When interviewing for an executive position, the right preparation is essential. Generally, you will need to provide more in-depth responses than for management or director-level roles. One of the most valued traits that employers look for is a candidate’s ability to demonstrate a strategic perspective, closely followed by his or her business acumen, and a global outlook. Make sure you offer ample evidence that you can bring all of this and more to the table during an executive interview.
Often executives underperform in interviews by overemphasizing their career history and progression, rather than focusing on the impact they have had on organizations and the lessons that they have learned. To convey your value as a potential leader, articulate your management style, organizational vision, principles, and ethics. It is important to stress the “soft” skills, including your emotional intelligence and leadership style.
Be prepared to dig deep into your experiences – don’t keep the conversation at merely a surface level. Provide examples of both your achievements, as well as of times when you have failed. When talking about negative experiences, emphasize what you have learned, what in hindsight you could have done better, and how the experience has strengthened and rounded out your leadership abilities. Most employers want to hire individuals with the potential to grow with the organization and take on bigger challenges in the future. They look for proof of an executive’s “learning agility” – how well he or she can cope with and learn from difficult situations and apply that newfound wisdom to future endeavors.
A tool often employed in executive interviews is the behavioral competency technique. The behavioral interview tests both your self-awareness by honing in on what you have actually done in specific situations. You will be asked questions along the lines of:

  • Tell me about an initiative that you conceived and were responsible for executing. What challenges did you expect and what challenges did you actually encounter? How did you overcome them?
  • What constructive criticism have you received in the past that surprised you the most?
  • Give me a couple of stories about you “in action.”

And of course, do your research on the firm you are interviewing with. Beyond knowing the company overview and history, products and services, and main competitors, use LinkedIn as well as your personal network to find who the key decision makers are. Research the current financial situation. Try to unearth and understand the challenges they are currently facing within the organization. Most importantly, use this information to clearly demonstrate how you can add value where it is most needed.


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