Interviewing for executive level positions is exciting and stressful at the same time. The opportunity to make meaningful decisions, contribute to the company’s business strategy, and lead a department create high expectations and increases the pressure you feel going into the interview. In addition to being prepared to answer questions executives may ask, there are also steps you can take in your executive interview preparation to feel more comfortable with the situation.
You should know as much about the company as you possibly can. This means spending more time uncovering information about the company, their competitors, and the industry. You must go beyond a website review. Look for publicly available reports and information. Websites like Crunchbase will have detailed information. Reviewing websites will provide real customer feedback as well as a list of competitors. Industry trends can be found on analyst driven sites such as Gartner or Forrester.
More specifically, look for connections at the company or a competitor on LinkedIn. Reaching out will provide additional insights about the company and the culture. You should also use LinkedIn to learn more about the people you’ll be interviewing with. Look for commonalities and topics that will enable you to ask thoughtful questions during the interview.
If you’re interviewing in person, you most likely have the technical or operational skills required of the role. Preparing for the typical interview questions is expected of you, and you should be able to provide those answers in your sleep.
What you may not have prepared for is the soft skills questions. This is arguably the most important aspect interviewers are looking for during the interview process. How well will you fit in with and contribute to the culture of the organization? These questions are designed to uncover your level of self awareness. For example, how have you handled setbacks (don’t pretend you don’t have any, we’re all human and we all make mistakes)? Showing humility, an openness to learning, and the ability to respond accordingly will demonstrate your leadership growth.
Another approach to prepare for an executive interview is scenario planning. Some companies will provide you with homework to prepare for the interview. Others will put you on the spot to see how you would handle a specific situation. Either way, you’ll be role playing what you would do.
You can use an example from your past where you handled a similar situation or describe how you would handle the situation today. Be sure to think about the related impact of your hypothetical actions on your team, other departments, and customers. It is a bit like chess, you should be thinking a few moves ahead, which is difficult to do if you haven’t considered your response to questions like, “How would you sell an important company initiative to an uncooperative peer who’s approval you need to move forward?”
Don’t be afraid to show your true self. The best outcome for you personally as well as the company is one where you are both comfortable with the fit. Don’t put on an interview persona to get the job. Being yourself means you’re going to come across more naturally and engaging.
When answering questions, be able to tell your story succinctly and specifically. Preparing will keep you relaxed so you don’t ramble on. If you’re still nervous in these situations, consider working with a coach to help you build the confidence in presenting yourself in pressure situations. Effective executives have well rounded lives. Whether it’s family, traveling, hobbies, or something else, employers want to know that you have balance that will bring out your best.
For more information on the executive interview process, send us a note. The executive recruiters at Sheer Velocity are experts in sourcing, qualifying, and preparing candidates that meet the specific criteria of our clients.