What do candidates really need to know about interviewing for positions at the executive level? What are some tips that executives should keep in mind as far as the interview process is concerned? In today´s tight job market, how should an executive prepare for an interview given the fact that there is so much competition?
Here is professional advice for the executive candidate:
How executive interviews differ from those for lower-level candidates
Executive interviews are more intense because there is more at stake. It costs more money to replace an executive, so the stakes are higher. Hiring managers are very cautious when it comes to making a decision to hire an executive. Consequently, there are typically more interviews for an executive than for a lower level candidate. It is common for executive candidates to have a full day of interviewing where they meet with various interviewers, and the day-long process includes lunch (during which time the interviewee is still being interviewed).
Depending on the position, executive candidates may be expected to articulate their vision for the department where they will be working. And it almost goes without saying that executive candidates are expected to be able to demonstrate tangible results for their efforts in different positions.
How to prepare for executive interviews in the face of the current economic crisis
Candidates have to go the extra mile in terms of their due diligence. With a glut of candidates in many fields, executives have to go above and beyond to distinguish themselves from the competition. That means researching the company thoroughly and finding out what their pain points are and then coming up with solutions to meet their needs. Since companies hire people to solve problems, executives need to demonstrate that they are the solution to the companies´ problems.
Start with the employer´s website. I suggest that you pay attention to the vision statement of the organization so that you can be prepared to talk about how your personal values coincide with the vision statement. Also, look for press releases that might describe new initiatives that the company is working on. This type of information can help you come across as a truly motivated candidate as you integrate this information into your questions that you ask of the interviewer at the end of the interview.
Executives also need to perform due diligence with respect to the interviewers. Use Standard & Poors, Dun & Bradstreet, and Hoovers to find out more about the company´s financial health and then use Zoominfo.com and LinkedIn to find the principals of the company. LinkedIn can be particularly helpful in finding profiles of the people that you will be interviewing with as well as some personal information about them (i.e., schools they attended, other places where they worked).
Best advice for building rapport in the interview.
Find out who you will be interviewing with and research that person´s background on Zoominfo.com and LinkedIn.com. Identify points of interest that you have in common with the interviewer(s). Make sure that you weave in the information that you researched early in the interview to build rapport with the interviewer.
For example, if the interviewer says to you, Tell me about yourself, you could respond by saying, Well, I have an MBA from Stanford, and I was interested to see that you graduated from Stanford also. By showing that you have done your homework on the interviewer, you can establish that point of connection because the two of you have something in common.
Also, be attentive to what is in the interviewer´s office. There may be other points of interest that you can bring up (i.e., sports awards, fraternal organizations).
Advice for handling a poor interviewer.
Come prepared with your talking points, and make sure that you get those talking points in regardless of the skill of the interviewer. If you know what you want to say before you get to the interview, you can guide the discussion to the points that you want to make.
You should have already reviewed the vacancy announcement for the job and made a match in your own mind between the job´s requirements and your qualifications. Make sure that you make that connection for the interviewer to show that you are well qualified for the position.
Tips for explaining employment gaps.
Always fill in the gaps. Don´t leave any gaps between employment unexplained. That is a major red flag for employers. If you weren´t working for pay during a certain period of time, talk about what you did during that time frame. You may have been a member of a board for a corporation or you may have volunteered in your community. Whatever the case, make sure that employers know that you were doing something productive during the period of unemployment.
How to elaborate in the face of probing questions (Tell me more)
Always be prepared to give examples to back up your claim. For example, an interviewer may say, What strengths do you bring to this position? In response, you might say, I´m results driven, highly organized, and efficient. If the interviewer says, Tell me more, you need to be ready to give examples that demonstrate effectively that you have the strengths that you claim to have. In other words, your example needs to show clearly how you utilized the strengths of being results-driven, highly organized, and efficient on the job.
Making the case for an industry transition
The key to making the move successfully is to not only inventory your own skills, but to package them so they´re appropriate for the industry you´re targeting. Understanding an industry isn´t difficult but does require research, whether that means reading reports on the industry from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or taking a contact from that industry out to lunch to pick his or her brain about the job market.
Employers don´t want a long learning curve. They want someone who can speak the lingo and hit the ground running. The trick is to convince them that you can contribute right away. So read trade journals, talk to insiders, and get a really good handle on what´s going on in that industry and in that company in particular.
How to distinguish yourself from other candidates
Demonstrate your value throughout the whole process. If you do this, the salary negotiation process will be easier because you have been making your case all along.
Be sure to address the employer’s needs consistently throughout the interview. Research the company and the position thoroughly so that you can show how well-suited you are for this company and this job.