feel good with.

If you manage to build relationship with them, and give good answers to their behavioral questions (demonstrating the value you can bring to their company in your answers), they will hire you.

At the end of the day, job interview is just a meeting of two people. Make a good connection with them, show right values and attitude in your interview answer, and believe in your chances. If you manage to do it, you will succeed.

If you struggle with behavioral questions, or with making a great impression on your interviewers, have a look at our eBook, Ace Your Behavioral-Based Job Interview. Up to 7 sample answers to 31 most common behavioral interview question will help you streamline your interview preparation, and outclass your competitors, the other job candidates interviewing with the CEO. Thank you for checking it out, and good luck in your interview!


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Matthew Chulaw
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