You’ve earned a few years of experience, managed direct reports, and spearheaded essential projects for your department. You’re ready for the next step: applying for executive positions that align with your ambition and skillset. How do you successfully prepare for an interview to convey you’re the best candidate for the job?
It goes without saying that there are a few things you should always observe during job interviews. Dress in a power suit; it expresses the utmost professionalism. Arrive at least 15 minutes early with a copy of your resume. Make eye contact and stay present and engage during the interview.
But unlike entry-level interviews, where you’re assessed for how good you’d be at a specific task or responsibility, an interview for a senior-level position aims to determine how successful you will be at the new work environment. It’s a question of fit: interviewers will evaluate your leadership, decision-making, and management skills and your capacity to meet goals and deliver results. Employers want to know how you will contribute to a company as a whole.
President of Conflict Management Strategies Inc. Carol Bowser says, “The workplace is littered with folks who are technically competent but managerially inept. If you can give feedback, hold yourself accountable, help teams function better, and get the work done, you’ll be seen as the best candidate.”
The challenge for interviewees becomes communicating how well you do these things to your future employers over the course of the interview. Here are three tips to help you do exactly that.
Research its competitors and build a comparative strategy analysis and consider relative strengths and weaknesses within the competitor group.
Use your network, such as LinkedIn, to research the team that’s likely to interview you so you can better understand their professional paths, backgrounds, and even personal interests. If someone in your network who works for the company you’re interviewing with, set up a time to ask about its work culture.
This research is a lot of important work, but it accomplishes three goals. One, you’ll know for sure whether the company is a fit for you (from work culture to corporate stability and financial strength). Two, it will help you develop essential questions regarding the company and demonstrate your understanding of the industry. Lastly, it will boost your confidence.
Know that you can also make your recruiter work for you. Recruiters already spend time researching companies for which they’re recruiting executive-level candidates. If you are working with one, ask them to brief you on what they know — they will likely have valuable information on the potential employer that can be useful for your interview.
Here are a few examples:
● Have you ever considered leaving your current position before? Why and what held you back if so?
● How do you typically evaluate an employee’s performance?
● Describe your leadership style, and name your core competencies.
● Tell us about a professional mistake you wish you could go back and fix.
Prepping the possible variety of questions that may be asked during your executive interview can help you feel confident when answering them. Bowser says when in doubt, pivot to the job requirements: “Talk about how you see yourself performing and leading other smart, competent people.”
More than just giving information from your employment record, your answers will also give insight into your evolution as a leader. It’s also important to come prepared with specific questions to ask at the end of your interview. These questions should show your interest in the position as well.
Examples of questions include:
● How is success measured in this role?
● What will the first three months look like in this position?
● What are the primary goals for this job, and what skills would be the most important for this position?
These tips are useful no matter what your career level is. If you see yourself growing beyond your current role, start preparing for your next interview, and working on your leadership style and storytelling. It will all pay off when the right opportunity comes along.