Preparing for any job interview is stressful, but the stakes become even higher for C-level executives. They are under more scrutiny than most other candidates and must back up their promises with shining examples of success from previous positions. Modern companies understand the importance of excellent upper management and strive to find not only the best candidates with the most experience, but the best fit for the company, its vision, and its culture. The following tips address some of the most crucial aspects of preparing for a C-level interview:
Develop a unique brand.
While most professionals seeking a job should have a sense of their personal brand, C-level executives cannot hope to be hired without clearly defining and selling their brand. Throughout the interview, they should take any chance to reinforce this brand. The brand is linked to their key strengths, their passion for the work, and their personality. Whatever brand they develop, it should point to all of these factors and distinguish them from the sea of other candidates.
For some people, the idea of a personal brand is confusing. Perhaps the best way to think about it is to conceptualize a concise answer. The “Tell me about yourself” question emphasizes what makes that person different from any other executive who might sit in the chair next. The brand should point to specific, quantifiable achievements, such as “double-digit market share growth” rather than “increased market share.”
Outline an engaging personal story.
The story proves and reinforces the brand. Throughout the conversation, the interviewer will expect examples from the candidates’ past to demonstrate their capabilities. Before walking into the interview, C-level executives should have a clear idea of what stories they want to tell and ensure that they all feed back into the personal brand. Consistency is extremely important. If an interviewee tries to sell a brand that does not match up with their past experience, the company will become suspicious and most likely pursue other candidates. The story should be as engaging as possible and include interesting details that keep the interviewer’s attention without wasting valuable time.
Come prepared to lead to the conversation.
Many interviewers are not particularly good at interviewing, especially when it comes to C-level positions. In order to avoid any potentially uncomfortable situations, interviewees should arrive with an understanding of the company, how it fits into the market, and how they can benefit the company. With this information, they can take charge of an interview that is not going well. However, executive candidates should remain diligent about not dominating the conversation. People in these positions are used to taking charge. However, in some cases, the interviewer will be perfectly capable, and candidates who attempt to steer the conversation one way or the other will be viewed unfavorably.
Candidates should also take time to research the people who will be interviewing them. This step can help to break the ice, especially if candidates discover any similarities with the interviewers in terms of education, previous jobs, or professional organizations. By bringing up a shared interest or connection, candidates can show that they did their homework while also breaking the ice and forging an immediate connection.
Prepare answers to the most common interview questions.
The questions that C-level interviewers ask are not necessarily on par with traditional interview questions, but they are not far off, either. By thinking about their answers to these questions, C-level candidates get the creative juices flowing and are better prepared to offer cogent answers to the more complicated questions that they might encounter. Some of the basic interview questions include:
- What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?
- Why did you leave your last job? Why were you laid off?
- Why do you want this particular job?
- What is your leadership style?
- What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals?
- How do you engage your employees?
Candidates may also want to brainstorm questions that they want to ask the interviewer. These questions may center around those skills desired in new hires, company processes and culture, and even personal opinions about working at the company.
Consider the executive-specific questions that might be asked.
When interviewing for C-level positions, decision makers want to see that a candidate has thought critically about the company and his or her potential role in it. While it is difficult to predict exactly which questions the interviewer will ask, candidates should think about a handful of critical points before they go in for an interview. First, candidates should think about the future of the company and the challenges that it will likely face in its particular sector and then brainstorm some strategies to address those challenges. Next, candidates should think about their specific role as it pertains to these strategies. Often, interviewers want to know what specifically a candidate plans to do in the first days, weeks, and months of employment at the company. Individuals should also think about the resources that they will need to bring their vision to fruition.