Ask a Recruiter: What are the Top Questions Recruiters Ask Executive Candidates?

Ask a Recruiter, For Candidates

Questions Recruiters Ask Executive Candidates

In their search for an ideal candidate for their client, executive recruiters will ask “more than meets the eye” type of interview questions. Even the simplest of inquiries can provide insightful information about a candidate’s motivation, skill set, core values, and future goals.

We rounded up our recruiters’ favorite questions to ask executive candidates, and what we can learn based on their responses.


How’s everything been going for you recently?

Evidently, it has been a dynamic job market in the years since the pandemic, with a lot of workers taking a hard look at their career paths. This question investigates if an executive has experienced any major career shifts or transitions not on their resume that are worth addressing.


Are you actively looking for a new position? 

We often speak with candidates that we have sourced—not jobseekers who have directly applied to the position. Asking this question helps us measure how serious an applicant is about considering a new job, and if they might be interviewing for other opportunities. Knowing whether a candidate is “active” or “passive” (not actively job searching) can also predict their behavior throughout the hiring process, including salary negotiation.


What interests you about this opportunity? 

This helps gauge a candidate’s level of interest about the role. It can be frustrating when a candidate ghosts hiring authorities in the middle of the process or rejects a strong job offer that has a competitive compensation package. Understanding a candidate’s motivation from the get-go will determine if the career opportunity is a good fit. Honesty is key and will ultimately save time and energy for everyone involved in the process.


What sets you apart from your professional peers of the same skill set? 

To answer this tricky question successfully, a candidate must master the art of the humble brag. Letting the ego out of the bag too much can lose interview points. On the other hand, failure to share an original answer that demonstrates confidence can also lead to a lackluster first impression.

This question is one of the many reasons why it is important for candidates to prepare before an executive interview, even an initial phone call with a recruiter. Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs can provide more insight about oneself if needed. These kinds of tests are also becoming more commonplace in the executive hiring process.


How would you describe your leadership style? 

This question uncovers how a candidate perceives themselves when managing others. Are they the type of leader who puts their employees before themselves? When making an important decision, do they involve their team or strategize on their own? Their response gives us a better understanding of their priorities and goals as a leader, and whether they would fit in with the client’s company culture.


Describe your current organizational structure.

We are curious to know an executive’s direct report as well as the number of employees they supervise to gauge if their experience will align well with our client company’s organizational chart.


What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your career?

This question allows executives to loosen up during the interview while sharing a positive experience as a seasoned leader. It allows us to know what the candidate truly finds meaningful at work, and if they would be able to find those same values in the job opportunity presented.


It’s the recruiter’s job to discern what skills, talents, abilities, and personal characteristics lead to a perfect hire for their client companies. Often that mission requires reading between the lines when interviewing executive candidates. To really prepare for an interview, executive candidates should look through the lens of a recruiter to understand the intentions behind each question.

Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 55 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; CBD; Facility and Concession; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Healthcare; Hotel and Resort; Nonprofit; Restaurant and Foodservice; and Travel, Tourism, and Attraction industries.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a candidate.

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