Everything in life can be broken-down into elementary terms. If you think about it, an executive only has to successfully answer 3 interview questions to secure the position:
1. Can You Do The Job?
2. Will You Love The Job?
3. Can We Tolerate Working With You?
To prepare at the senior level, one must recognize the level of proficiency and aptitude required to pursue the C-Suite status.
If you are familiar with Stanley McChrystal, I believe he said it best. He is a retired 4 star general, and he stated that:
“Leadership contains certain elements of good management, but it requires that you inspire, that you build durable trust. For an organization to be not just good but to win, leadership means evoking participation larger than the job description, commitment deeper than any job contract’s wording.”
As an executive, you are the high tide that has to lift all of the boats! You are continually judged on how you act, how you look, how you speak, and even how you live.
You are someone who is held accountable for everyone else’s actions; that’s really hard.
Tips & Tricks
6 Tips to Land That Senior Role:
It’s all About the Research!
Knowledge is power, right? Well, at the executive level, research is at the apex of the talent acquisition process. I don’t care if your interview is with an outside agency, an internal recruiter, an HR Assistant, or with the CEO of the company over dinner; if your research is not 4 inches thick, you are going to get ripped apart. You should be researching 10K reports, 8Ks, NQs, and every press release or newsletter that you can find. If the company is private, try utilizing a resource such as “Global Data Base” or “Hoovers.com” to get the information that you need. Competitive market analysis; what is their niche? Where is their need? Where are their holes?
Where is their competition crushing them? What kind of positions are they currently staffing for? What are their products and services, and how do they go to market? All of these insights are things that you need to know before going into the interview! The number one mistake you can make at the executive level is asking a question that you could have otherwise found the answer to on your own. You need to demonstrate that you are resourceful, analytical, and make well-informed decisions after investigating and assessing all known factors.
Understand How the Pieces Fit Together:
This is another big deal. Executives know how everything fits together, from inside and outside of the organization. This really stems from diligence in your research. It is imperative at the senior level to demonstrate an understanding of operational functions at all levels of the organization. Ideal candidates possess a strong working knowledge of how potential actions (or lack of action) would affect all roles in the company. Knowing how the pieces fit together is paramount for identifying new opportunities in the market and improving business outcomes. If you cannot articulate this degree of proficiency in your interview, you will not be viewed as fit to lead the organization.
Talk About the Company, Not the Role!
You need to talk about the company in the interview, and not the role you are applying for. Allow me to explain. At the junior and mid-level, candidates tend to focus more on the role and how to perform it well; and that’s fine. But at the executive level, every question that you ask or answer should be answered within the context of the organization, not the role. This is a big mistake that people make. Over 80-90% of everything discussed should in some way be focused towards how your past actions influenced your previous organizations, and how you will take what you learned to impact their organization.
Offer Total Clarity In Your Answers:
As an executive, being an effective communicator will largely determine your success in landing a job. It’s vital that you offer clarity in your answers and sequencing of events. Always focus on top to bottom in your sequencing. There is a popular systematic approach used in the United Kingdom (UK) called the “STAR” method that offers proven results. The idea is to list 10 of your greatest professional accomplishments and develop a compelling story around each, using the “STAR” method. This process will give your answers more credibility and makes it easy for hiring managers to follow your story and score your response higher than other candidates.
S – Situation:
This is no more than one sentence. For example, “I was asked to develop a new comprehensive marketing plan to increase sales 15% by Q4.
T – Task:
Provide a brief summary of what you had to do. How did you go about creating the outputs of the task? What did success look like, and what were the exact steps that you executed? Make sure you start from the macro level and then continue to move down to the micro level.
A – Action:
What challenges were presented that you needed to overcome? What resistance did you face? What were the causes and effects of making the decisions that you did? In what areas did you have to arrive at a compromise?
R – Results:
What were the outcomes for the organization and your employees? Did you meet your goals? Did you miss your goals? Remember, it’s not a bad thing to share a story about how you missed a target goal as long as you effectively articulate what you learned and how you have/will deal with the same problem again!
It’s About Their Future, Not Your Past!
As mentioned before, 80-90% of everything discussed should be framed towards the company. We also need to spend the majority of time talking about the company’s future instead of your past. But please don’t get me wrong. Of course you’ll want to talk about your past achievements and what you might be doing in the role. However, at the executive level, answering questions about your past for an extended period of time will dig you into a deep hole that is very hard to get out of. This is important for you to understand. If you are spending a significant amount of time talking about your past, the interview is not going well! It’s not going well. If this is happening to you, it means whoever you are interviewing with is still in their evaluation mode of you. They don’t know if you can do the job. You should immediately take control of the interview and constantly redirect the conversation towards the company goals and what the future of the company would look like with you in it.
Remember, an interview should be a conversation, not a one-way dialogue. My personal favorite ways to take control and shift the interview is to answer a question and then say something such as:
“I’m glad that we are discussing this topic because it’s a perfect segue into my question, if I may?”
Or try this:
“I’m glad that you brought this up because I would love to get your thoughts on… as it relates to…”
Remember, if you are able to shift the conversation to answering questions about things that have yet to happen, you know you’re in right area.
Show Depth In Your Line Of Questioning:
Executives are constantly investigating. When you ask a question and receive an answer only to move on to the next question, you are sending a bad message. You are conveying that you are not a good investigator and only look at things on a superficial level. If you had a question that you thought was important enough to ask and it leads to a dead end, it means you’re a dead end. Being at the top requires deep subject knowledge, so be ready to provide a multi-line of follow up questions at any given time. It helps to have thought out multiple variations in which your questions could lead so you can have good questions with substance behind them.