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Effective Interview Techniques for Senior Executive Positions

Your efforts have finally paid off—you’re scheduled to meet with an executive recruiter or hiring manager to discuss a job that’s a good fit for your experience, expertise, and career interests. But don’t relax yet! You can increase your chances of earning a second interview and, ultimately, a job offer by spending some time preparing for that interview.

Executive job interviewers taking notes

Keep in mind that interviews are there to access the fit of your talents, knowledge, experience, strengths, leadership style, and much more with the specific opportunity and unique culture of the hiring organization. To succeed, you must demonstrate that you are a perfect fit in as many areas as possible.

Don’t spend your preparation time memorizing answers to questions you think you’ll hear—that approach will make you sound less than genuine and will leave you flat-footed when, inevitably, you’re asked a question for which you haven’t practiced an answer. Instead, invest your time working on key areas of interview study that will leave you prepared for any question you’re asked and give you an edge over your competition.

1. Elucidate your core values
What is the greatest value you offer? What makes you unique? What sets you apart from others? Spend some time thinking about these questions, then jot down five or ten core value statements—phrased in terms of value to the company. For example:

If your greatest strength is leadership, rather than stating “I have great leadership skills,” expand on that in a meaningful way: “I am able to deliver exceptional results—such as double-digit profit increases and 10% revenue growth in a down market—by inspiring and leading people to put forth extraordinary effort and do it with joy and passion.”

When choosing your core value statements, consider either of these simple formats to be sure that you are including both pieces—the skill or expertise and the benefit:
1) “I am able to [do something for the company] through [ability / expertise / knowledge / experience / talent].”
2) “I have [ability / expertise / knowledge / experience / talent] that results in [benefit to the company].”

By crystallizing your value into half a dozen areas of strength, you create a template of the key points to make during an interview—to be sure you’re clearly communicating the total picture of what you have to offer.

2. Develop CAR stories
The CAR (Challenge-Action-Result) story-telling format is highly effective in communicating concrete examples to support general statements. Rather than simply telling the interviewer that you have excellent communications skills, tell a CAR story that illustrates the point. When asked how you “would” handle a situation, present your theory, then back it up with a CAR story that drives home the point.

CAR stories provide insight into your leadership and problem-solving style and often elucidate the “how” behind the “what” that’s on your resume. Using this format, you’ll find that you can tell your story naturally, without sounding rehearsed, and will often be able to quickly call to mind a story that illustrates a key point in the interview, even if you haven’t prepared it in advance.

3. Bone up on standard questions
Don’t talk yourself out of the position before you’re five minutes into the interview! There’s no excuse for “fluffing” such common interview questions as “tell me about yourself,” “why are you leaving your current position,” “why do you want to work here,” “what is your greatest weakness,” and so on. Bookstores and libraries abound with interviewing guides that present a long list of common questions and offer advice on how to answer them. When possible, incorporate one of your core value statements into your answer.

An interview is a high-stress activity where it’s crucial at perform your best. Preparation is key to peak performance in any endeavor. Don’t leave the preparation until the last minute, and be sure to practice in the areas that will give you the greatest payoff.

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