Good Executive Interview Skills and Techniques

The executive interview should be seen as an ideal opportunity to impress prospective employers, stand out from the competition and sell top-level credentials for executive positions. So, what makes the difference between a good solid interview (being distinctly average) and raising the bar with an outstanding performance? At, we often get asked about how best to optimise interview performance on the day, so we have identified some key elements and behaviours likely to make a difference.

Executive Interview Performance

Taking interviews to the next level to dramatically improve performance involves a combination of confidence, preparation, awareness and a being slightly bolder in approach. Being nicely assured, well-prepared and brave rather than focusing on more negative aspects of interview performance often makes a difference, especially as executives have worked hard to secure such an interview opportunity. Interview experience often comes into play by helping executives remain calm and focused when being asked searching questions, rather than clam up or under-perform. Some key elements include:

  • Showing clear energy and passion
  • Being warm, friendly and engaging
  • Effective interview preparation skills
  • Creating good talking points at interview
  • Impress recruiters by asking good questions
  • Using positive body language (be open)
  • Control negative / closed body language
  • Improving interview skills and effectiveness
  • Gaining feedback on interview performance
  • Carefully choosing examples and scenarios
  • Standing out! Will the recruiter remember me?

Energise Interview Performance

Expectations for executive leadership positions are extremely high, so demonstrate clear motivations and really wanting the job. Energy and passion is often a key leadership attribute, alongside having a strong focus and resilience. Whereas, a lack of energy can imply other things such as a lower work ethic. Having compelling reasons for applying can energise (enthuse) executives about roles, so their natural passion and leadership qualities will often shine through.

Being, Warm Friendly and Engaging

These are essential elements for any executive role by demonstrating effective personal qualities, self-control and emotional intelligence. Employers need to see how executive candidates interact with others, react under pressure and evaluate communication skills when answering questions. Executives can expect to translate these skills into using high-level influencing, listening, stakeholder engagement, negotiation, presentation, convincing and communication skills for leadership roles.

Interview Preparation Skills

Effective interview preparation underpins most things and can make a big difference to performance. Research the company, anticipate questions / scenarios, prepare for interview assessments / presentations, prepare credible answers, identify good questions to ask, structure answers and have good examples to call upon. This includes everything like dressing smartly, arriving on time, greeting people, refining interview techniques, answering questions and interview closing. Have a clear salary negotiation strategy in mind!

Creating Good Talking Points

The CV is essentially the main document employers will refer to when asking questions and inviting answers. The CV should contain a whole host of talking points, examples and achievements to get interviewers speaking about what executives have done, ask about how candidates can contribute to the future and where best they can add value. There is also the possibility of the candidate creating further talking points by discussing company projects or business activities to show interest in the organisation.

Ask Good Interview Questions

Asking good interview questions shows a clear interest in the company and opportunity on offer. Good preparation always makes an impression, though it is important to ask the right types of question (relevance) and avoid being too simplistic with questions (avoid stating the obvious).

Open-Up Body Language

It is widely recognised that body language is 70% of communication. Interviewers are often trained or very aware of confident body language, so ensure posture, mannerisms, expressions and ways of engaging remain professional. Be natural with body language, relax and stay calm. It is only a discussion about a job, so do not apply too much pressure on oneself.

Avoid Negative Body Language

This should not really be a problem for executives who are used to pressured situations, though it is important to remain at a high level and avoid ‘dipping’ during the interview process. Being too closed, showing a lack of energy or being disinterested can be displayed through body language. Regulate breathing, think of something positive, control expressions and be warm / welcoming.

Improving Interview Skills

Refining interview skills can rely on adapting previous experiences, enlisting executive interview coaching help, practising techniques or increasing the amount of preparation required. Preparation is mostly what interviews are all about and remains a key success factor relating to interview performance. Identify strengths, weaknesses and coping strategies to help with different interview scenarios.

Gaining Important Feedback

Feedback is an important part of the interview process as there is always something to learn, adapt or do better next time. Very often it is those tiny adjustments that can make a difference, so welcome any feedback. Executive headhunters who put people for assignments are a very good source of feedback as they can be impartial to the interview process. Also, ask for direct feedback from the company in question.

Carefully Choosing Examples

Executives usually benefit from a longstanding track record in business, so have many good examples, skills expertise, scenarios, high-level achievements and professional development to draw upon. It is a matter of choosing the best examples to cover different interview questions or scenarios, plus flexible examples to answer questions interchangeably (i.e. there are different ways of asking similar questions).

Standing Out From Competition

Executives must ensure they stand out from the competition and offer something unique. Candidates need employers to remember them otherwise there is less chance of being selected. Be clear about unique selling points and reinforce these when closing the interview. Leave a positive lasting impression!

Executive Interview Performance: Conclusion

The underlying message here is to avoid being average. Make sure employers remember candidates and give it a best shot by selling credentials. Very often there is only one chance to impress, therefore do not waste the opportunity. Employers want executives who take the lead and show initiative in pressured situations, so the interview is a good way of assessing these credentials. See external article giving tips on dealing with more challenging executive interview situations (tips from a CEO headhunter).

Executive interviews gives candidates an ideal opportunity to stand out and make an impression in front of employers. Very often, executives let themselves down at interview through a lack of preparation or just not being bold enough during the interview. At Executive Career Solutions, we have identified some key success factors for improving executive interview performance with some quick wins and tips to get the most out of attending interviews. Standing out is the key to interview success, where employers need to be impressed and candidates need to clearly demonstrate they have the right credentials for the role in question.

Executive Interview Skills: Quick Wins

  1. Show clear energy and passion by having compelling motivations for applying. Really wanting the job and reinforcing this will the right blend of credentials can be positive selling points.
  2. Effective personal skills make a difference by showing how executives engage with others, manage interactions and communication skills. Employers are looking for higher-level communication, influencing, negotiation and relationship building skills.
  3. Preparation is often key to interview success and covers all aspects of attending interviews, including improving interview techniques, company research, anticipating questions / answers, salary negotiation strategies and performing on-the-day.
  4. Be able to confidently talk about the CV, including achievements, projects, scenarios and examples to back everything up with evidence of suitability.
  5. Interviews are very much a two-way process, so candidates are expected to ask relevant questions. Decide on interview questions to ask and prioritise them because there may not be enough time at the end of the interview.
  6. Remain professional at all times, especially controlling body language, expressions, mannerisms and posture. Avoid closed body language and come across as open, engaging and welcoming.
  7. Apply a continuous improvement approach to refining interview skills by understanding core strengths, potential weaknesses and coping strategies to help optimise performance.
  8. Be open to feedback as this can affect future interview performance. Making important adjustments here and there can significantly impact on future interview success.
  9. Answering questions effectively and providing evidence of suitability relies on having clearly defined examples that can stand up to scrutiny and questioning from interviewers.
  10. Standing out – the overriding consideration is whether candidates stand out enough to be invited back. Standing out, selling credentials and offering something different (unique selling points) are key.

Quick Wins: Executive Interview Skills

With some simple adjustments, effective preparation and having a clear interview strategy can often make the difference. Small margins are likely to decide the outcome of executive interviews, so applying some core skills, taking time to prepare and being aware of what employers are looking for always helps. How can I stand out from the competition? What can I bring to the role? Will the employer remember me? are key considerations for when attending executive interviews. External article looking at some useful tips for succeeding at CEO executive interview.

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