Is It A Good Omen To Be Called For An Interview With The CEO?

Getting a call back for an interview is exciting, but if the person on the other end of the line mentions the CEO, you might have a moment of panic. 

Is it a good omen to be called for an interview with the CEO? Does that mean you’re hired? Does it mean you’re in trouble?

Being called for an interview with the CEO of a company is a very good sign; it usually means that you’ve made it to the end of the hiring process and are almost ready to be given an offer. Still, the CEO interview isn’t a formality and should be treated with the same dedication as other interviews in order to secure your offer.

Here’s what you need to know about being called for an interview with the CEO.

Why you might be called for an interview with the CEO

The interview process can be arduous. There are usually several rounds, starting from the moment you submit your application and going through your first few days or weeks on the job.

These interviews can go through a wide variety of people – an initial hiring manager, a team lead, or even a panel of interviewers. They can happen over the phone, online, or in person, and there are usually at least two rounds if not three or four.

What many people don’t count on is being called to attend an interview with the owner of the company. This can sound incredibly intimidating, but it’s actually a very good sign. CEO interviews are usually one of if not the last step in the hiring process.

To make it to this stage, several different people have to vet not only your written qualifications but also your personality and demeanor and see if they’re a good fit for the company.

Being called for an interview with the CEO means that every previous interviewer has given you their approval, and the only person left to decide whether or not you will be hired is the person in charge of the entire operation. 

Only the most qualified candidates make it to a CEO interview.

How to prepare for an interview with the CEO

Preparing for an interview with the CEO of a company is much like preparing for the other interviews you’ve done up to this point. However, the important thing to remember is that this interview is not a formality.

You’ll want to put your best foot forward and give this part of the process the most attention and effort. Here’s how to prepare for an interview with the CEO of a company.

In our own experience when preparing for an interview, and latterly in writing this article, the value provided by taking a low-cost online course on job interview strategies has come up time and again.

One well-reviewed short course on Udemy called ‘Win Any Job Interview’ covers most of the challenging aspects of a high-pressure interview from how to handle difficult interview questions, the art of negotiating salary as well as nuanced aspects of interviews such as non-verbal signals. On top of being better prepared than other candidates, an online course such as this one will do wonders for your mental state on the countdown to interview day.

Free abstracts from ‘Win Any Job Interview’ are available here, however very often Udemy also runs 7-day free trials, so look out for one of these trials to be prepared for anything the CEO might throw at you.

Understand who you’re talking to…

Though you’ve probably already done plenty of research into the company itself, for the CEO interview, you’ll want to know about the specific person you’ll be speaking with. 

Check out their social media pages and the company website to understand their history in the industry and what you can relate to.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re following the company’s recent projects and successes, so that, if asked about them, you’ll be able to accurately give your opinion (and potentially pitch how you can further them) without floundering.

Practice your elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is so named because it’s the pitch you’d give for a project – in this case, yourself – in the time that it would take to ride an elevator with your interviewer. That means it has to be short, sweet, and to the point. You’ll want to include:

  • A brief history of your experience
  • Your key skills and accomplishments
  • Your career goals

Elevator pitches with a CEO are best kept to between 30 and 60 seconds. They make a great answer to the dreaded question, “Tell me about yourself.” Practice it frequently, until you can say it confidently without trying. Remember to talk at a normal speed (nerves can make you faster).

Have the right attitude

The key points here are confidence and positivity. Walk into your interview knowing that you’ve been approved by everyone so far, so you must have assets worth investing in.

At the same time, you don’t want to appear overconfident or, worse, arrogant. Don’t downplay your accomplishments, but don’t embellish them. Try to play to your strengths and what you like about the company itself.

This interview is also usually very focused on cultural fit, so present yourself as you intend to work; offer realistic goals and expectations, and if you mess up, acknowledge it in a positive way if possible. Be polite and professional from the moment you walk into the building until you walk back out.

Pay attention

You may be nervous, but it’s incredibly important to pay attention to what your interviewer is saying – they might be giving you key insight into what your future is in this position.

Take note of the details when they talk – what are the company’s specific goals, and how can you help to achieve them? What do they emphasize about the position, and why is this important?

Paying close attention during an interview can help prevent embarrassing reiteration of topics already covered, and can help you stand out as someone dedicated to and enthusiastic about the work.

Prepare for hard questions

CEO interviews are infamous for having tough questions used to gauge the candidate’s knowledge and fit for the company. Here are some of the most popular, and how to answer them effectively.

  • “Why do you want to work for our company?” – This question is usually used to gauge whether the candidate actually understands the company they’re interviewing with. Mention something specific to their history or work that interests you and aligns with your goals.
  • “How did you come to work in this industry?” – Questions like this are meant to learn more about your personal investment in the field than your overall experience. You might include how your chosen field interests or inspires you, or an anecdote about why you consider it important.
  • “How do you challenge yourself?” or “What would you say is your biggest weakness?” – This question aims to prove that you are capable of spotting flaws in your work and improving over time. Choose something that you’ve actively worked to improve, and explain how you’ve done so.

Though it’s impossible to know exactly what questions are going to be asked of you, understanding the kinds of questions on the table can help you feel more prepared and ready to respond quickly and calmly.

Ask questions

At the end of the interview, the CEO is likely to ask you if you have any questions for them. Always ask a few! This proves that you prepared for the interview and that you care about the position and the company. You might ask about the state of current projects, the CEO’s personal experience with the work, or more details about the company’s culture.

Writing these questions out ahead of time can help you remember them in the moment, and goes a long way toward proving your preparedness.

Final thoughts

They may be a big name, but the CEO’s chief concern isn’t usually throwing their weight around to scare potential new hires. They want to make sure that everyone who comes into their company has something important to offer that will help it grow and succeed, and many CEOs choose to do this by directly taking part in the hiring process.

If you’re called for an interview with the CEO, get excited! It means you’re well qualified and that they want to know personally what you can do. All you have to do now is show them. Be prepared, be confident, and be professional, and you’ll be sure to make a good impression.

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