8 Interview tips for executives

Interview tips for typical executive interviews

1. Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

This typical interview opener aims to see how you handle yourself in unstructured situations. The interviewer is looking to see how confident you are, how articulate you are and what type of impression you make. They also wants to learn about your career path, and get a sense of what you think is important. Though many find this question difficult to answer it gives us an opportunity to describe ourselves positively and focus the interview on our strengths.

Rather than asking “What do you want to know?” craft a confident answer to this question, practice it, and be able to deliver it on the spot.

The best responses have two elements:

  1. a focus on what interests the interviewer, and
  2. practically illustrate your most important accomplishments.

Begin with your most recent employment and explain why you are well qualified, and a good fit, for the position. The key to a successful interview is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for, sell what they are buying. Share a story, a practical example, that illustrates your best professional qualities. Experience stories are powerful and memorable. Think of the story like a 1-2 minute commercial that clearly illustrates you are the best person for the job.story illustrates suitability interview tips

2. How long have you been with your current employer?

This is a test question looking for persistence. Job-hopping is considered a warning sign. Research shows that high performers tend to stay in their jobs at least 3-5 years. Performers make course corrections, bring in additional resources, and in general, learn how to build relationships – that’s why they are valued by prospective employers.

3. What is your greatest weakness?

This Interview tip relates to a challenging question that can trip us up if we are not aware of the reasoning behind it. A confident response demonstrates you have prepared for the question, have done some self-examination, and can admit responsibility and accept constructive feedback. Give a short honest answer that shows the weakness does not make you any less of a great candidate, and that you are working on this weakness and tell the interviewer how. Specifically demonstrate you are aware of areas of development and that you have taken conscious steps to remedy these shortfalls.Interview tips awareness of weakness

4. Share a situation where you did not get along with a superior.

All of us have had situations where we disagreed with a boss. Denying it may cause the interviewer to question our integrity. No conflict can also send a message that the we are not seasoned enough, or haven’t been in situations that require us to deal with confrontation. Leadership requires managing difficult conversations.

5. Describe a situation where you were part of a failed project.

What they are looking for is how you managed the failure and what you learned from the experience. An inability to discuss a past failure might make the recruiter conclude that you don’t possess the depth of experience necessary to do the job. The interviewer is not looking for perfection they are trying better to understand your level of responsibility, your decision-making process, and your ability to recover from a mistake. Specifically what you learned from the experience, and if you can take responsibility for your mistakes. Talk about what you have learned from each mistake you have made, giving a specific example. Conclude on a positive statement about what you learned and how it benefited the organisation.Learning from failure interview tips

6. What are your strengths?

Describe two or three skills you have that are relevant to the position and avoid generalities. Use stories to demonstrate specific evidence of these skills. Describe ways these skills could be put to use in the position you are being considered for. Be open (without arrogance) and share contributing factors (teams, mentors), and observations other people have made about your work strengths or talents.

7. What do you do in your leisure time?

This interview tip relates to a question that is often more revealing than it may first appear. The more senior the position, the more important it is to know about the candidate’s passions and how these may impact his or her leadership style. Are you well adjusted and happy, or only obsessed with work and a candidate for burnout? Discuss hobbies or pursuits that are of interest to you, such as sports, clubs, and favourite things to read. Be careful of any political or religious activities that may conflict with those of the interviewer.Well balanced or burnout interview tips

8. Why did you leave your last position?

With senior executives personality and temperament become more important than at other levels of the organisation. The interviewer wants to know if you will fit in with the new organisation. The interviewer may also be looking for signs of conflict that indicate a potential personality problem. Be honest, but don’t dwell on any conflict that may have occurred. Focus on positive developments that resulted from your departure. Share important lessons learned from accepting a more challenging position or lessons that helped you to be happier in your next job.

Interview tips to help you get hired

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Richard Riche

Change Communication and Employee Engagement specialist at One Clear Message Consulting
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills. Employee Engagement / Experience, Emotional Intelligence skills, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. TED style speaking and presentation skills. Training, consulting and coaching.
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