How to get a CEO job: Best ways to search & tips

The chief executive officer role is the pinnacle of a career path and a cherished dream for many employees who have found their vocation and decided to become the best in their field.

This path is rather thorny and, according to GetSmarter research, takes an average of 12 years to achieve for an ambitious specialist. But this is not a reason to give up. Instead, develop a clear strategy and get ready for hard work. Our guide will simplify your task and suggest some critical steps to get a CEO job.

How to find a CEO job

There are three proven ways to get a higher paying CEO job. You can start your own company, look for advancement in the company where you already work, or offer your skills and qualifications to another corporation that needs competent leadership. Each proposed method involves its own unique search strategy.

Look for opportunities within the company

GetSmarter found out that 79% of Fortune 100 major companies select candidates for the CEO position among their own staff. And there are some good reasons for this. First, no matter how many years you have worked in the company, you know its internal workings and features better than outsiders. Second, your desire to develop within the company proves your loyalty and commitment to its ideas and values; necessary qualities for an employee who can make a valuable contribution to business development for years to come. Thus, you already have distinct advantages to start your inner search.

  1. If you don’t have management experience, you should fill this gap before angling for the CEO position. To get started, find out about the available vacancies in the company, analyze the activities of each, and consider the potential each offers for promotions, whether it is a project manager, department head, or production director. Study the requirements for your chosen role and think about what makes you a perfect candidate. After that, declare your intentions to the general manager or human resources specialist. They will appreciate your initiative and suggest areas for improvement and a detailed action plan. Smooth career growth will help you get a sense of a boss’s responsibilities and gain credence along the way.
  2. According to LinkedIn research, 72% of current CEOs have already had successful leadership experience. Therefore, if you manage a team, department, or project right now, your chances of becoming a CEO are significantly increased. But you still have to go the extra mile and find opportunities on your own.

Keep abreast of the company’s development and progress, whether it is entering new markets or opening branches in new cities and countries. It will allow you to catch the changes in time and stand at their origins. Any development requires competent supervision, and your management experience at the head office may well bring you the desired CEO position in the new strategic area. Attend the company’s general meetings, get insider information among colleagues, and don’t be afraid to take risks and leave your shell.

Look for external opportunities

Although many companies choose CEOs from their current staff, some industries still have a high percentage of external appointments. Therefore, if you work for a company with a well-established hierarchy of leadership, feel free to apply for a CEO position in another promising corporation. For this purpose, keep in mind the following rules:

  1. Explore start-ups. Some specialists seek to reveal their leadership potential in large companies with authority and history in the market. But this tactic rarely bears fruit since these companies usually have a proven management panel. At best, you will be entrusted with the role of mid-level manager. Start-ups, in turn, often have only an idea and a superficial promotion strategy. So this is a great chance to show your leadership skills, organizational abilities, and talent to think big. Look for start-up projects in the online space, turn to job boards, and use your networking. Remember, a real CEO is not afraid to make a fresh start.
  2. Focus on your field of expertise. It makes no sense to puzzle over how to become a CEO of business if you do not know your industry backward and forward. A person who is entrusted with the business development and prosperity of the organization must generate practical and useful ideas, have a clear vision, and fully understand potential risks. Therefore, only apply to a company when you have clear insight into its business profile. Then you really will have something to offer.
  3. Get ready for each application in advance. The application process is a challenge for any candidate. But for a CEO position, you should be prepared for a comprehensive assessment and rigorous selection criteria. Therefore, pay special attention to improving your application documents. They can significantly increase your chances of getting an invitation to an interview.

Your resume should contain your valuable experience in the selected industry and demonstrate your career advancement in the previous company. When you describe your responsibilities, devote at least one line to your achievements. It helps to prove your professional potential for future cooperation.

Your cover letter should contain only necessary information relevant for the open CEO position. Try to focus on your qualifications, personal qualities, the reasons for choosing the company, and your vision for its prosperity. If you want to get a high-quality self-presentation, a quick and easy online cover letter maker will come in handy.

Try on the role of an entrepreneur

According to the above mentioned GetSmarter study, 57% of CEOs did not have to fight for their position because they founded their own companies. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you can try to replicate their success. In this case, you need to look for a business that will reveal your potential and bring the desired return. You should focus on an industry in which you are au fait. Analyze market trends, evaluate key players and competitors, and draw up a detailed business plan. Although this path to the coveted CEO position has a number of advantages, entrepreneurial activity still poses high risks. Therefore, before taking this step, gain experience, bring your skills to perfection, and adopt the best practices.

How to become a CEO of a company: The formula for success

The issue of how to get a CEO job has become the hottest topic of many studies. Some of them have a large sample, while others focus solely on respondents who managed to become a chief executive officer in the shortest possible time. To simplify your task, we have collected the most common success components that will bring the desired position closer.


The Forbes study has proven that your prospects of becoming a CEO without education are slim unless you are a founder. Lensa’s study on the worldwide CEO index found that degrees are typically required for CEO positions. 28 of the CEOs had a standard degree, another 22 went on to achieve a master’s in their various fields of study, and eight were awarded a doctorate for their years of study.’

Therefore, a bachelor’s degree is still needed. Currently, the most popular majors for CEOs are computer science and engineering, since almost any modern business involves the introduction of technology and the development of digital markets. Besides this, LinkedIn reports that 33% of CEOs have an MBA degree.  So if you want to invest in education for career prospects, you are on the right track.

Personal qualities

You can get a master’s degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the country but remain only a promising specialist or become a mediocre boss who will never lead the company to success. To avoid this, pay attention to the characteristics that distinguish the CEO by vocation:

  • Strategic thinking: The CEO must see the short-term and long-term goals of the business and determine how to achieve them. Be prepared that your strategy may involve risks, concessions, and losses, but you must identify and prove their worthwhileness to achieve a favorable outcome.
  • Decision-making: Undoubtedly, teamwork is the foundation of any business, and the best ideas and suggestions are born through brainstorming and joint efforts. However, the final word always rests with the CEO. Therefore, you must approve every step and take responsibility for its consequences for your organization.
  • An imposing boss who tries to push their weight around with subordinates will never keep the company afloat. Therefore, you must hear your employees, motivate them to achieve common goals, and maintain their interest and passion for their work.
  • Problem-solving: The CEO position is about more than a high salary and unlimited powers in a company. It carries a high degree of responsibility for the prosperity of the organization. To handle it, you must overcome obstacles and find ways out of difficult situations.

Wrap Up

Getting a job as an CEO is an indicator of success. It proves that you have run the gamut from a young specialist to a craft professional. In this guide, we have shown practical strategies and basic requirements for your career jump. However, no single formula, rule, or advice will work without a passion for your business. Only a dedicated person can travel this long and thorny path and understand the true value of their victory. Remember, the CEO job is not the finish line, but rather the starting point of a new chapter in your professional life. Therefore, your appointment is an occasion to bend every effort for further self-improvement.