During an executive’s career, one might expect to be interviewed dozens of times. “Your job at the interview is to be as helpful as you can,” states Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, a seasoned search consultant and author of Great People Decisions. He comments that most interviewers focus too heavily on experience and not enough on competence, and that it is the executive’s job during the interview, to demonstrate he or she has what it takes to be a perfect fit for the position.
1. Prepare for the interview
It doesn’t matter how many times you have heard this, it is worth repeating – do your homework! Changing jobs is vitally important to an executive’s current lifestyle and future potential. So, before the interview, dedicate a reasonable amount of time to research important factors about the company you are interviewing with, such as industry trends, company culture, products, highs and lows of company history, etc.
2. Create your story
People generally have a higher level of engagement when information is relayed in story fashion. It keeps the listener’s attention if the story is interesting and succinct. Consider putting together 10-12 stories that showcase your talents, skills and career-defining initiatives using the CAR formula (Challenge, Action, Result). Lead with the result to grab the interviewer’s attention and then weave in the challenge and how you achieved the results. These stories are valuable when you can use them to answer an interview question.
3. Focus on fit
It is rare that any executive is the exact fit in every way for a new position. Clearly indicate how your potential makes you a top contender for the job. Explain how your leadership, management style, ability to influence, and operational expertise (name a few characteristics) mirror the requirements they are looking for.
4. First impressions counts
I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that people don’t pay attention to how you speak, body language, clothes, and facial expressions. Similar to capturing the reader’s attention in the first 15 seconds with your resume, you need to present the best impression that will clearly fix you in the mind of the interviewers – so that they’re thinking of you in that context as they conduct the remainder of the interview. Most importantly, project confidence as you draw attention to details you want to share.
5. Present the best “you”
Employers (and recruiters) can be suspicious of executives that oversell themselves. Whenever possible, I recommend relating “context” information in your responses to help interviewers understand your value. What was going on at each company when you took the assignment? Why were you hired or promoted? What goals were you given, what challenges did you face, what obstacles did you encounter? A rich context lets the interviewer better understand and absorb what you did and how you can apply those skills and talents to their company.
6. Prepare for zinger questions
The interviewer’s job is to ask questions that will reveal what they want to know. Perhaps the resume showed a gap in employment, incomplete education, or frequent job changes – how do you explain those situations to your advantage? A reasonable 3-prong approach might be: 1) prepare a straightforward answer that is short and to the point; 2) prepare a more detailed response that describes the circumstances in more detail; 3) if the interviewer pushes for more, be ready to go into a deeper level of information that will satisfy the interviewer while substantiating your motives. Being prepared is key so the interviewer does not catch you off-guard.
7. Use radar perception
Apply the same strategies you rely on in business to your interview. When a business meeting is going “south”, how do you save or change the outcome? Think about how you can use similar tactics to turnaround an interview. Individual dynamics play a big part in interviews and following interview protocol may or may not always work. Be flexible and adapt to the situation.
These seven tips can help you be more successful in your interviews and ultimately lead to the job offer. Good luck!