35 Questions to ask senior executives and what to look for

35 Questions to ask senior executives and what to look for

Updated: July 10, 2023
10 min read
Questions to ask senior executives
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Communication is key. According to Haiilo, 3 in 4 employees see communication as the main leadership attribute. However, only 48% of employees consider leadership in their company as high-quality. 

Often, having a candid conversation with a CEO can significantly boost team performance, motivation, and dedication to a company. According to Zippia, 78% of senior leaders actively and regularly engage with their employees. Still, only 33% of employees report that they feel engaged. 

Nevertheless, regular meetings with a senior leadership team might be ineffective when there’s no constructive dialogue and pure interest on both sides. You, as an employee, should get ready for the interview with a senior leader to get the results you expect. This article provides 35 sample questions to ask senior executives in an interview. Additionally, we provide a set of qualities to look for when hiring a senior executive. Read on!

Questions to ask senior executives: types and real examples 

As Tony Robbins once said: “Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

Therefore, it’s often the question you ask that truly leads to the life-changing answer. And when talking to senior leaders and asking them the right questions, you have all the chances to learn from their experience and improve your current position, or at least get the most from it. 

Let’s divide all the questions to ask executives at your company into the following logical groups: 

  • Questions about employee engagement
  • Questions about strategy and performance
  • Questions about company success vision
  • Questions about team culture
  • Questions about the importance of employee well-being
  • Questions about career growth and development
  • Fun questions

Now, let’s review each group in more detail. 

Questions about employee engagement 

Quality employee engagement is essential for the company’s growth. This is not only because an engaged employee is more motivated and devoted to a particular company, but also because such an employee is less likely to leave the company in the long run. According to Wellable, about 87% of employees are less likely to quit if they’re actively engaged in the workplace.  

This is a short list of questions to ask leadership teams about employee engagement during an interview:

  • How important is employees’ engagement in our company?
  • What are our short-term and long-term strategies for employees’ engagement?
  • How do you manage employees’ engagement in the company?
  • How can we increase employees’ engagement in the company?
  • What teams in the company are the most engaged? Why so?

Questions about strategy and performance 

For employees at any level, understanding the company’s strategy and the strategic thinking of a senior leader is important. This is because employees see the company’s goals and where they’re headed in the future and, this way, have a clear understanding of how they can be tangential and how they can grow professionally. 

The strategic questions to ask senior leaders can be as follows:

  • What are our short-term and long-term strategies?
  • How do you evaluate the current company’s performance?
  • What teams perform the best, in your opinion?
  • What can be done to improve the company’s overall performance?
  • What are our main approaches to achieving the goals stated in the company strategy?

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Questions about company success vision 

A person who occupies a leadership position should have a clear vision of what their company wants to achieve and be able to convey this vision to all employees to keep them motivated and effective. Additionally, today’s leaders should know the approaches that help their organization achieve success. 

As for an employee, it’s important to be on the same page with other leaders to help the company move toward its desired success. 

Ask your business leader these questions:

  • What are the biggest challenges to our company’s success right now?
  • What are the day-to-day challenges to our company’s success from the employee perspective?
  • How does our company measure success achievement?
  • How can each team member contribute to the company’s success?
  • How does our success vision correlate with the organization’s mission?

Questions about team culture 

Even the best business strategy isn’t viable with poor corporate culture. Employees are the most effective when there’s a healthy team culture that encourages them to work better and help the company to achieve its goals.

Employees can gain valuable insights into the company culture by talking to colleagues from leadership positions and even encourage leaders to improve it if there’s such a need.

Among the questions to ask senior management are the following:

  • What should be done to keep every team motivated in your mind?
  • How do you know which team culture is the most effective?
  • Is there any company with a team culture that is a role model for you?
  • What is the best way to build a great team in your mind?
  • What are the ways to improve team culture in our company?

Questions about the importance of employee well-being

Employee well-being is critical to company success and growth. A good leader makes sure every employee has room for professional development and time for a personal life. In other words, a business owner should ensure a quality work-life balance for each team. 

According to Alight’s 2021 Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study, only 40% of employees rate their overall well-being as positive. Undoubtedly, employee well-being should be a leader’s focus, and every employee should make sure it is so. 

These are the questions to ask executives about well-being programs:

  • How important are well-being programs for employees for you?
  • Do you see ways to improve the current well-being programs?
  • What’s the main part of employee well-being for you?
  • Do you believe that poor well-being programs negatively impact employee performance?
  • How do you measure the impact of well-being programs on the company’s overall performance?

Questions about career growth and development 

Career development possibilities are essential for all team members to stay motivated and have less desire to find better work conditions and opportunities at another company. Employees who have access to professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged in company operations. At the same time, 54% of employees say they would spend more time on career development if they were given access to it, and 60% of millennial employees want leadership training. Regular conversations with company leaders could significantly add to the employee’s professional growth. 

