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Private and Confidential
Moving to the C-Suite
Private and Confidential 2
Some context: what we do
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What we look for: sample C-suite experience and competencies
Less Important Critical
Relevant Domain Experience
Relevant Functional Experience
Strong Growth Orientation
Strong Communication Skills
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And how this translates to CEO level roles
CEO essence (statistically significant differences of highest magnitude)
Embrace the right risks
Capitalize on opportunities
Competitive • Self-assured
Emotionally stable • Calm
Strong in their convictions
Open to change • Imaginative
Innovative • Conceptual thinker
Free from worry • Optimistic
Lively • Seek varied activities
Visualize the future
Forward-thinking, forward action
Curious, develop a unique point of view
Driven and resilient
Ambitious, intrepid, resilient
Inclusive • Read others effectively
Team-oriented • Rely on others
Warm • Trusting
Enjoy others’ company
Forthright • Outgoing
Enjoy selling • Expressive
Thick-skinned • Express opinions
Utilitarian • Take the lead
Set the agenda
Send clear messages
Communicative and open
High EQ; read, engage, and organize others
Six other groups of traits also distinguish CEOs from their executive peers on a statistically significant basis:
Senior Executive Average (1–10 scale) CEO Average (1–10 scale)
Private and Confidential 5
What this means for your CV and LinkedIn profile: best practices
1-3 line summary of relevant domain, functional and GM experience can be helpful – know your value
proposition relative to the market
Use a well organized resume format (e.g. HBS template) summarizing the company (with description and
basic metrics if needed), role and success metrics
A “portfolio” of different experiences – across industries, functions can help show well rounded GM and
Describe overall contributions to the business and how it performed – speak as an owner of the
LinkedIn profile should reflect full chronology of CV – join relevant groups and associations and get
thought leadership perspectives online – even if just sharing relevant industry pieces
Don’t be perceived as a “hopper” – you need to show trajectory and impact – work to group and explain
short stints caused by strategic exits etc.
Get involved with industry associations, non profit boards, standards committees early – great learning
experience and shows leadership and governance potential
Product management is the new “Brand Management” – i.e. product and platform experience in a digital
company is viewed as “academy” learning experience with a broad 360 remit and impact on the business
– much as P&G brand roles were viewed as great GM grooming roles in the 80s and 90s.
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Call and respond
What is executive search, retained search and exclusive search?
Why/when should you take a call? What are the motivations of the recruiter on the other end of the
What uncomfortable questions should you be prepared to answer?
What piqued your interest about this?
What relevant experience do you have for this?
Why are you thinking about leaving? Why did you leave? Were you fired?
What is your current compensation?
Who do you report to? Who are your peers? What is the org structure?
Are you open to relocation?
What is the worst thing I would hear about you?
Who would be your best references?
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Interviewing like a GM
While you have one resume you should have a “cover letter” in mind for each opportunity – how does
this role fit with your overall career goals, search strategy, capabilities and interests
Do your research – know the company, organization and find common connections if you can
Be prepared to do a very tight chronology of your background – explaining transitions and major
Expect a competency based interview – be prepared to have stories that show how you work, and that
point to leadership and GM potential
Many companies value both entrepreneurial/growth experience and larger company experience with
scope and complexity. Speak to both if you can – shows versatility and ability to scale
Develop mentors and sponsors who can serve as references – be prepared to share these real time for
Be real – be able to articulate development areas, career mistakes and lessons learned
Be hungry – have passion, ambitious goals
Be collaborative and a team player – this also speaks to leadership potential
Be prepared for tough questions: why did you leave? were you fired? current compensation? will you
relocate? what is the worst thing I would hear about you?