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Executive Interviews: Preparing for the Intangibles

I find it interesting that the majority of folks—from C-suite executives down to young professionals—are convinced that they handle interviews great. “If I can just get the interview, I can overcome any objections the company may have about hiring me” they say. The reality is far from it for most candidates. In fact, the adeptness with which candidates tanked interviews in a state of blissful ignorance is what drew me away from the corporate world and to the career services industry more than a decade ago.

Preparing for an Executive InterviewWhat I have found is that most job seekers create an entirely new list of concerns as a result of their face-to-face meeting with the executive team. Most of these new concerns surround “emotional” considerations such as personality, fit, culture, and the like. These factors are important, as hiring is largely an emotional decision (just like picking a resume writer or purchasing a new tablet is an emotional decision). What happens is that most candidates prepare to address weaknesses that may have been evident on their resume, such as a gap in employment, a questionable shift in industry or job title, or a lack of education. The candidate is right in preparing responses for these issues, as they are likely to be questioned about them.

However, it is just as important for the candidate to prepare for success with many of the intangibles that executives judge when deciding which candidate to hire. After all, companies use the interview as an opportunity to validate that the person they read about in the resume is the same person they are speaking with and that the candidate has that special something they are looking for.

So what are these intangibles and how does one go about preparing for them?

Well, let’s start with a story to get us going down the proper path. Marjorie was a sales executive who had been quite successful in the semiconductor industry. She had never been in outside sales herself, instead working her way up to the executive level through account management and senior client engagement management roles. In essence, all of the clients with whom Marjorie interacted were familiar to her and her company. She never initiated and developed a relationship from the “cold” status. Interestingly enough, Marjorie was a bit shy when out of her comfort zone, which is precisely where she was placed when interviewing with a three-person executive panel at a prospective company. They expected her to dazzle them with her ability to quickly spark a relationship. But she stumbled, unable to truly engage her audience because of her focus on addressing the two years she was out of work when having her child.

Fortunately, the panel explained their concerns about Marjorie to the executive recruiter. When another opportunity came by, Marjorie researched the company and the players involved, preparing for the interview as if it was a client engagement. This approach made her more comfortable and confident, helping her nail subsequent interviews.

In Marjorie’s case, the intangibles involved, which happen to be among the most important, were the ability to:

  • cultivate a bond
  • foster confidence
  • build trust

Many factors contribute to a candidate’s ability to be successful in these areas. Some of the most common ways that job seekers erode these intangibles include:

  • Backpedaling from resume statements: Don’t make claims on your resume that you’re not fully confident in backing up when asked about them in an interview. This signals to the interviewer that you are not trustworthy; therefore all of the information in your resume is suspect.
     
  • Saying too little or too much: Some candidates don’t know what to say, and they come in two varieties. The smaller of the two are those that say too little, usually providing one word or one sentence responses. The other, larger group, are those that can’t stop talking. In fact, many interviewers are trained to allow for periods of silence at the end of a candidate response. They find that a good portion of folks will fill the gap by continuing to provide more information. Responses should be 1-2 minutes in length. If the interviewer wants more information, they can ask a follow-up question. If they allow some silence after the response, be comfortable with it.
     
  • Appearance: Many think this has more to do with how attractive you look. Not so much, as it’s really more about how you carry yourself. Improper attire (i.e., too casual), a handshake that’s too strong or weak, poor posture, and the inability to make eye contact are all things that chip away from an interviewer’s feeling of you as a viable candidate.


These intangibles are all things that can be resolved with some planning and preparation. Do yourself a favor and address them before you begin the interview process.

Our team at BlueSteps Executive Career Services can help you prepare, practice, and perform at your best in your next interview! Join BlueSteps for a complimentary career consultation today.

The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Master Your Next Executive Interview

As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:

- Prepare for your next interview
- Get ready for the questions you may be asked
- Decide what questions you will ask the interviewer
- Develop a follow-up strategy
- And more!

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About the author

Stephen Van Vreede is a resume writer and career coach with BlueSteps Executive Career Services. He uses his proprietary Job Search Management Lifecycle approach to help executives develop, document, and execute on a clear and compelling personal brand message consistently across all traditional and social media (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, interview, networking, etc.). He holds an MBA and a Six Sigma Black Belt Certification along with the ACRW and CPRW resume writing certifications. Stephen has also earned the Online Professional Networking Strategist and Microblogging Career Strategist credentials.

Learn more about the BlueSteps team of career advisors and the services they provide to help you improve your career trajectory here.

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