Amy Parkinson (3)

Being a good interviewee is a skill that’s often underestimated - ironically, it’s sometimes the most capable candidates who can be the poorest at interview.

It’s not unusual for senior candidates with a strong career and impressive CV to have reached their current post purely on internal promotions, thus never experiencing a ‘traditional’ interview.

It is frustrating for head hunters when candidates they champion underperform. Having the tools and experience to present yourself in the best way at interview is critical to avoid missing out on a potential career opportunity.

Here Amy Parkinson, Principal Consultant at executive search and leadership firm Berwick Partners, sets out five ways to succeed at a senior level interview.

  1. Prepare fully - even if you are ‘on the fence’

Imagine being in an interview, knowing this is a promising opportunity, but through lack of preparation you are not demonstrating the best version of you. Good preparation not only includes research of the organisation, the sector and the person interviewing you, but also analysis of their strategic plan, and how you, in this role, will contribute to the organisation achieving its goals.  Failing to prepare may make you appear lazy to your interviewer, and indicate that you are not fully committed to pursuing the opportunity.   

  1. Articulate your skills and achievements

Don’t assume the interviewer knows everything you have achieved or what skills you bring, even if they have your CV.  They want to hear from you why you are the right candidate for their role – so tell them! You may worry about appearing arrogant, but the interviewer will welcome you sharing relevant information.  One of the best ways to do this is evidencing your ability to deliver solutions to their problems, articulately talking through examples of where you have driven a positive outcome and how this has benefitted the business. 

  1. Demonstrate strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is one of the most sought-after attributes in senior roles. Invest time in considering the employer’s strategy and challenges before the interview, as well as your own strategic results. When explaining your experience, concisely articulate the key challenges. How did you join the dots? Who did you need to get on board? What was the result? 

Results are key - businesses are looking for someone who will drive results, so make sure they understand that you have done so in the past and will do this again in the future – but for them.

  1. Be clear about why you are there

I worked with a Finance Director recently who was leaving a large corporate after 26 years. They interviewed at three different companies and gained superb client feedback. Having been so successful I asked what advice they would give others: “I always went along extremely well prepared but also with a strong belief I wanted the job. I was very clear about why I wanted the role and why my experience and competencies were a good fit.”

Be clear about what you can offer and what you are looking for at this stage in your career. Location, salary or work/life balance may play a factor in your application, but be careful about stating these as the primary reason for your interest. 

  1. Show your enthusiasm

Interviewers want to employ people that are passionate about their organisation and the role.  Explaining how the organisation’s values, purpose and goals fit with yours, and how there is a mutual benefit from you joining the company, are compelling reasons for the employer to offer you the role. Asking well-thought out, intelligent questions throughout the interview is also important as it shows a high level of engagement and will help inform your decision to accept a job offer.

Summary

Attending an interview should be a positive experience, even if you’re unsuccessful. It provides a worthwhile opportunity to meet industry contacts, gain feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, and have meaningful business conversations. Using and reflecting on the whole process, including the interview itself, will help equip you for your next senior level interview and refresh your knowledge of what today’s employers are looking for.

Even if you are unsure about a role, if you make the decision to attend an interview, it’s worth investing time to give the best account of yourself, and put yourself in a position of choice.  

A head-hunter can help you prepare for an interview by providing insight into what the client is looking for and what areas of your competencies and experiences will resonate well with them.

Berwick Partners specialises in senior management and director level roles and has specialist functional and sector practices, including its HR practice.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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