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COO Chief Operating Officer Interview Questions

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  1. What type of relationship do you need to have with the CEO? How do you establish that relationship? See answer
  2. What could be the cause of high employee turnover rates and low productivity? What do you do to verify the problem? See answer
  3. How do you view the COO chief operating officer’s role within the company? What do you think is your mission?
  4. In your opinion, is time or money more important? Would you sacrifice efficiency for cost or cost for efficiency?
  5. Can you provide an example of efficiency that you conceived and implemented at your previous company? What were the results?
  6. How do you allow employees to be autonomous while still working toward management’s goals? What examples can you provide from your previous role?
  7. In your opinion, how does your previous work experience qualify you for a chief operating officer position?
  8. What metrics do you use to track the progress of business initiatives? Can you provide a few examples from your previous roles?
  9. You disagree with the CEO about a particular change to daily operations. Would you voice your concerns? If so, how would you approach the topic?
  10. What’s been your proudest achievement as a chief operating officer?
  11. What performance evaluation methods have you implemented for lower-level managers to evaluate their employees? What method do you find the least useful?
  12. How would you streamline communications between sales, marketing and logistics within our company?
  13. Based on what you’ve seen so far, how would you define our company culture? Are there any factors you would change?
  14. Have you ever had to oversee a merger or acquisition event? What was the result?
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6 COO Chief Operating Officer Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

What type of relationship do you need to have with the CEO? How do you establish that relationship?

A:

While the coo chief operating officer has a very powerful position within the company, they will still be answering to their ultimate boss. They work for the CEO and will need to be responsive to the CEO’s needs. You should know how the candidate intends to relate to the CEO and how they view the relationship between the two.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Experience working for people in powerful positions
  • A track record of getting along well with superiors
  • Strong interpersonal skills

Example:

“I recognize that any other of my accomplishments with the company do not mean anything if I have a poor relationship with the CEO.”

Q:

How do you view the coo chief operating officer’s role within the company? What do you think is your mission?

A:

Depending on the CEO, the coo chief operating officer will have a lot of leeway to make changes in the organization. You want to know if you are getting someone with a proactive agenda or someone who wants to keep the status quo. You also want to make sure that the candidate’s vision for their role matches the company’s agenda and that their methods fit the corporate culture.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence that the candidate has vision
  • Goals that match the candidate’s skill set
  • The ability to articulate an agenda before employment

Example:

“After getting to know the company and its employees, I intend to implement an agenda that matches the corporate culture while making gradual changes.”

Q:

Is time or money more important? Would you sacrifice efficiency for cost or cost for efficiency?

A:

Some coo chief operating officers prefer to focus on keeping costs manageable or even reducing them. Philosophically, other candidates try to focus on efficiency and keeping operations running. It is helpful to know the candidate’s way of thinking to make sure that they fit the corporate culture. It will not be helpful to have someone focused on efficiency above all else if the company primarily values cost control.

What to look for in an answer:

  • A definite philosophy on cost control
  • The ability to articulate priorities and focus
  • Right fit with the corporate priorities

Example:

“While I typically like to keep costs under control, I recognize that there are exceptions to the situation in order to keep operations running.”

Q:

Please give an idea of an efficiency that you conceived of and implemented in a company.

A:

The coo chief operating officer will make some changes to how your company works. It is their job. You want to get an idea of how they see changes and implement them. When you get a concrete example of what the candidate does, you understand how they think and how they get things done from start to finish.

What to look for in an answer:

  • A demonstrated record of tangible accomplishments
  • The ability to act on ideas
  • Evidence that the candidate is a visionary

Example:

“I achieved a 20 percent reduction in administrative costs by eliminating redundancies in personnel by moving staff to other positions where they were needed.”

Q:

How do you allow employees to be autonomous while still working toward management’s goals?

A:

This question is intended to find out how much leeway the coo chief operating officer will give employees to do their jobs. You will want to know how the candidate can strike a balance between corporate oversight and delegating to employees when necessary. The right candidate can set the overall tone for the organization and the conditions for success and will then be able to delegate and let employees shine.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Sound philosophies on management
  • The ability to trust employees to do their job
  • Skills at getting the most out of employees

Example:

“I generally try to avoid micromanaging people but will still communicate as well as I can to set expectations and monitor employees’ performance.”

Q:

What could be the cause of high employee turnover rates and low productivity? What do you do to verify the problem?

A:

Chief operating officers are responsible for monitoring business operations across departments and making necessary changes to improve productivity factors. Their ability to identify trends in employee performance and other factors ensures a functional and prosperous business. This question allows interviewers to gauge whether a candidate understands potential problems that hinder successful operations and how they address those problems.

A candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Communication skills
  • Leadership capabilities
  • Investigative nature

Here is one example of a quality candidate answer:

Example:

"There are a variety of factors that could cause high employee turnover rates or low productivity. It could be related to payscale, company culture, work-life balance or lack of proper employee training during the onboarding process. To determine the cause or causes of these issues, I would coordinate with the HR Director to gather exit interview data from the previous months. This allows me to see whether multiple employees had similar complaints or concerns that caused them to leave the company. I would also send out an anonymous survey to all employees."

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