“Your job at the interview is to be as helpful as you can,” said Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, a seasoned search consultant and author of Great People Decisions

He comments that most interviewers focus too heavily on experience and not enough on competence, and that it is the executive’s job during the interview to demonstrate he or she has what it takes to be a perfect fit for the position.

1. Prepare for the interview

stand_out_executive_interviewNo matter how many times you have heard this, it is worth repeating: do your homework—due diligence. Before an interview, dedicate a reasonable amount of time to research important factors about the company you are interviewing with, such as industry trends, company culture, products, highs and lows of company history, etc. Tap your resources for any insights you can glean about the organization, its business activities, goals, etc. Talk to people that you know, including any company employees (past and present).

2. Create your story

Not only are stories memorable, but people generally have a higher level of engagement when information is relayed in story fashion. It keeps the listener’s attention if the story is interesting and succinct. Consider putting together 10-12 stories that showcase your talents, skills, and career-defining initiatives using the CAR formula (Challenge with context, Action, and Results). Lead with the results to grab the interviewer’s attention and then weave in the challenge and how you achieved the results. These stories are valuable when you can use them to answer an interview question. Think of business situations you have experienced that relate to that employer so that your stories are more directly relevant.

3. Focus on fit

What makes you the right candidate for the position? In what ways do you match? Even if you are not an exact fit in every way for a new position, clearly indicate how your potential makes you a top contender for the job. Explain how your leadership, management style, ability to influence, and operational expertise (name a few characteristics) mirror the requirements they seek.

4. First impressions counts

Interviewers pay attention to how you speak, body language, clothes, and facial expressions. Similar to capturing the reader’s attention in the first several seconds with your resume, you need to present the best impression that will clearly fix you in the mind of the interviewers so that they’re thinking of you in that context as the interview progresses. Most importantly, project confidence as you draw attention to details you want to share.

5. Present the best “you”

Employers (and recruiters) can be suspicious of executives that oversell themselves. Whenever possible, relate “context” (the situation) information in your responses to help interviewers understand your value. What was going on at each company when you joined the organization or were promoted? Why were you hired or selected for that assignment? What goals were you given, what challenges did you face, and what obstacles did you encounter? A rich context lets the interviewer better understand and absorb what you did and how you can apply those skills and talents to their company.

6. Prepare for zinger questions

The interviewer’s job is to ask questions that will reveal what they want to know. Perhaps your resume shows a gap in employment, incomplete education, or frequent job changes. How do you explain those situations to your advantage? A reasonable three-pronged approach might be: 1) prepare a straightforward answer that is short and to the point; 2) prepare a more detailed response that describes the circumstances in more detail; 3) if the interviewer pushes for more, be ready to go into a deeper level of information that will satisfy the interviewer while substantiating your motives. Being prepared is key so the interviewer does not catch you off-guard.

7. Use radar perception

Apply the same strategies you rely on in business to your interview. When a business meeting is going “south,” how do you save or change the outcome? Think about how you can use similar tactics to turnaround an interview. Individual dynamics play a big part in interviews, and following interview protocol may or may not always work. Be flexible and adapt to the situation.

Ultimately it has to be the right match for both you and the organization. If you are becoming aware during the interview of any red flags about the position, people or organization, pay attention to your instincts to ensure that it’s the best career move for you.


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