What to Expect Before an Executive-Level Interview

What is a pre-screening interview?

Pre-screening can be presented in a plethora of ways from a phone call, pre-recorded video to an email, questionnaire, or even a test. The benefit of a pre-screen is that both the recruiter and candidate get to vet what each party can provide. It is important to utilize the screening to learn more about the company and see if it is a mutual fit. Remember, you’re interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you.

What is the executive recruiter looking for during a screening?

The recruiter wants to confirm your qualifications and essential information, and substantiate what is presented on your resume by getting the context of your day-to-day responsibilities. The main focus of the screening is to test your professionalism and get a better understanding of your personality. They will evaluate the way you communicate in behavioral scenarios and determine if you are well suited for the way the company operates. Being able to add to the culture, in many instances, is almost as important as being qualified for the role. The recruiter you’re working with will have a good idea of what their client is looking for.



Five Rules Executives Can Adopt to Prepare for a Pre-Screening

1. What is the Story you Want to Tell as a Leader?

Don’t reiterate your resume to the interviewer. They have already reviewed your resume and cover letter; it is now time to bring them to life. While they see your past positions on your resume, you need to expand on your scope of responsibilities and highlight achievements. Align your experience to the position and articulate the value you bring and how you will deliver results.

Prior to your screening, review your cover letter and resume to ensure you showcase the skills acquired from your experiences and how they will translate to your new role. During your screening, you may be asked behavior-based questions giving you the opportunity to tie your experience from your resume to your responses. Make sure to practice different scenario questions and incorporate your value and skills into your story beforehand. Have a succinct elevator pitch ready that directly ties your personal brand and leadership style to the accomplishments on your resume.


2. Make the Executive Pre-Screen Interview Worthwhile with RESEARCH

Before you have your pre-screen interview, create a list of your job must-haves, and rank them. Make sure to make your list as precise as possible to get the most out of your pre-screening. Reflect on what you value and the impact that you want to make as an executive. What is it you want to be remembered for and what have you already accomplished to get there. Understanding and prioritizing your job essentials will make it easier when comparing job opportunities. The research on your job must-haves can be used in each interview moving forward.

While it might feel obvious at this stage of your career, do not forget to research the company! Check all of their online platforms, especially their website and LinkedIn. Make sure to get the most out of your interview. A recent article by Legaljobs discussed a growing problem with candidates not knowing enough information about the company and/or the position they applied to which resulted in 47% of them failing their interviews. By reviewing the company’s web pages and other communications and taking notes, you can get up to speed quickly on the culture of the company, size of the team and begin to familiarize yourself with their product or services. Furthermore, you can learn about their mission and if they have any connections to organizations you support. This can help connect your personal values to the organization’s purpose and provide a hook for why you want to work there.

It’s critical to research who you’ll be meeting with, and anyone who you would likely be working closely with. This research will assist you in developing questions about the company and the position and help to connect any dots to make the conversation flow more easily.


3. Do Not Waste Anyone’s Time, Including Yourself.

Be honest. It is essential to put your must-haves and needs on the table. If you are not adequately prepared, you’re wasting both the recruiter’s time and your own. Companies utilize screening to speed up the hiring process by obtaining valuable information from applicants quickly. Be ready to answer your wage expectations and start date. There is no wrong answer, but the delivery can change the recruiter’s view. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What about this position made you want to apply?
  • What is the company’s mission and purpose?
  • What makes you want to work for them instead of their competitors?

Knowing why you want to be part of this organization can help you discover how you add value to the company and become indispensable. An executive should also be mindful to never underestimate the importance of how they will contribute to and nurture the organization’s culture.


4. Confidence is Key

Many see a preliminary interview as a laidback unstructured interview, but this is far from the truth. You only have a few moments to make a good first impression. You must maintain your professionalism to give an outstanding first impression. While the pre-screening interview is just the beginning of the process, it is essential to land the job.

You have the experiences and skillset, but now it is time to highlight it. Research shows that 9% of candidates get rejected due to the overall confidence level, voice quality, or lack of smile. Having the hard skills to land the job is important but including your soft, social, and interpersonal skills is critical. Hard skills are job-related when they can be tied to the responsibilities of the position, so there is a good chance that if you are sitting in a screening, your resume did a good enough job of outlining why you are qualified for the job.

Preparation is at the core of projecting confidence. Make sure you go over the dos and don’ts for executive interviews. As an executive, you are held to a remarkably high professional standard. Due to the expectations that surround these standards, practice and prepare your delivery to be certain that the hiring manager senses your confidence. Confidence demonstrates the ability to succeed in the position. The right amount of confidence almost nearly guarantees you’ll move through to the next round of interviews.


5. Important Questions to ask During Your Pre-Screen

Research questions you have prior to your pre-interview screening. While you might feel like this is too early in the hiring process, it is important to ask questions now so you can mitigate any risk in realizing this role is not for you down the line. Ensure this role is a match before you find yourself too many interviews deep. Here are some example questions you can ask:

  • Why is the position open? Is it a new role?
  • How long has the position been open? What is the amount of time the position has been open and have they adjusted who their ideal candidate is?
  • What are the company’s must-haves and what kind of experience is essential?

While this is an honest conversation this is not a casual one. It may not be your typical structured interview, but stay professional and prepared. The reality is that the employer is trying to weed out candidates that do not match their specific needs. A lot of pre-screen interviewers use a spreadsheet with certain criteria that they are looking for. It would be smart to do some research online about what these questions might be and prepare some basic answers.

Behavioral Interview Questions

This technique of interviewing is utilized with scenario-based questions from your previous experience to analyze your behaviors to visualize your future performance at the company. When responding to questions proposed, you will need to incorporate context in your answer, displaying your different skillsets and method of operation at work. The main topics will be the following: leadership, delegation, communication, time management, collaboration, and handling complex situations. To help you prepare to answer these questions, review the PAR (Problem, Action, Result) model. This will help you in developing a well-thought-out answer. Below are just a few behavioral questions you can practice for your upcoming interview.

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What was the biggest challenge you faced in your last job? What was the outcome, and how did you resolve the problem?
  • How does this position help you move towards your goals?
  • In what work environment do you thrive?

Tips Prioritizing Your Follow-Up

Whether it is a pre-screen questionnaire or phone call, take your time answering each question thoroughly and honestly. Take notes on anything you learned about the position and any additional questions you would like them to elaborate on. At the end of your interview do not forget to ask about the timeline of the next steps. Send a thank-you note or email showing your interest in the position. Make sure your follow-up is sent in a timely manner, try within 1-2 days of your interview. Keep your thank-you note concise but of value. You would be surprised at how far this goes when there are multiple candidates being considered. It could make or break their desire to bring you back for more interviews.

Show your appreciation for the interviewer for having created time in their schedule for you. Emphasize your interest in the position by highlighting something the recruiter said about the role. This will display that you were attentive throughout the interview. In a few words, tie in your qualifications to the position’s responsibilities as a reminder of how you fit the role. Mention providing that recruiter with additional information to assist in the decision-making process.


The Next Steps

Make a pre-screening interview worthwhile by utilizing the experience to prepare you for your next steps in the hiring process. After you ace your pre-screening interview revisit your notes to practice for your follow-up interview with the hiring manager. Learn more about how you can utilize BlueSteps to embark on your next career change and better position yourself for success.



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