How to Be Ready for Your Executive Interview

Job interviews can be a stressful ordeal in any event, but once you reach the executive level, it’s a whole other ballgame. You’re not just trying to convince the hiring manager that you’re qualified for the position. Everyone who walks into the room is qualified, or they wouldn’t have made it this far. You need to show them that you’ll be a good fit for their company, and offer them something that the others won’t. How do you do that? It helps to be prepared. Here are a few things you can do to be ready for your executive interview.

Do Your Research

Before you go in, find out a little about the company you’re interviewing with. What are they known for? Have they been in the news recently? What kind of marketing and branding do they do? What’s their social media presence like? The more you know about the company that’s considering hiring you, the better you’ll be able to connect with them. Tell them what you like about their operation and what appeals to you about the possibility of working there. If you know the name of the person who’s going to be interviewing you, look them up as well. Not in a creepy way, of course. But find out what their history with the company is, how long they’ve been there, any awards or recognition, etc. Dropping a couple of key tidbits into the conversation can show them you’ve done your homework, as well as preparing you a bit before meeting them face to face. We live in the Information Age, so there’s no excuse for going in without knowing what you’re dealing with.

Prepare Interview Answers

This one treads a fine line. If you memorize all of your answers to standard interview questions and deliver them by rote, it won’t tell the company much about you other than that you know the standard answers to common interview questions. However, if you don’t prepare for certain questions, you could be caught off guard. If you can, reach out to someone who’s interviewed at this company in the past, and find out what it was like for them. This will give you an idea of what to expect, while still allowing you a chance to answer questions genuinely and naturally and make a real connection with the interviewer.

Be Prepared for Uncomfortable Questions

There may be a question or two for which the answer is a bit awkward. Maybe you were fired from your last job, and they want to know why. Maybe there’s a gap in your resume wherein you weren’t working. Maybe you had a run-in with the law when you were younger. Be prepared for these in advance, so that you can navigate them with ease. The most important thing to remember, though, is not to lie. The truth will come out eventually no matter what, and making excuses or shifting the blame for an unfortunate situation will just make it sound like you can’t take responsibility for your own actions. Be open and honest with them, and, if possible, include something positive that came from the experience. Most employers will appreciate your candor.

Have Questions of Your Own

At the executive level, the purpose of an interview isn’t just to have the right answers to questions. It’s an opportunity for people from the company to engage with you on a deeper level. To that end, it’s important to come in with a few questions of your own, which can show that you have a real interest in their company and its goings on. Ask something about how they do things related to your field (e.g. “Do you use an Enterprise Resource Planning platform? If so, which one, what version, etc.?”). Ask about something that interested you as you researched the company. Ask about the company culture or dynamic. Don’t overdo it, but come up with three or four good questions to ask, to show your knowledge, flexibility, and general enthusiasm.

These are just a few things you can do to prepare for an executive interview. Most important, though, is don’t be intimidated. Don’t be afraid to voice concerns, or to ask about difficult things, like salary and benefits. Remember, you’re evaluating them as much as they’re evaluating you. Show them why you’re the best person for the position, but also let them show you why their company would be the best place for you to work. Be confident, knowledgeable, and respectful, and you’ll come out just fine.

10 Things Employers Need to Know When Recruiting Executive Level Candidates

Filling a position in your company isn’t easy under any circumstances, and the higher up the ladder you go, the more difficult it becomes. When it comes to executive level candidates, you’re not just looking for someone with the right skills and experience on paper. You want someone who will really fit in with your company’s dynamic and add value to your organization. How do you bring someone like that into your fold? Here are 10 things you need to know about recruiting executive level candidates.

Planning is Key

The first thing you need to do, before doing any recruiting, is to sit down and create a profile for your ideal candidate. This means more than just education and experience. What kind of personality do they have? How do they approach challenges and resolve problems? How do they interact with both their superiors and their subordinates? In addition, there are issues to determine such as what kind of salary and benefits you’re able to provide, and how high you’re willing to go in negotiations. You might not be able to find someone who fits the bill exactly, but the more detailed you are in outlining who you’re looking for, the better you’ll be able to recognize the right candidate when they come along.

It’s About Making Connections, Not Reading Resumes

Putting listings on job sites is great, but more important is networking. You’re more likely to land someone with whom you’ve made an actual connection, or who at least knows your company and what it’s all about, then someone who filled out your application along with a dozen others online. Social media works well in this regard. By simply posting your job listings on your social media profiles, you open yourself up to a group of people who already have enough interest in your company to connect with it online. It also helps to cultivate relationships wherever you go: conferences, trade shows, etc. By making these connections and staying in touch even when you’re not actively looking for job candidates, you’ll have a great starting point once you finally are.

Assessment Tools Can Help

You’ve cast your net broadly. You put listings on all the major job sites, plus social media and your other networks. Now, a myriad of applications are flowing in. The bigger the pool, the more likely you’ll be to find the perfect candidate. But in order to do that, first you’ll need to weed out the unqualified ones—and that can take some time. The best way to do it quickly is with an online assessment tool. Along with the basic application, have each candidate fill out an assessment questionnaire. It will gauge their aptitude in a variety of different areas, from leadership to teamwork to problem solving skills, and more. The questionnaire can also be tailored to your company’s specific needs and environment. Then, an analytics program automatically determines which are the best candidates for your organization, and which are unqualified, a poor fit, etc. You’re then left with a small pool of highly qualified candidates who are ready to move on to the interview process—in much less time than it would take your organization to go through every application by hand.

