35 COO Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021

Published March 20, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A COO, or chief operating officer, is one of the highest-ranking positions in a company and oversees administrative and operational functions. They're experts in their respective markets who analyze the data and metrics of a company to make company-wide decisions. Learning about the types of questions you can expect during a COO interview allows you to prepare thoughtful, thorough answers. In this article, we explore 35 potential interview questions for prospective COOs and provide example answers with tips.

Related: COO Cover Letter Sample

General questions

This list includes some of the more general questions you can expect in a COO interview:

  • How do you prioritize your daily tasks?

  • After seeing our website and coming in today, is there any policy you might change or implement?

  • What are the most important aspects of company culture?

  • What are your personal goals? Do they align with ours?

  • From what you saw today, do you think you would fit in our company culture?

  • Who do you look up to or try to emulate as a leader?

  • What are your top three accomplishments?

  • In your own words, can you explain what we do at this company?

  • What type of relationship do you prefer to have with a CEO?

  • What is your mission as a COO?

Related: A Guide to Executive Business Titles

Questions about experience and background

These questions focus on your previous or related experience as a COO:

  • In the past, how have you dealt with disagreements with the CEO?

  • Can you give an example of a situation in which you made a fast decision?

  • What analysis software or tools are you familiar with?

  • Can you explain a time when you intervened because the board was unable to reach a decision?

  • Can you give me an example of a situation in which you implemented a time-saving solution?

  • What is the biggest challenge you've faced in this or similar positions?

  • Have you ever sacrificed efficiency for cost? Have you sacrificed cost for efficiency?

  • What have you done to help make employees feel more autonomous but still meet goals?

  • How has your experience in this industry prepared you to be our COO?

  • What would you say is most challenging about corporate budgeting?

Related: COO vs. CEO

In-depth questions

Some of the more in-depth questions asked include:

  • Why is instilling a company culture important to a company? Why is it important for our company?

  • How do you prepare forecasting reports for quarterly office costs?

  • Which performance appraisal systems do you find most effective?

  • If we found a much more affordable vendor, but they have unreliable shipping procedures, would you keep them? Why?

  • How would you keep track of our metrics?

  • Where do you see our company in two years? How will you help get it there?

  • How would you measure and coach some of our employees? How would you measure their progress?

  • In what ways can you bring diverse populations together to work toward a single cause?

  • If you had to communicate difficult information to our employees, how would you address them?

  • How would you advocate for change against a group of executives who are set against change?

Interview questions with example answers

The following list includes questions with example answers:

  • Explain a time when you planned a store layout or designed a display.

  • What is the most essential aspect of managing a corporate budget?

  • Explain a time when you were sensitive to someone's needs or feelings.

  • How would you say analyzing data or information is a strength?

  • Explain a time when your implementation of new technology helped the company.

Explain a time when you planned a store layout or designed a display.

Chief operating officers often create and implement different strategies to increase a company's profit. Understanding how small details, like a store layout or display design, can affect the profitability of a business is an important part of developing successful strategies. Offer a response that shows how and why you planned a layout or display so the hiring manager can learn about your process. Use the STAR method to provide a detailed response.

Example: "At my previous company, I began as a store associate, and my manager asked me to build a display with boxes of soda on the first day. My display wasn't perfect, but I had fun doing it, and I learned a lot about how to convey marketing messages through it.

Once I earned a management role within the store, I had the opportunity to rearrange the layout of our electronics department. The company provided recommended layout options, but I researched some of the best methods of attracting customers into the department. I decided on an ergonomic flow that really pulled customers into that area of the store. Sales in the department increased by 5% over the next two months."

What is the most essential aspect of managing a corporate budget?

One of the most important duties of a COO is to ensure a company's operations stay within budget. Consider what you learned throughout the years in regard to budgets, and explain how you usually approach creating and executing plans. Explain some of your own considerations when determining a budget and how you reach your goal number. The STAR method can help you deliver an effective answer.

Example: "One of my first major projects as a COO involved correcting the current budget. I found that one of the most important considerations was forecasting future needs and allocating resources for them immediately. After performing some forecasting research, I knew that a natural event on the West Coast was going to impact our sales. I took a risk and decreased our asking price and quantities for supply orders. In the first couple of weeks, it hit our budget hard, but since I allocated funds beforehand, we were able to get through that period without a lasting impact."

Explain a time when you were sensitive to someone's needs or feelings.

Since the COO oversees the day-to-day operations, they need to understand how employee engagement can affect motivation and productivity. This question assesses your empathy and how you react to employee needs. Consider a previous experience in which you went beyond the duties of your job to ensure employees felt cared for during a difficult time.

Example: "In my previous position, we had an older manager who supervised one of the highest-performing stores in the region. When the manager was ready to retire, I knew we were going to lose an important member of our company's family. Several executives and I went to the location to throw a retirement party. We knew how much the employees cared for the manager, and we wanted to show that we cared too.

I believe it's vital for executives to show compassion to all employees. It's important to know that you're cared for and your efforts mean something."

In what ways is analyzing data or information is a strength?

A major part of this role is being able to understand and interpret data to make informed decisions. Explaining your analysis process helps a hiring manager see how you reach conclusions that can better a company. Detail your process by giving an example of a time you used data analysis to improve an aspect of a business.

Example: "A successful COO uses data and metrics to understand what's happening in their company. We can't oversee every detail at all levels, so data gives us a better understanding of the company's overall performance and highlights potential weak points.

In a previous position, I found that from a logistical standpoint, we were producing goods ahead of schedule, but we were still losing money quickly. Upon further investigation into our shipping data, I found that a third of our trucks arrived late to their destination facilities. Our clients earn a percentage off of their orders if we delivered shipments late.

I immediately began designing new training methods and other alternatives for our drivers. It began with a simple questionnaire to discover more about the problem and why it was occurring. We found that drivers heading north experienced more icy conditions that our trucks weren't equipped to handle, which slowed down deliveries. We made essential improvements to every truck, including snow tires and chains, to increase safety standards across the fleet. It also helped us reduce late shipments in the winter by 92%."

Explain a time when you implemented a major change that helped the company.

As an executive of the company, a COO needs to continually identify ways to improve company productivity and profits. Consider a time in your previous position where your own idea improved conditions at your company and thoroughly explain why it helped.

Example: "At my previous company, I noticed we were slow to adapt to new trends. Competitors began implementing technology at all levels that increased performance, improved communication and streamlined efficiency. I delivered a pitch explaining the benefits of giving all managers a tablet with a monitoring application. It would allow them to communicate with other departments and ensure our supplies were ready for every part of the manufacturing process.

The board was hesitant about the idea because of the cost. It was expensive, but I proved through competitor data how we would make enough money with the tablets to compensate for the purchase. I received the majority vote and moved forward with the idea. Within three months, we increased our efficiency by nearly 20%."

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