When you are interviewing for an executive job, it is essential to come prepared. The interview process for management positions is different from traditional employee interviews, and the questions that the recruiter will ask you will not be limited to your field of expertise and professional experience. You will also be expected to know more than just the basics about the company you might be joining and, perhaps even more importantly, you will need to be able to discuss your management style - and its strengths and weaknesses - with the recruiter. Your success at the job interview depends on you convincing the recruiter that your management skills align well with the needs of their business.
In an executive job interview, the recruiter will try to assess your leadership skills and competencies, as well as how you have dealt with circumstances in the past with regard to conflict, resource allocation, staff morale, and other situations that called for your management skills to come into play. Think about some of the situations in which you have successfully tackled a problem or resolved an issue to everyone’s satisfaction. Carefully consider the examples that you will bring up during the interview and focus on the positive outcome of each situation, not just how you personally contributed to it.
With leadership positions, a candidate’s education and professional background are as important as in any job interview, so you should absolutely be prepared to mention at least a few things that you bring to the table in this respect. The skills most likely to impress a recruiter are always the ones that helped you to achieve measurable success at your previous firm. Again, make it about the results. Your skills are not particularly compelling when you discuss them in a vacuum.
Some of the skills and qualities critical for success in an executive position that often arise in the job interview are:
When it comes to specifics, if you can, try to find out about the management style at the company beforehand, just to make sure that it isn’t dramatically different from yours. Companies looking to recruit new people to management positions want results first and foremost, but they may be wary of making drastic changes that could impact employees’ morale.
There are certain questions that are common in managerial and executive job interviews. They are presented here with some basic guidelines on how to tailor your responses.
Question 1: Tell me about yourself.
Your response should never take more than two to three minutes. While it is acceptable to throw in a few personal details, focus on your career highlights. This is an opportunity to tell the recruiter how your achievements helped you climb the ladder to management level and what you have accomplished as a business leader. Before the interview, think about your career highlights and practice telling your story. Find ways to make it engaging to the recruiter. The ability to engage and inspire is essential in outstanding leadership, and an executive recruiter will always be able to recognize it. On a more practical level, you will come across as more confident if you know in advance which achievements you will bring up and how you will talk about them.
Question 2: Why are you leaving your current position or job?
It is important to keep your answer to this question positive. A negative response could indicate to the interviewer a lack of loyalty or consideration for the place you are leaving, immaturity or avoidance in owning your responsibility for issues and conflicts. An example of a positive response is, “The position allowed me to gain experience managing a staff and working with senior executives. I am ready to expand my roles and level of responsibility and think this would be an interesting challenge.”
Question 3: Tell me about an experience where you feel you failed.
This question’s purpose is to evaluate your ability to identify your own weaknesses, your ability to learn from experiences where the outcome was not positive, and your willingness to take responsibility for failure. Remain honest, do not reply, “I have never failed.” Focus on a specific experience, spend one minute explaining the background issue, clearly identify where you believe you made incorrect choices or decisions, and demonstrate how you applied what you learned to another situation. End the response on a positive note. If you were successful at minimizing losses, or discovered a new business opportunity after a project that failed, these would definitely be the things to mention during this part of the interview. The worst thing to do is be too defensive or blame circumstances and other people for the failure of a project that you yourself led.
Question 4: Name three of your strengths and three of your weaknesses.
The key to responding to this question is to avoid discussing characteristics critical to the position as a weakness, and owning strengths that are important to the specific job responsibilities. If the position requires scheduling or handling many deadlines, you should discuss your ability to multi-task, your use of collaboration or time management software, or give an example of a project you successfully managed. When discussing weaknesses, indicate how you are working to correct them.
Question 5: What do you know about our company?
At this level of professionalism, you are expected to research a company before applying. Repeating website information won’t sound original. Learn the company’s values and mission. Discuss how your own values are similar. Discuss the company’s history. You may not remember what year it was founded, but knowing whether it’s a newly formed organization or has been around for 50 years is important. Knowing the CEO’s name and those of the key personnel does more than help during the interview. It shows the recruiter that you have a healthy interest in the company’s leadership and, if you also know what their responsibilities are, it lets the recruiter know that you are genuinely interested in the work that lies ahead and that your interest in joining the executive team goes beyond personal ambition.
Knowing what kind of challenges the company has faced in the past can help you better understand how your personal experience dealing with similar issues can benefit their business, so be prepared to discuss this with the recruiter. In the end, the more successful you are at presenting yourself as a solution to the company’s problems, the more likely you are to get hired.
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