Executive interviews are not just about demonstrating your suitability for the role but determining whether the role and organisation are suitable for you. The interview provides you with the opportunity to communicate information about yourself beyond what can be found on your CV or social platforms. It will also allow you to obtain any outstanding information about the potential employee that you will need to know before you can make an informed decision about the role. You may have an impressive track record within the industry; you may even have experience in hiring other c-suite executives; however, there is no short cut to getting yourself interview ready. Preparation is the key to success. So, here are some executive interview tips to get you started.
It goes without saying that, ahead of your interview, you ought to research and obtain as much information as possible about the role and the company that you are interviewing for. A company’s website and social media platforms will likely tell you everything you need to know about the history of the company, their values and their structure. Scanning these sites will give you an idea as to who’s who in the c-suite, their corporate strategy, clients that they are working with, and awards that they have been nominated for. However, in order to obtain an accurate insight into their company culture, the challenges that they are facing, and their goals for the future, you will need to speak to an insider. If you are a c-suite executive with many years of industry experience, you will likely know someone – or someone who knows someone – who has worked for or with the business previously (or currently). If no such person exists, you should actively network with peers, their employees and industry leaders to obtain insider information as to what it would be like to work for the organisation in question.
Leveraging your network for insider insights will not only provide you with valuable information that will prepare you for your interview, but it will give you a good indication as to whether or not this organisation would be the right fit for you. People who have worked with and for the business will be able to give you an accurate depiction of their work culture and environment, which areas they excel in, and what their most significant challenges are. Having this information ahead of your interview will enable you to contextualise the value you can add to the business. In the interview, you should align your strengths and expertise with business challenges and discuss how you would approach them and contribute to company goals.
In addition to completing thorough research on the company, it is also beneficial to research the company’s industry as a whole. Staying in the loop with the latest industry developments will not make sure that you stay relevant but will allow you to better understand the challenges their industry is facing and what competitors and industry leaders are doing to combat them. If you are able to identify industry trends and emerging patterns and relate them to your potential employer’s financial and operational needs, you will be able to propose more accurate strategic action in the interview.
Preparing questions for the interviewer
In addition to preparing some answers ahead of the interview, it is in your best interest to prepare some questions for the interviewer. In fact, it’s often expected, and your interviewer will likely allocate time at the end of the interview for you to ask questions. Your questions should be specific to the role and the company, and you can tailor them to demonstrate your research and strategic thinking. What metrics will be used to measure your success within the role? What do they believe will be the greatest challenges for the role? What levels of responsibility and authority come with this position? When it comes to executive interviews, it is not just about proving your eligibility for the role; it’s also about determining whether it is the right role and company for you. To this end, asking the right questions will enable you to discuss and manage your expectations for the position, so you can make an informed decision should you be made an offer.
Set the tone
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, it’s a cliché but it’s true. Most executives will be expected to follow a formal dress code, but not all. Since you have researched the company, you can tailor your outfit to the environment you will be working in. As an executive candidate, you will be expected to deliver a confident introduction that will set the tone of the interview. Whether the interview is virtual or in person, you should be conscious of your body language; nonverbal communication is one of the quickest indicators of character.
Despite a long and impressive executive career and the extensive amount of research that you will have completed in preparation for the interview, there will likely be certain questions that you do not have all of the answers to. In event that this happens, be truthful. Your transparency will demonstrate integrity and self-awareness. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and you should be able to communicate both with candour. Effective communication isn’t simply about telling others what to do but knowing when to ask, when to listen, and when and where to seek information. That being said, interviewers are likely to ask you probing questions about your handling of past complex issues in order to determine your behavioural competency. These questions are often centred around goals that you didn’t meet, and your answers should illustrate how you would act in specific situations, your thought process, and what lessons you took away from the experience that can be applied to future challenges. If you are self-aware about your limits, you will also know which skills, qualities and experience will make up for them, and be able to put them across in the interview. You should be able to present your strengths through moments that have challenged you.
You should inform your referees that you are interviewing. The number of references you give will depend on the length and breadth of your career, but four to six is the norm at the executive level. You should choose referees most relevant to the role that you are applying for and make sure that they are familiar with your work history, job performance and relationship style. To ensure that your referees are prepared and not taken by surprise, you may want to send them over your up-to-date CV and potentially some questions that they are likely to be asked. In order to obtain a better perspective of your personality and leadership style, when it comes to references, executive recruitment consultants and potential employers may reach out to varied sources beyond those stated on your CV, so it may be in your best interest to let your network know that you are interviewing (where possible).
Preparing for a c-suite interview requires research, networking, and rehearsal. For more executive interview tips, email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a confidential conversation with one of our expert consultants.