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A few days ago, I got this email:

J____ C____, the new CEO for [my company] would like to meet with MSO people one on one.

The following days are being scheduled for this. Then the various days and times, for which I got a time that wasn't taken by someone else.

This company is unusual in that it's an umbrella agency for four non-profit agencies, one of which I work for as an IT manager/coordinator/whatever.

I'm sure it's to be a superficial meet and greet, with nothing of real substance, a feel-good sort of thing, with little or no opportunity to discuss anything real or substantial, and that she's doing this to be nice to everyone and nothing will come of it.

I won't waste time with all the problems or hassles that I could complain about etc. I have no intention of saying anything along these lines unless specifically asked.

She will have already talked to all the people who are more important than me, which is most everyone else.

I can imagine all kinds of things could happen, I simply want to avoid making 'beginner'/'newbie' sorts of mistakes.

I am looking for guidance on how to conduct myself during the interview.

  • The new CEO is a woman. I used 'she' in my original question. :) – Parkaboy Jan 9 at 20:36
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Don't overthink this, CEOs are just people like everyone else. The only difference is that their concerns regard the whole company, not just any one department. This sounds like a routine "I'm new, I want to meet you" type meeting a lot leaders do (or should do, at least). This person just wants to know who's working for them.

Come prepared to talk about what you do for the company. As a new CEO, they probably just want to figure out where you fit in the giant puzzle they just inherited. Otherwise, just be yourself. Be friendly. Likely, they will lead the conversation. Just go with it, and don't worry too much.

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  • I like your answer and my answer is similar to yours. I agree completely that the CEO will probably lead the coversation after getting the initial "who are you and what do you do for this company?" out of the way. He'll probably tell you about their plan going forward and he's probably going to end it in about 3-5 minutes. – Dan Jan 9 at 20:07
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Prepare well for a light conversation

The new CEO will probably be mostly driving the conversation, but that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities for you here. With good preparation, you can respond to them.

  • This is your chance to make a first impression. What kind of impression do you want to make?
  • This is a chance to point out any things your section is doing that you're proud of.
  • This is a chance to point out any things that could be improved.

Making a first impression

This is your first proper face to face meeting and the CEO will get a sense of what kind of person you are. Obviously you want to be dressed correctly; clean, not too casual, but not stiff either. How formal or casual also depends a bit on your department. If you're the young and zany branch of a big company, don't come in a full suit.

Make sure you're relaxed, alert and focused going in; don't overdo the coffee and make sure you're not rushing there from another meeting.

Be up to date on what's been happening. Know the status of your department's projects, what kind of moves the company as a whole has been making, what the competition/partner firms are doing and anything in the news recently that seems relevant to the company's direction. You want the CEO to think of you as someone who knows their stuff.

Success should be celebrated

It's not enough to do a good job. The people who end up judging your performance and allocating resources should also know that you're doing a good job. So make sure you're prepared to talk about current and past projects and what's been accomplished.

Aim to bring up at least one current project that's looking promising.

Point out "opportunities for improvement"

The new CEO doesn't want to hear a long list of complaints, but on the other hand, this is their chance to find out where the real trouble spots are, what people at various levels of the organization are running into. So rather than go complaining about other departments that are screwing you over, rather say "I think there are some things where we can do better..". Framing it as something that can be improved shows that you want to be part of the solution, not moaning about the problem.

Don't go listing all of the problems. Pick a few that are important to you but also that are somewhat tractable. Start with something that can be successfully solved. This helps build political capital for taking on harder problems.


So, on the one hand you're looking forward to a light conversation, open to spontaneous turns. On the other hand, good preparation helps you take turns in the direction you want.

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I'm sure it's to be a superficial meet and greet

That's right. Her goal will be getting to know you, and what you do, very broadly. Give straightforward informational answers - stick to facts, avoid opinions.

I won't waste time with all the problems or hassles that I could complain about ... unless specifically asked

Seems you already have the right strategy, go with this. But an important modification - if she does ask specifically about problems, it's not an invitation to complain about them, and you shouldn't. Her goal will be to broadly understand and improve things.

Answer appropriately - factual statements about the main things that could be improved, and how. Avoid opinions, avoid blaming anyone, actually avoid dwelling on the problem at all once it's stated and focus on your suggested solutions in a positive way.

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Chances are she's going to ask you how long you worked there, what you do, and if you have any sort of problems. I'm guessing she's going to be less worried about department issues, as she'll probably say to get with your manager and she may bring up the issues with the manager and explain to your manager to arrange a 1-on-1 with you in the near future. She's probably going to be more interested in larger issues with fundings such as how they can streamline things, or outdated processes or software. Basically she wants to know if the old CEO didn't do something that a CEO should do or could have done differently.

Edit: I should also mention she's probably not interested in problems. As Seth said in their answer the CEO will probably take the lead and it's going to be short and fast.

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  • It's scheduled for a half-hour timeframe, would you all consider it appropriate to say that I don't know how to proceed on some things because I have not received any response upon what I've stated is needed in terms of software, hardware, budget...?? I've already asked once and received no response...this is a frustrating problem, aka rather bad communication throughout, which I can't really actually come out and say about, she has to learn this herself, sigh. – Parkaboy Jan 9 at 20:45
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    I would only offer that information if the CEO asks if there was anything you'd like to see improved. It really depends on the CEO's mindset. Are they coming into the organization knowing it is a sinking ship and they have to get down and dirty to get things back on track? Or are they just taking on a stable to successful organization with the goal to continue or propel its growth to new areas? I wouldn't take my chances and make my first impression a bad one by complaining to them about things they weren't in control of until that morning. – Josh Jan 9 at 20:49
  • @Josh -- thank you, that helps me think about the whole thing. It's kind of inbetween, more toward the positive I hope. I'm not good at "reading" people, so all the comments herein from everyone are very helpful. Hopefully it will not be excessively difficult to be friendly and get it over with reasonably quickly and emerge unscarred, since I'm probably too low on the totem pole to get asked what I'd like to see improved. :) – Parkaboy Jan 10 at 0:42

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