…but is necessary, obviously. In this piece I want to drill into the executive level job interview preparation strategies which are working today, including some maybe not so obvious factors.
Keep Applying / Researching:
The first piece of advice here has nothing to do with the interview itself; clients that we work with, and others that we speak to, can have a tendency to take their foot ‘off the gas’ when an interview (or two) are happening. So our advice here is to continue to allocate the same time as you have normally been doing, whether it’s a couple of hours a day, or a couple of hours a week (Hint: the former is better!). Human nature can put us into that comfort zone; the taking the foot off the gas scenario can almost be in-perceivable, but can happen, so be aware and stay on track right up until the ideal next role is offered.
Do more than the next candidate:
Find out all you can about the company, including, values, aims, their footprint in the relevant sector, competitors, annual report and financials, and on the day before the interview, and as a ‘top tip’, do a Google news search for any last minute snippets that you can bring into the conversation at interview if the opportunity presents itself. preparation is key. don’t skip over this piece of advice; you would be surprised at how many senior level executives don’t adequately prepare for interview.
Do you have any contacts (LinkedIn or otherwise) who might be able to offer an inside track as to why this role is currently available. This additional layer of knowledge can be very useful; you can allude to relevant points at interview, e.g. for say an MD role, and you discovered that the last MD had been let go, can you establish why? Let’s say it was due to not having enough of a commercial focus for the job – you can then bring out how commercially minded you are at the interview – with over egging it.
The night before the interview:
I hope that at least a week before you will have written and rehearsed the most likely questions and rehearsed aloud your answers to these. If you haven’t, why not? Those of you that know me will know that I bang on incessantly about this. Whether you’re an interview ‘natural’ or a bag of nerves, this simple tip will ensure you have some practiced answers to bring out when necessary, even if they don’t come out in exactly the way you have practiced.
Having prepared as above, the night before ensure you stay off the caffeine and alcohol, and get a decent night’s sleep. Whether you’re reading advice about fitness, weight loss, whatever it is, sleep is the often overlooked element, so ensure you get a good eight hours if you can.
So those are some thoughts around preparation and mind-set. What about ‘on the day’?
It’s interview day:
Time: Give yourself plenty, allow for delays. If the interview involves a potential overnight hotel stop, but means you will be definitely able to make it on time, then I suggest going with that option. If it’s an international location you’re heading to for an interview, then weaving in a few recruiter/contact meetings over a two/three day trip makes sense in terms of capitalizing on the time spent away from home, depending on your circumstances.
Ensure you look the part.. You need to look sharp. A tailored suit, smart shoes, and being well groomed might seem basic, but the first impressions count rule still applies.
If you tend to get a bit nervous, some long slow controlled breaths (half a dozen at least, during the obligatory pre interview toilet visit will work) will help your physiology to come more under your control. But don’t forget, adrenaline (from nerves) is a natural fight or flight response; it’s how you use that adrenaline that matters.
I strongly suggest having the mind-set that this interview is the only opportunity you have at the moment. It might well be! But if you have a few on the go at once, viewing each one as if it were your only opportunity will help you to focus, and prepare properly. This is not about appearing needy at the interview, but being 100% in command of your focus, answers, and relationship building within the context of the interview itself.
During the interview be mindful of “Tell me about a time when…” type questions. Here’s where the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format of answering kicks in, but if you remember nothing else on the day, remember to close your answer with the Result at the very least. Using examples rather than generic answers will impress the interviewer.
Have some relevant questions to ask, but also foster a ‘constant enquiry’ mind-set, where you can react to what’s been said at the interview, and to form questions based around this too. Asking about the company culture is also a great question to enable you to get a feel for this critical aspect.
After the interview:
The first phase after the interview is to get your notepad and pencil out… Ok, your iPad! Make a mental run through of everything from the moment you entered the building until you left. Is there anything you’d do differently next time, if there needs to be a next time?
The thankyou email can include any points that came out during the interview which you subsequently identified as being critical to the role.
Follow up? An old chestnut. The important factor here is not to be seen as ‘needy’ (difficult if you’re in a situation where you need the job yesterday!), and not to over follow up, i.e. chase. Agree next steps at the interview, and if you’re going via a head hunter then speak to them of course, but I return to my very first point of the article. Put this one to bed, and just crack on with fresh research, fresh roles, and fresh opportunities. If you’ve been successful, believe me you’ll hear, and in the meantime… on with the next application, interview prep, networking connections.
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