You may think that people who reach senior level positions within a company are “Gods” at being interviewed. On the contrary however, we find that this is a misconception and that many senior executives are not necessarily supremely effective at being interviewed and may not know what to say in order to astound or impress the hard-nosed, battle worn interviewer!
We have found that many senior executives do indeed struggle with the interview process, particularly those who have perhaps worked their way up the ranks internally which is great for showcasing their loyalty but less helpful for honing their interview skills.
Such people will of course have had some exposure to interviews but often in the context of a known environment with people who already know their credentials. This is a far cry from entering the “Lion’s Den” which often takes the form of a panel of senior interviewers appointed by the Board at a different employer.
The competition for top positions is arguably greater than ever, appointing senior people is time consuming and costly and businesses want to ensure that they hire talented individuals who can deliver and finding the right person is vital for business success. Bearing this in mind, we have listed six tips which may help senior executives as they embark on the interview process.
1. Research, Research, Research:
A lack of research before an interview will be interpreted as laziness. In high level interviews, it is easy to assume that you know everything about the role on offer or the company which you are about to meet. Whilst this may be true, you can certainly still spend time doing additional reconnaissance on the business. This will include what they have achieved in the past or what the market thinks of them, any particular commercial challenges which they face and how you see your skillset coming into play.
It is a highly predictable early interview question: “What do you know about our company?” You need to tell them more about their business than they know themselves; this needs to be much more than what you may have picked up from their website whilst you were on the train on your way to the interview.
2. Set Achievable Goals:
When it comes to looking for a job, it is important not to get carried away. The idea of leaving a company for a new and exciting opportunity can be seductive but it can also lead to rash decisions. Only apply for jobs where you are likely to be taken seriously and for which you can demonstrate how you can bring value to an organisation. For example, perhaps you have special knowledge of their market place or their anticipated challenges. If you are a “turnaround” expert and believe that this is what they need, then you should highlight this particular skillset.
3. Be Confident about your Shortcomings:
Inevitably, you will want to focus on your achievements whilst perhaps sharing the credit with your colleagues and/or subordinate team where appropriate. However, nobody is perfect and you should be willing to talk about previous failures or slip-ups which you should not see as a weakness.
It is a rather unrevealing question but you need to be prepared to deal with it: “What is your greatest weakness?” You won’t get away with “I really can’t think of any” or “You will have to ask my wife/husband/partner about that”. However, you will have to say something and it is important that you pick a situation which wasn’t criminal or ‘career busting’ but which provides you with the chance to show how you put things right, adapted to a failure and how you learnt from it.
4. Be Passionate about your Expertise:
Never mistake competence for passion. When you are reaching out to recruiting decision-makers, ensure that your dedication for the role and the sector comes across from the heart. Your credentials and reputation may be glowing but if the interviewer(s) don’t believe that you are as passionate or sincere as you are capable, then they will pass you over for a more enthusiastic competitor.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Tell a Story:
As long as you are concise, brief and relevant, storytelling is a great way to bring an interview answer to life and it can make a lasting impression. As a senior executive, you will have a world of experience behind you and with experience comes anecdotes. Don’t just tell the panel what you can do, demonstrate it through past examples – this is the proof that you really do have the particular competence in question.
Storytelling brings with it familiarity and shows that you are comfortable “in your own skin” and if your anecdote happens to raise a giggle or a smile, so much the better. Amazingly, research has shown that people who smile at interviews, receive more job offers than those who don’t!
6. Post Interview Follow-Up:
As soon as possible after your interview, make a point of dropping a note or email to the key interviewer in order to thank him/her for the time they have given you and also to reaffirm your continued interest in the opportunity. If required and with care, this can also allow you the chance to address or clarify something which, on reflection, you did or didn’t say during your interview.