CEO Interview Guide


from Neff, Thomas J. and James M. Citrin, Lessons from the Top: The Search for America’s Best Business Leaders. (New York: Doubleday, 1999).

 Leadership Questions

  1. What are the characteristics that make for a successful CEO today? Have these characteristics changed drastically in the last 10 or 20 years?
  2. In looking ahead, what skills and characteristics will be most important for the company’s next generation of leadership?
  3. What are your most important principles for leadership and inspiring people? Do these principles change during different growth stages of a company?
  4. How do you define success?
  5. What are you most proud of in your career?
  6. Who or what (eg mentors, books) have most influenced your thinking and philosophy?
  7. What specifically do you look for in hiring or promoting people? Has this changed over time?
  8. If you were advising your own children or young people on career strategy, what advice would you give?
  9. How did your early family background contribute to your drive and success?

Business Questions

  1. What was your vision for the company when you first became CEO? What is it today?
  2. What are the two or three most important performance measures you use to manage the company? How do you tie rewards to these measures? Have these measures changed over time?
  3. What are the company’s most significant challenges over the next three years? What keeps you awake at night worrying? What are you doing about it?
  4. Over the past 10 years, what have been the most pivotal points for the company and for you? What were the most important obstacles to overcome?
  5. Given your experience and vantage point from competing in an increasingly global industry, how do American business leaders differ from those in other regions??
  6. What have been the company’s, and/or your, biggest business mistakes? What did you and the organization learn from them?
  7. What is the ideal relationship between a CEO and the board of directors? What is the role of the board in developing strategy? Management development? Succession?

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