Below are a few interview questions to ask senior-level executives to get valuable insight into professional development: 

  • What leadership skills and leadership abilities should a learning leader have to achieve success, in your opinion?
  • What successful leaders are your role models?
  • What is a leader’s success for you, and what qualities should great leaders have?
  • What do you do for your personal and career growth?
  • Do you believe that there should be a certain leadership style for different types of people?

Fun questions 

Studies show that 94% of executives consider work-life balance essential for job satisfaction and better personal efficiency for performing duties. It means the quality of life executives have outside of work significantly impacts their success at work. 

To get inspired and motivated, you can use the following interview questions to ask senior executives about their personal life:

  • What do you do to become a great leader?
  • What do you do in your work-free time?
  • Is there something new you want to learn this year?
  • Do you have any hobbies, and how important are they for your performance at work, in your opinion?
  • Do you have a morning routine, and how does it impact your productivity?

What to look for in senior executives

For seasoned board members and any other kind of executive, it’s always good to assess what it is that constitutes a dependable, effective senior executive.

Otherwise, it’s likely to rest on one’s laurels and fall into bad habits.

Conversely, newer board members and executives might still be learning what encapsulates a quality member of a senior leadership team.

After all, the Harvard Business Review explicitly states that performance reviews are necessary for boards to function at their fullest capabilities. Being evaluated (even if it’s self-evaluations) keeps people at the top of their games.

Discussed below are the nine distinct qualities that an executive must possess to be considered genuinely valuable in their role.

  • Proclivity for navigation
  • Strategic thinking
  • Zest for entrepreneurship
  • Moving and shaking (aka mobilizing)
  • Focus on talent
  • Ability to captivate the masses
  • Ability to think globally
  • Zest for change
  • Desire to act in the enterprise’s best interest

Let’s now closely review what each of the qualities is about.

A proclivity for navigation

Much like a captain at sea, senior executives must navigate the murky complexity of pressing issues. Also, they must be able to identify and leverage situations that will affect their organization.

Strategic thinking

As strategists, senior executives must be able to think in the short and long term. Meaning, they’re able to orchestrate immediate processes that offer a direct benefit as well as positively impacting the company for years to come.

In short, senior executives understand the value of the here and now. However, they’re big picture thinkers and have both eyes on the future as well.

A zest for entrepreneurship

Board members and other senior executives didn’t find themselves where they are because they weren’t ambitious.

In such a role, there’s a need to continually have one’s ear to the ground, knowing what kind of product and moneymaking opportunities are out there. Also, there’s a need for innovation and trying to put forth new processes that can increase revenue and productivity within the organization.

Moving and shaking (aka mobilizing)

Members of senior leadership need to display keen skills in building and connection of stakeholders, capabilities, and resources.

It’s through this kind of skillset that vital processes are executed with the utmost efficiency and profitability.

In short, senior executives make things happen.

Focus on talent

Long gone are the days when the top talent is just happy to have a job. Influential executives understand that part of their role is catered to attracting and retaining the brightest minds in their given industry. They take time to understand the various nuances involved in being someone for whom talent will produce at a high level.

Ability to captivate the masses

There’s an intangible need for executives to bring the best out of those around them. Through a strong leader’s infectious passion, others should become as – if not more – enthusiastic and dedicated to reaching and exceeding the goals of the organization.

Ability to think globally

Senior leaders should be people who are aware of the world outside of their given corporate bubble. They do their best to be in touch with the world around them. And they assess all perspectives when solving problems—much to the benefit of their organization.

Zest for change

The senior executives that stand out from the pack are the ones who are constantly questioning what’s around them. They don’t sit back and watch the game pass them by. Instead, they’re continually looking to better themselves, the people around them, and the company.

Desire to act in the enterprise’s best interest

Lastly, let’s point out that quality senior executives utilize their courageous decision making to ensure shareholder value. They do this to support enterprise and unit-wide interests.

Senior executives come in many shapes and sizes. This list provides a starting point for what to look for in your next hire.

Summing up

A regular candid conversation with an executive can provide current employees or future leaders much better insight than taking years of professional courses. Not only does it boost employee motivation and productivity, but it also adds to the company’s overall success because employees have a clearer understanding of where they’re moving as an organization. 

The questions to ask sr leadership teams offered in this article can help employees to grow professionally and keep them interested in growing within the company. Furthermore, the list of leaders’ qualities helps boards choose the right candidate for the leadership position.


Should I send the interview questions to the senior executive in advance?

This greatly depends on the type and formality of your meeting. For example, you can have a session with an executive in the form of email messaging. In this case, there’s no need to send interview questions in advance. Probably the same corresponds to situations when you want to ask fun questions only. However, if you hope to learn from the executive’s expertise, it’s better to send the questions in advance so that they can prepare the most informative answers.

However, sending interview questions in advance speaks of a good tone in any situation and is always advisable.

How do I ensure that the information provided by the senior executive is accurate and credible?

Successful leaders have the relevant leadership skills that helped them to be where they are today. So if your questions are mainly about a leader’s expertise and professional development, the answers they give are only from their personal perspective and are naturally credible.

However, if your questions are about the company’s strategy or current well-being programs, you can always double-check the info by talking to other executives regarding this matter.

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