The key to executive interview success is preparation. Interviewing methods differ between companies and people. Are you prepared for a non-traditional interview?
A phone interview is often one of the first interviews an executive will encounter. Some call this a pre-screen interview when an executive recruiter picks up the phone and calls a candidate – typically to screen them out. This unexpected call can throw some candidates off.
TIPS: If you receive an unscheduled call by a recruiter or hiring manager, ask for a minute to close your office door, or move to a quiet room. You want to be at ease in answering questions and not be distracted by noise or interruptions. If you are unavailable at the time of the call, ask to schedule a more convenient time – or don’t answer the call if it’s not a good time.
Companies are using Skype or video chats more often, especially for executive candidates that are not local. This saves the company money and still gives them an opportunity to observe the potential employee’s body language, voice inflection, and overall demeanor.
TIPS: Conduct yourself as if you were attending the executive interview in person – that includes how you dress, sit in a chair, look at the interviewer, etc. Wherever the Skype interview is being held (home or office), be sure to check your lighting, audio, and how much of the surrounding area the camera captures ahead of time. If you are sitting at a desk, make sure it is cleaned off, and that any pictures on the wall behind you are professional. Also, be aware of your body language and gestures as they can be exaggerated when transmitted through video.
Interviews have followed a traditional format of one interviewer asking questions to one candidate for decades, and it is considered to be the most popular type of interview. Traditional interviews ask such questions as: “What makes you a good contender for this job?” or “Why do you want to work for X company?” Traditional interviews are usually conducted at the company offices and may require several interviews with various levels of employees to achieve team consensus.
TIPS: Most executives have experienced traditional interviews. In your responses, focus on highlighting how your skills, experience, and accomplishments position you as the perfect match to the job requirements.
Some people think group and panel interviews are the same thing, but they are distinctly different. A group interview includes a number of candidates that are being interviewed at the same time. This type of interview is conducted even at the executive level. Typically, the company will give a short presentation and then ask questions of each candidate individually, as well as throw out a few questions to the group.
TIPS: Keep in mind that you are being observed on how well you interact with others (complete tasks that are assigned to the group), and if you emerge as a leader, how well you relate to other personality types and survive among your competitors.
Panel interviews consist of several interviewers asking questions to one candidate. These panelists bring perspectives from different departments within the organization such as operations, human resources, management, and even other employees could be involved in the later stage panel interviews. Companies conduct these panel interviews to get collective opinions and save the time it would take for each of the panelists to interview with the candidate separately.
TIPS: Maintain good eye contact with the group of panelists and especially with the person asking a specific question. Try to get a business card or write down each panelist’s name so that you can address him or her personally when responding to a question. Appeal to each person’s importance on the team to help establish a feeling of camaraderie.
Behavioral interview questions have become more common over the years. Companies base the future performance of an executive candidate on past accomplishments in similar situations. The main objective is to try to uncover how you solve problems.
TIPS: Be prepared to answer such questions as: “Tell me about a time when you encountered X. Explain the context of the situation, the steps you took to solve the problem, and the impact of the results.” Prepare several responses that highlight your strengths in leadership, finance, operations, and related areas.
So you made it to the second interview – yes, most lunch interviews are conducted as a second or third interview in the hiring process. But, remember it is not about the food or the fact that you are being treated to a “free” lunch. This interview is set up to see how you fit with the rest of the team. Take this opportunity to observe the people at the table.
TIPS: Be considerate of your potential employer and order a reasonably priced meal. Don’t order anything messy to eat. Use your best table manners – keep bites small so you can answer questions during lunch without having to swallow big portions of food before responding.