Why this matters:

Every company needs a core vision that leads it toward a successful and exciting future. A CEO candidate who is deeply invested in your company will not only come to the interview prepared with a set of possible strategies, but also will be able to clearly articulate immediate and far-reaching next steps for getting there.

What to listen for:

  • An ability to set ambitious, yet attainable, goals for company growth
  • Clear company-wide objectives, suggesting actionable steps
  • A desire to grow the company and contribute to its long-term success

Why this matters:

There are many paths a new CEO can take — from exploring new revenue streams to acquiring synergistic businesses, and from streamlining operational workflows to mitigating risk. While it’s important that the candidate knows various tactics for boosting performance, it’s also imperative for them to build a vision that inspires implementation for years to come.

What to listen for:

  • An ability to facilitate successful operational planning
  • A willingness to collaborate with other employees to meet company-wide goals
  • Clear and strong communication of action steps and desired results

Why this matters:

To drive continuous growth and profitability, a CEO must thoroughly understand — and be able to navigate — shifting marketplace dynamics. Without this knowledge, they cannot realistically assess the ongoing strength of their strategies, business models, and offerings, nor will they be able to quickly seize opportunities to scale, expand, or profit.

What to listen for:

  • Familiarity with current market and industry movements and trends
  • An ability to develop and facilitate business solutions that yield quantifiable outcomes
  • An ability to pursue business opportunities that lead to growth

Why this matters:

Occasionally, a CEO must make difficult decisions not fully embraced by other company executives. During these times, the CEO should let others air their views and reasoning. If the CEO ultimately decides to make an unpopular call, it’s probably best that they respectfully tune out dissent and lead the team forward with clarity and conviction.

What to listen for:

  • Trust in their own gut instincts
  • Willingness to make an unpopular call
  • The ability to cultivate support through persuasion and influence

Why this matters:

Regardless of what it sells or how it generates value in the marketplace, the primary goal of any for-profit company is, quite simply, to profit — and to sustain itself by supporting employees, serving customers, and making ownership economically worthwhile. That’s why a strong CEO must know how to optimize profits.

What to listen for:

  • A strong understanding of the economic levers that drive success
  • Any previous experience with company or division-level turnarounds
  • A level-headed view of the role of profit in business, however mission-driven

Why this matters:

Like any other worker, a CEO needs feedback to continue developing their leadership and thereby ensure satisfaction among the workforce and customer base, which drives overall success. The larger the company, the more the CEO should know how to meaningfully filter and honor viewpoints with humility, but without losing vision or focus.

What to listen for:

  • The ability to listen, with a healthy interest in other viewpoints
  • A sense of humility and a desire to learn
  • The ability to filter out noise and focus on what’s meaningful

Why this matters:

When a CEO fosters positive relationships with their staff, authentic collaboration comes naturally. Honest and trusting work relationships provide more opportunities for the company to identify unique solutions, as people feel empowered to share their perspective and approach the CEO with confidence and transparency. In return, the CEO can gain valuable insight from their employees while they do their best work.

What to listen for:

  • Proven experience building positive rapport with others and welcoming disparate views
  • Strategies or best practices the candidate uses to build and nurture their network

Why this matters:

Although there are different types of management styles, much about being a strong manager comes down to how well a professional can communicate their thoughts and ideas. For a CEO, the ability to clearly articulate their standpoints, goals, and feedback will directly affect employees and their ability to meet certain expectations.

What to listen for:

  • A clear explanation of their management style, with details about strengths and areas for improvement
  • An ability to identify how their management style impacts work culture
  • A willingness to adjust their management style as needed for the benefit of the company

Why this matters:

Because a CEO is the face of their company, it’s important that they know how to exude an attitude that’s fully aligned with the brand, whether it’s integrity, transparency, humility, confidence, intelligence, inspiration, enthusiasm, brilliance, or other positive leader-appropriate characteristics.

What to listen for:

  • Personal influence and power
  • Authenticity
  • A mission orientation
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