Strategies for Success at Executive Interview

Having secured an interview, what are the key strategies for success at executive interview? What are the main things to consider? How can I best stand out at interview? These are just some of the questions that arise when faced with that all important executive interview. There maybe several phases involved, usually a preliminary interview, presentation (or assessment) and a subsequent final interview. For some, an extended process may involve several assessments as well as additional screening from executive headhunters managing a recruitment assignment.

Successful Executive Interviews

For any interview or assessment, there are key things or success factors to consider for improving overall performance. These are essential elements that if executed properly can make a difference and improve chances of success at executive interviews. We have highlighted 10 important factors that can influence outcomes at interview.

SHOW MOTIVATION & ENERGY

Motivation, passion and energy will come across strongly if really wanting to get the job! This helps convince interviewers about candidates because they are demonstrating clear motivations and positive body language. Equally, a lack of drive and energy conveys less motivation and even disinterest for the role in question.

ENGAGING DISCUSSION

Candidates often place themselves under too much pressure at executive interview, when in reality it should be no more than a discussion about a potential opportunity. Relax, engage and listen carefully to questions. Show communication skills, positive interaction and give clear answers to questions. Think of it as an important business meeting, influencing contacts or meeting new clients, especially as executives would have experienced more pressured situations than an interview. For some reason, people sometimes lack confidence when talking themselves, but are perfectly at home in a pressured boardroom environment. Strange, but distinctly true because people raise their game under pressure!

PREPARATION IS KEY

Effective preparation helps remove any uncertainties, especially when going through an extended interview process. Better performance is directly underpinned by sufficient preparation. This involves researching the organisation, anticipating questions / scenarios, preparing good examples, noting achievements and listing questions to ask about the role. Executive headhunters can easily see who has taken time to prepare for executive interviews. Preparation also extends to dressing smartly, arriving on time and acting upon instructions for the interview (i.e. presentation) as well as preparing an ‘elevator pitch’ (sales pitch) summarising you as a candidate or viable proposition.

CREATING TALKING POINTS

Executive interviews are largely based on information contained within the CV. The idea is to create enough talking points on the CV for interviewers to ask questions. This gives an opportunity to shine by showcasing achievements, skills capabilities, industry knowledge and areas of expertise. Also, try to convey a clear vision of how you would fit into the organisation and where you can add value. There maybe a few tough questions, but knowing your CV and preparing good examples often negates this. Moreover, talking about company activities, projects or marketing initiatives shows research and genuine interest, plus gets the interviewer talking about the business (i.e. they also have to sell the organisation to you).

ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS

Preparing questions can be a good way of standing out at interview and making an impression. Unquestionably, it shows a genuine interest in the role, thorough preparation and solid research, especially if asking targeted questions. Remember, an interview is a two-way process, plus avoid asking questions on salary unless required to do so. Salary expectations will inevitably come up at some point, but wait until asked (always go in with an effective Executive Salary Negotiation Strategy as this can influence your relative bargaining power).

BODY LANGUAGE SKILLS

Being well-aware that body language forms up to 70% of communication, it is expected that executives are used to pressured situations and conducting themselves with respect, professionalism and manners in front of other people. Be aware of body language, remain self-disciplined, courteous, polite and convey a confident persona in case of any slight issues (i.e. do not relax too much, always smile, ensure correct posture and make good eye contact). Greetings and exits from interview are important, so not too firm a handshake.

INTERVIEW TECHNIQUES

Executive interviews can sometimes offer a pressured environment. For some, it may have been some years since an interview, so refresh ideas on techniques and expectations. Candidates do forget overtime and people can be out of practice. Think about the approach, core interview skills, ways of answering questions and having strong examples ready always helps.

LISTEN TO EXECUTIVE HEADHUNTERS

Many executives actively engage with headhunters. Some of the leading executive headhunters know their clients very well, often enough to set expectations about the interview process and help make key observations. Headhunters act as the ‘go-between’ with employer and are often a very rich source of interview feedback, essential for making adjustments going forward or gaining assurance about core interview skills. Sometimes only small tweaks are required to help make a difference at the highest level.

EXAMPLES OF ACHIEVEMENT

From our experiences, we recommend executives have 5 or 6 really good examples that can be applied to different situations and stand up to scrutiny at interview. Very often, there are several ways to ask the same question, but the emphasis may change slightly. Being clear about examples, achievements, wider impacts on the business and demonstrating industry expertise are all important, so it is best to have an interview strategy that is flexible and robust at the same time. Also, know your CV inside out and be prepared for ‘curved-ball’ tough interview questions likely to get candidates thinking more deeply (or randomly) about themselves and situations they have experienced, whilst taking candidates slightly outside of their comfort zone.

MAKING AN IMPRESSION

Standing out at executive interview is critical, especially as expectations are much higher at this level. Usually, exceptional personal skills, charisma, leadership qualities and a longstanding track record, aligned to key requirements of the position tend to be main drivers for success at executive interview. Everything from arrival at the premises, initial greeting and conducting the interview  to exiting the company car park should be spot on. Be consistent and do not let your guard drop.

Success Factors at Executive Interview:  Conclusion

We have evaluated some of the main cornerstones for executive interview success. It should involve every aspect of interview preparation, research and delivery to optimise performance and make a really good impression. Not one thing will dramatically influence overall interview performance, but often just a bit of fine-tuning is required at this level. Getting the basics right aligned to a confident approach, showing clear motivations and demonstrating positive behaviours expected of executives at the very highest level should ensure an all round good performance ‘on-the-day’.

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