The interview process can be nerve-wracking yet exhilarating - whether you are a fresh graduate or seasoned executive. Regardless of seniority, all candidates need to prepare for the process.
The difference of course lies in the depth of research and preparation that is required. Based on our experience as an executive search firm, the emphasis on executives is not only on your experience but your soft skills as well (i.e. emotional intelligence, leadership, vision, etc.). Below are some tips to best prepare for your interview.
Below are some tips to best prepare for your interview - no matter what position.
1. Know Thyself
Take meditative time to think about your present state of mind. What has caused you to explore a new opportunity? Why at this time in your life are you looking to make a change in your career?
It's important to have clarity about your own personal motivation and focus only on opportunities that are both meaningful to you and aligned with your career aspirations to avoid potential disappointments or decisions made later for the wrong reasons.
Also, know your résumé cold! It does not reflect well when you can’t recall past positions or confuse the chronology and timing of your positions.
2. Do your Research
Once you have scheduled an interview with a company, the first and most logical step is to learn more about the company, senior management including the current CEO and previous leadership.
What is the CEO's vision, what have they achieved - and what are their plans for future growth?
Answering these questions will give you a better sense of how you are able to make a contribution, be of value, and use that information during your interview.
Are you passionate about their business and what they stand for? The interview is a great opportunity to learn more about the business and gain insight into the culture of the company. Your knowledge and understanding of the company indicates an intelligent and well connected professional who is motivated and interested.
3. Know your Audience
Ask for the interview schedule and names of who you will be meeting with. A proactive Executive Search partner will often provide this list and accompanying biographies for your review.
If bios are not provided, try to research on LinkedIn and the company site regarding the interviewers. This will help you prepare for each interview, topics of conversation and what each interviewer might focus on. Anything that stands out in the
interviewers’ past career track, or current accomplishments could be great conversation pieces during the interview.
4. Tailor your Presentation
If you are interviewing for a Creative Executive role, it is important to tailor your visual presentation to what the company is looking for.
Bring out the samples of work that will resonate with the client. A sharply edited presentation that focusses on the client's needs will be better received than a general and broad presentation of your life's work. It indicates you understand the role and the brand.
For some business roles such as in Marketing, past work examples and case studies can also be helpful to illustrate the impact you have made to a business. Even when a visual presentation is not required for the meeting, think about your overall personal presentation and presence for the interview. This includes the outfit you wear to the interview!
We always remember the story of a top executive level candidate went in for his seventh and final interview with the president of a global company. The candidate wanted to show respect and showed up in a sharp suit and tie.
He was not offered the job because the president thought he was not in touch with the brand's culture. The president was surprised that after six previous meetings, he had not noticed the culture and style of the company. If he had dressed more casually, mirroring the brand, he would have gotten the job.
Conversely if you are interviewing at a fashion brand, you want to come across chic and avoid wearing a competing fashion brand overtly emblazoned across your clothing or accessories.
5. Be Yourself
The interview should flow like a mindful storytelling experience. A strategic, but easy flow of conversation, that engages the interviewer on many levels: personally and professionally.
The more comfortable you feel in your own skin, the more authentic you will come across. We have seen candidates who try to oversell themselves which gives the impression of desperation rather than passion. Candidates that convey confidence have already won the biggest battle.
6. Show your Point of Difference
To “blend in with the herd” or “become one with the tribe” to be accepted type of thinking is often seen as a detriment.
Candidates that speak passionately about their ideas will immediately engage the person on the other side of the table. Show who you are, and not who you think they want you to be.
The more individual and authentic you are, the more you and your future employer will know if this company is the right one for you. The fit should be easy, not forced. There is a big difference between being authentic, sincere and outspoken vs. an overinflated Ego. People want to hire candidates who will be respected by their peers, who are team players. Check your ego at the door.
7. You are also interviewing the company
This does not mean that you are just firing lots of questions about the job description! It means that you ask intelligent questions that indicate your understanding of the company, its growth trajectory and how the role contributes to the overall goals. This is also where you get to dig a bit deeper into the employer's expectations for the right candidate.
The research you have done and preparation ahead of the meeting will aid you in a lively conversation around the company’s strategy and vision, rather than focus on functions, and responsibilities. Be prepared to talk about what interests you about this role and the company. Why are you here?
Last but not least; do smile, give a firm handshake, look your interviewer in the eye and use your sense of timing to engage your interviewer.
Let the interviewer be the conductor, and you play the first violin.
8. Show gratitude
The next day, send follow up thank you notes individually to each of the people who interviewed you. Each note should be slightly different referring to the context of your discussions.
Emails vs. Letters are to the discretion of the interviewee. Sometimes it is appropriate to do both, emails for immediacy and letters as a follow up.
Best of luck!