When hiring executives, a vast majority of employers look for certain traits (cultural fit) over skills. A recent study of 1,200 of the world’s leading companies showed that 88 percent of them focus on a select number of common personality traits as they narrow down the candidate field in selecting their senior executive leaders.

Here is a recap of those sought-after executive leadership traits:


Most individuals reach the C-suite level through career achievements, leadership skills and development of a professional persona. Your professionalism will be judged from the moment of your first interaction with a prospective employer. This applies to everything from the clothes you wear to your interview to how you handle the toughest questions – and everything in between.

High Energy

A hiring manager will know the depth of your energy level within seconds of meeting you. Express high energy via your body language, words and mannerisms. All should be reflective of both your natural personality and the position itself.


Confidence is the leading trait that companies find missing in job candidates. Show you meet this need by making the right first impression. Demonstrate self-confidence, so an employer will immediately feel right about your abilities as an executive. Even a gesture as small as your handshake or posture can make a significant difference.


Showcase this strength through language that indicates you can work independently, quarterback business solutions and carry them through to successful completion.

  • During your interview, provide specific challenge/action/result examples that tell how your self-motivation was critical to your success.
  • Be able to point out how you overcame hurdles to achieve desired outcomes.

Intellectual Curiosity

There are two components to intellectual curiosity:

  • Problem-solving ability: Employers are very interested in your analytical strengths and capability to think on your feet and effectively address problems as they arise.
  • Dedication to lifelong learning: This means not being satisfied with the status quo and showing a passion for continued professional development, regardless of where you are in your career.


The communication skills most sought after in executive candidates encompass the ability to get other senior leaders on board, as well as understanding the underlying issues and conveying them to employees company-wide. Successful candidates need this cross-functional empathy, which enables them to work effectively in all areas.

Strategic “Smarts”

When all is said and done, an executive needs to act strategically and be smart. They must think holistically about their function and continually be asking themselves, “What does a strategic organization look like?” Then, they need to deliver on their response.

As you seek to advance your career at the executive level, consider partnering with a search consultant from BrainWorks. Our senior practice leaders have deep expertise and offer critical insight and contacts in the industries they serve. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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