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10 steps for success in an executive job interview

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Chris Morrison
Written on the 29 November 2021

Whether you’re already an executive or looking to jump to an executive role, there are some important steps to cover when preparing for your job interview. Knowing what to prepare is key to help you stand out from other candidates and convey you are the best person for the role.

According to Forbes Magazine, organisational thinking has shifted dramatically over the past 18 months due to the global pandemic. Executive interview styles are evolving and candidates must adapt their own strategies in order to be successful.

What makes an executive interview different?

An executive interview is vastly different to interviewing for a junior role. Organisations recruiting executives will be looking not only at past work experience, but specific examples of different things the candidate achieved while in those roles. Where a junior position might want examples of challenges faced, effective collaborative team work and KPIs being met, an executive interview will delve more deeply into how you have successfully lead at previous companies, how you worked with board members, and how you as an individual were a key part of the organisation’s success.

Our key steps to help you secure an executive role.

  1. Research the organisation not just the role

  • Your research should be extensive and include your interviewer’s background – this will help build rapport and demonstrate that your personality will fit in to the company as a whole.
  • Your research should provide insight into their organisation: competitive market analysis, what are their products and services, how do they go to market.
  • Research what challenges they have faced and how they overcame them, as well as what issues they’re currently experiencing so you can ask and answer questions on the topic.
  1. Understand the bigger picture

  • How does the role fit into the whole organisation: research the organisational structure and which people and teams the role is involved with internally and externally?
  • If the role is newly created, prepare some questions around how the company sees the role evolving in the short and long term.
  • What is the impact the organisation has on the community or world?
  • How does the organisation interact with its customers and clients?
  1. Discuss the company not the role

  • Connect how the role helps to achieve the organisation’s mission and why you are the right person to achieve that for them.
  • Discuss what you did in previous roles that improved that organisation’s market share, profit margins or business goals.
  • Share how your role influenced the organisation, including key strategic decisions you made that had a long lasting impact.
  1. What is your “WHY”?

  • People who communicate their motivation effectively often get the job. Interviews are your opportunity to clearly show why you are the person for the job.
  • It’s not just about your skills and experience, it’s your calling for the position
  • Why do you want the job?
  • Why do you want to work for this specific organisation and why do you hold the key to the company’s future success?
  1. Talk about how much not how many

  • Share your impact from previous roles and what you did for the organisation or customers, don’t focus on how many people you managed or how many services you oversaw – focus on the impact of your work.
  • Discuss quality not quantity – talk about major achievements in detail and how you worked to achieve them, both as an individual and as a part of a wider company collaboration.
  1. Focus on the future not your history

  • Most of what you discuss needs to be how you can improve their organisation’s future – this helps the interviewer envision what it would be like to have you in their organisation.
  • Share your past experiences to discuss strategies you envisage as strengthening and improving their organisation at every level.
  • It’s also a great way to get the interviewer to see how your particular skill set will fit in by discussing common goals and shared ambitions that fit the company’s overall mission.
  1. Ask comprehensive questions

  • Prepare questions to help you make educated decisions about what type of organisation they are – this will keep you well-informed for the role.
  • Ask great questions that elicit responses to help you determine if the job is right for you.
  • Don’t ask questions if the answer exists already – keep your questions strategic and ensure they show your potential fit within the organisation, as well as highlighting your strengths.
  1. Lead by example

  • Leaders build more leaders, not followers – clearly show how you were an empathetic and decisive leader who will encourage and motivate your team in previous organisations.
  • Share how you led by example – explain this and demonstrate it during the interview.
  • Share how you inspire others to do great things that benefit both the employees professionally and contribute to overarching company goals.
  1. Show top level communication skills

  • Active listening is key, both in the interview and in the role: show how you would take steps to ensure employees at every level feel heard.
  • Be clear and cohesive.
  • Show your emotional intelligence – understand and manage your emotions to communicate effectively.
  • There is power in brevity – don’t over communicate. Give examples of swift and strong communication from previous roles that had an impact.
  1. Project your organisational fit

  • Be polished
  • Communicate a growth mindset that demonstrates a willingness to learn and develop your career
  • Be humble and confident.
  • Focus on what you do have, not what you don’t have (always frame in the positive).

Interviewing at an executive level requires careful and considered preparation. Candidates need to go above and beyond researching the company: you need to understand the organisation’s bigger picture.

You’ll be expected to prove why you’re the best fit based on tangible achievements and how that translates not just to the role, but to the overall company strategy, mission, and future success.

Being polished, prepared and focusing on what you bring to the role with confidence will set you on the path to success. With most job markets being highly competitive, don’t forget if you’re interviewing for a junior role, you can use these strategies too.

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Chris Morrison

Chris Morrison is the founder and Director of Meritos, an executive search and recruitment business working with purpose-driven organisations. If you're interested in connecting with Chris, you can find him on LinkedIn here. You can also reach him on 02 8000 7121 or via email at [email protected]
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Questions to ask to help you understand a candidate:

1. Describe your ideal working environment.

2. What do you enjoy about your current workplace?

3. How does a manager get the best out of you?

4. Describe the best team that you’ve ever worked in.

The reasons why I ask these questions:

1. Reason

2. Reason

3. Reason

4. Reason

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