One of the most challenging processes for any candidate is the interview. So many of our executive candidates say “I haven’t been in a formal interview for over 10 years, what do I need to do to ensure I don’t stuff up?”
The most important thing you can do is practice, practice and practice some more.
As an executive recruiter I find candidates are more relaxed with me vs. the client and in doing so let down their guard. This is a good thing and a bad thing. In being more relaxed you are usually more comfortable in answering interview questions vs. when nervous you may not come across as articulate as you’d like and you can forget your “best answers.” I have sat in many interviews with boards where great candidates have come across less confidently because they are nervous and they fumble through some of their answers.
Executives and boards want to hire leaders that are confident, articulate and that will represent their brand or service in the best possible way.
So what can you do to ensure you don’t stuff up!
1. Know your career story – Review your resume and ensure you can discuss your career, in relation to the role you are being interviewed for. You want to be able to talk about your career in two to five minutes highlighting the achievements and challenges related to the role you are talking about. Discuss your reasoning for leaving roles and companies with an aim to highlight your career progression. Have a copy of your resume with you.
2. Know your achievement stories. For every role in the last 15 years you should have at least 3 achievement stories that quantifiably demonstrate why you are good at your job.
3. Know your strengths – Be able to articulate and demonstrate with examples what your key strengths or features are that you bring to the role. Also know your gaps or areas where you know you rely on others to compliment you. Self awareness is imperative at the executive end.
4. Be able to tell your stories using the STAR format – Situation, Task, Action, Result. When you use the STAR format your stories tell the who, what, where, why and how. They provide the listener with a complete story and demonstrate your involvement. It also helps you when nervous to ensure you provide sufficient content if you keep the STAR format at the front of mind.
5. Use I – Remember you are the one being interviewed not your team. This is the one time as a leader when you need to demonstrate your role, input and achievement, albeit you may have done it through your team.
6. Practice, Practice and Practice some more – The biggest mistake candidates make is not practicing answering interview questions. When you come along to ourAlways Stand Out career workshops we provide you with pages of sample questions that may be asked in executive interviews. We recommend you use your smart phone or computer to film yourself answering questions. This enables you to critique your answers and body language.
7. Research the company – There is nothing worse than a candidate not being aware of the latest company information. As an executive candidate download and read the latest annual report, Google press releases and research media information on the company.
8. Research the interviewers – Read their bios on the company page or LinkedIn. If you are working with a recruiter they should be able to provide insights into the interviewers.
9. Prepare your questions – As you research the company prepare questions you would like to ask at the interview. One of the best questions we recommend candidates ask at interview is
“Imagine we are sitting down in 12 months’ time at my performance review. It’s been a great year I’ve achieved all of the goals. What exactly have I done in the past 12 months?”
10. Dress appropriately – Ask the organiser what the dress code of the office/ team is. When in doubt I recommend over dressing – full suit and tie for men, suit for women as you are always able to take your jacket off if the interviewer/s are less formal.
So to reduce your nerves practice answering all types of questions, know your stories and answer the questions using the STAR format. When you are prepared you will be more confident and be truly present in the interview, enabling you to determine if it’s the right role and organisation for you. An interview is a two way street, so ensure you are judged on your past performance, potential and motivation and not on your nerves.
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” – Arthur Ashe
Fiona Cochran is an executive search specialist and an executive career coach. She works with a wide variety of clients, across industry and throughout Australia. With the evolution of technology and social media she is passionate about working with the executive leadership team and boards of organisations to engage on social media and to build their personal and company brand.
To learn more about her upcoming Executive Career Workshops