They’re Evaluating You Too

For an intelligent and well-qualified candidate at the executive level, it’s a safe bet you’re not the only company they’re interviewing with. So the question becomes, why should they choose to take a position with your organization, as opposed to one of the others? So while you’re evaluating them, they’re doing the same to you. During the entire hiring process, from the moment they first see your name, through each stage of interviews, up until the moment you make them an offer, your executive level candidates are looking at what you have to offer them. So put your best foot forward.

Their Time Is Valuable

A couple of rounds of interviews may be necessary to narrow your list down to a single candidate, but don’t draw things out longer than you have to. They’re busy people, and if you’re going to bring them into your company, you owe it to them not to waste their time or force them to jump through extra, unnecessary hoops. Get your candidates in a room with your hiring manager from the beginning, so they know they’re dealing with the person who makes the ultimate decision, rather than someone who may or may not recommend them to someone else. It is still important to get multiple people’s opinions, to minimize bias, but they can still meet everyone on a single day, rather than forcing them to come back two or three more times. Showing them you respect their time shows that you respect them as well, and goes a long way towards bringing them aboard your organization.

Money and Benefits Aren’t Everything

When we say “what you have to offer them,” we mean more than just starting salary and vacation time. Especially at the executive level, job candidates are looking at what your office environment is like, what kind of opportunities you have for advancement, whether or not you can provide a flexible work schedule to accommodate things like picking up their kids from school, and more. In fact, if you can give them something they really care about, they may be willing to join your company over another that pays more, but doesn’t have what they want.

You’ll Need to Negotiate

Particularly if your ideal candidate has several other offers on the table—or if you’re trying to recruit them away from their current job—they’ll likely have at least a couple of requests of their own. It may be additional money or benefits, or it may be something else. This is where the planning from #1 comes in. It’s important to know in advance exactly how far you’re willing/able to go to accommodate their needs. If their demands take you by surprise, you may find yourself giving in to more than you can reasonably afford to.

You May Need a Backup Plan

Ultimately, even if you present them with the best possible offer, your top choice to fill the available position may decide to go in a different direction. There may be any number of reasons why, many of which have nothing to do with you or your company at all. But it’s important to be prepared. Choose your top three or four candidates, so that if one falls through, you can just go to the next one. Just be sure not to let them know they were your second choice, or make them feel like you would have rather had someone else. Nobody likes that.

You Should Keep the Resources You Gain

So let’s say your top choice does agree to work at your company. Keep in touch with the other three or four candidates on your list, and anyone else who catches your eye during the interview process, but just didn’t quite make the cut. Follow up with them after the interview and keep in touch in the coming months to find out how they are and what they’re up to. You never know when another position may open up in your company that they may be better suited for (see point #2 about networking and making connections).

Onboarding Starts Immediately

Recruiting is only half the battle. Once you’ve brought someone into the fold, your next job is to keep them there. Employee turnover is inconvenient and costly. To combat this, it’s important to integrate your new recruit into your existing company culture quickly and thoroughly. In reality, the first stages of the onboarding process should begin during the interview process, and continue on seamlessly from there. Make them fit in and feel welcome and help them understand their role on your team, and your new recruit will be more likely to become a faithful long term employee.

Recruiting executive level employees isn’t an easy process. It’s important that it be done well, and you can’t cut corners—otherwise you risk missing out on that perfect candidate. But if you know what you’re doing and what you’re looking for, you can greatly increase your chances of finding someone who can benefit your company for years to come.

A Step by Step Guide to Executive Career Planning

In the Broadway musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a bright young man named Finch manages to work his way from a lowly mailroom clerk to a junior executive after only one day on the job. Within a few weeks, he ascends the ranks further still, becoming a Vice President, and eventually Chairman of the Board.

Of course, things don’t really work that way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of executives with dreams of making a similar climb. And it certainly is possible to work your way up the corporate ladder, and even reach the very top. The only difference is, in the real world, it takes more time, effort, and planning. Here’s a step by step guide to executive career planning.

Outline Your Goals

Where do you want to be, jobwise, a year from now? How about five years, or ten years from now? Where do you ultimately want to end up, and what do you want to be doing? Map out your career goals, from the very big, down to the very small. You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going.

Create a Strategy

Now that you have an outline of your goals… What’s it going to take to achieve them? What will you have to do? What obstacles are in your way? Again, look at both the ultimate, big picture goals, and the smaller, more immediate ones. Use this information to create a timeline of exactly what you should be doing and when, in order to help you towards your goals. Note that this could mean moving up the corporate ladder within your company, or moving to another company that better fits with your goals.

