Great news: You’ve been invited to interview for an executive role that really interests you! Now it’s time to strategize so you accurately communicate your fit for the position and the organization. The following five tips will help when preparing for an executive interview.
- Determine why you’re the right person for the role and be able to speak to this. Review the job requirements and match them to your skills, knowledge, and experience. Look at your technical abilities, as well as your soft skills such as leadership, communication and strategic thinking abilities, since they’re equally important. Make a note of examples of your accomplishments and how they added value for your previous employers so you can cite them during the interview. In addition, assess what else you bring to the role that could be of interest to the interviewer, such as a large network of industry professionals or experience with advanced technology that’s relevant to your field.
- Research the organization. Find out everything you can about the organization, from its history and mission to its most recent financials and brand perception. You can find a lot of information on the company’s website, LinkedIn page, and social media pages. It can be helpful to search for news articles about the organization, as well as read any thought leadership pieces published by its current top executives to get a good grasp of their brand and focus. You can also look through your network to see if any of your connections have worked at the company or had dealings with it to get some inside insights. Finally, it’s wise to gain an impression of the challenges and opportunities the organization is currently dealing with. For example, if new regulations have been issued that will require a costly adaptation of a production process, you need to know about it. Or if the organization has just lost significant market share to an up-and-coming competitor and needs someone with your skills and experience to help it weather the storm, you need to be aware of this.
- Project an executive presence. As a leader, you need to look confident and capable. At the risk of sounding obvious, you should make sure that you are well-groomed and make sure your attire is representative of the role and the organization. During the interview itself you should simply sit straight, with your shoulders back but not rigid. You should meet the interviewer’s eyes in a relaxed yet attentive manner. Additionally, if you’re nervous, you can benefit from slowing down your speech, which will lower your voice and make it fuller while simultaneously making it easier for the interviewer to follow what you’re saying.
- Take a proactive approach. It’s critical that you show you’ll be forward-thinking and not afraid to take the bull by the horns in an actual business setting. While it’s likely not wise to dominate the interview, it can be advantageous to ask for a live business problem and offer to design a strategy to deal with it. In most cases, coming up with a strategy will take some days due to the research and planning involved, so be prepared to take the challenge home with you. This kind of proactive approach can go a long way to setting you apart from other candidates.
- Be truthful. Honesty and integrity are two of the most important values that hiring managers are looking for in their executives. That’s why, even if you’re tempted to bluff your way through a question that you’d rather avoid or not answer, it’s best to be truthful. For example, if you’re asked about a previous role that lasted for less than a year because you didn’t feel you had the support needed to carry out the business strategy, find a way to explain this diplomatically, without being negative. Similarly, if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s best to say so. Keep in mind that you already possess the skills and experience the organization is looking for. Simply assure the interviewer that you’re willing to invest the time and energy to acquire the specific knowledge required to get up to speed for the role.
At the end of the day, always remember that an executive interview is a two-way street. The organization is interviewing you — but you’re also interviewing them. After all, you want to make sure it offers the right combination of challenging work and growth potential for your aspirations. If it’s not a match, then move on to the next opportunity — but if it is a match, then you could be looking at an advantageous career step that can help propel you to the next level.