Except for a few positions, it’s rare to be interviewing with the CEO or president of a company. But, in case you have the opportunity of a one-on-one with the big boss—or are meeting with someone who strives to interview the same way— this is a way to get prepared for the big test.
1. The Elevator Pitch
According to Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, “I ask people to summarize their life in three minutes. I’m trying to figure out the formative decisions and experiences that influenced who you are as a person. Once I figure that out, I’m trying to understand the two or three most remarkable things you’ve ever done in your life.”
2. The Real-World Problem
For Jane Park, CEO of Julep, “I often give the person a real problem, whatever I’m wrestling with right now, because you can learn a lot about a person that way. Are they going to be my partner and be able to see the strategic issue as well as how to execute on it? Are they interested and engaged and curious about it?”
3. The Unspoken
In the case of Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, “Part of the process starts before the conversation. How do you interact with people in the waiting area? I’ll ask people to offer the candidate a drink to see if there’s a general gratefulness there, and they’ll send me notes. Then, when someone walks into my office, I’ll have a big wad of paper on my floor between the door and the table. I want to see if the person picks it up. I don’t make huge judgments around it, but it does give me a sense of how detail-oriented they are.”
4. The Airport Test
According to Deborah Bial, President of the Posse Foundation, “I’ll want to get into a discussion about something. What’s in the newspaper that day? I want to know what they think, how they think, how they express what it is they’re thinking, how they ask questions and how they listen.”
5. The Fit Question
Neil Blumenthal, Co-CEO of Warby Parker says “One of our core values is to inject fun and quirkiness into everything we do. So we’ll often ask, ‘What was a recent costume you wore?’ And the point isn’t that if you haven’t worn a costume in the last four weeks, you’re not getting hired. It’s more to judge the reaction to that question. Are you somebody who takes yourself very seriously? If so, that’s a warning sign to us. We want people to take their work seriously but not themselves.”
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