Evaluate Yourself

What are your strengths that will help you along in your career? Skills, experience, natural aptitudes, or anything else that could be helpful. Now, what weaknesses might hold you back? Bad habits, personality clashes, knowledge gaps, etc. Now, set about honing your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses. Is there a particular set of skills that you need in order to reach the level you’re aiming for? How can you get it? Do you always react in a particular, negative way when faced with certain circumstances? Be aware of it and try to eliminate that behavior. Turn yourself into the type of person that the position requires.

Develop Your Personal Brand

You won’t get anywhere in your career if no one knows who you are. You are a brand, and your goal is to get someone else to invest in it. Make sure you have a perfect and polished executive resume, as well as stellar references. But your brand isn’t just limited to job hunting. Whether you’re in an interview or merely going through your daily work routine, how you present yourself to those around you is key. If your company offers any sort of paid additional education or training, take it. Taking the initiative is a great way to make yourself stand out from the others. Of course, don’t oversell yourself. Don’t deliberately go out of your way to show off how great you are when you know that the higher ups are looking. Instead, present yourself in the best possible light at all times and establish your brand as one that others will be interested in.

You never know when or where you may meet someone who can help

you along on your journey. Make connections wherever you go. Within your own company, see about getting someone to mentor you. Not only will you gain valuable knowledge from their experience, they’ll also have an active interest in you, and may recommend you for a promotion or other advancement. Likewise, when you meet people at conferences, trade shows, and other events in your field, they may be able to help you move your career forward in all sorts of ways. Connect with them and touch base regularly, just to stay on their radar.

Be Flexible

Things rarely, if ever, go exactly the way you want them to. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Be on the lookout for opportunities that don’t necessarily fit in with the plan you’ve mapped out, but could still represent an important step up for your career. By being willing to follow an unexpected opportunity, you could end up somewhere better than where you originally planned.

Advancing your career at the executive level takes a lot of time, hard work, and commitment. But in the end, anything is possible. With drive, initiative, and careful career planning, you can reach your goals and get everything you’ve ever wanted.

The Employers’ Guide to an Executive Interview

Remember the first time you were interviewed for a job? You were nervous and uncertain, and the whole experience was a little bit terrifying. But you said to yourself, “Someday, I’m going to be on the other side of that desk, as the one conducting the interviews.” Well, now you are. And to your surprise, you’re just as nervous and uncertain, and the whole experience is just as terrifying, as it was when you were the one being interviewed.

Conducting executive interviews is a big responsibility. What criteria do you use to evaluate the candidates? How do you make the ultimate decision? What if you miss something and hire the wrong person? It can be a daunting task, certainly, but with these basic tips, you’ll hopefully be better equipped to find the best fit for your company.

Know What You’re Looking For

You’ll have a much easier time finding the right candidate if you know as much as possible up front about the type of person you’re looking to hire. That means more than just skills and experience. Hopefully, everyone who’s made it to the interview process has the necessary requirements on their resume. But what kind of personality do they have? What are their problem solving skills like? How do they work in a team, and on their own? Map out what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate and design interview questions around that.

Do Your Homework

Review each candidate thoroughly before they come in for their interview. This includes going over their resume, contacting their references, and looking at any work of theirs from other companies that you may have access to. Treat them as more than just the next person on the list of potential hires. Know, from the moment they walk in the door, exactly who they are and what they’re about. Be ready with specific questions that relate to their history and experience, instead of just the general boilerplate interview questions that everyone asks. This will help you connect with them better over the course of the interview process.

Remember Interviews Are a Two Way Street

Don’t just do all the talking yourself. At the same time, don’t just let them do all the talking either. Experts say that the interviewer should talk about 30% of the time. But use that 30% effectively. Engage them in conversation. Give them an opportunity to ask their own questions and voice any issues they may have. By engaging them in this way, you’ll be able to learn more about them than just a bunch of standard questions and answers, and more effectively gauge what kind of fit they’ll be in your company.

Bring Others Into the Process

Everyone has their own biases. Even when you know what they are, they can be difficult to overcome, and can interfere with your making a fair hiring decision. That’s why it’s important to bring a couple of other people into the interview process. Not too many—maybe two or three at the most. Ideally, in addition to the hiring manager, you should have the person who’s going to be your candidate’s direct boss, and someone from HR. Those extra pairs of eyes can help you evaluate candidates from multiple angles and get a better, more complete picture of who they are and what kind of fit they are for the job.

See Them in Action

Most interviews ask questions like, “How would you react in this situation?” or “Give me an example of a time you dealt with this kind of problem.” The answers can certainly be helpful, but even so, there’s a difference between saying and doing. Find ways of seeing what they’re like in action. Give them a task that they’ll be likely to encounter in their position at your company, and see how they handle it. You can even put them in a team with a couple of your existing employees, to observe how they work in a team, and how they fit in with your existing group dynamic. This “hands on” approach is a great way of finding who’s really best suited to work for you.

The most important thing to remember when conducting an executive interview is that the candidate is evaluating you just as much as you’re evaluating them. If they’re talented and well-qualified, they’ll likely be entertaining several different offers. So always show your company in the best possible light, and let them see what makes you stand out from the rest. With a little effort and preparation, you’ll be able to find the perfect candidate to fill the position and fit in well with your company culture.