Welcome to Part II of our series on job search do’s and don’ts! Our purpose behind this series is to help start your journey with confidence, get noticed and seize upon the next great professional chapter for you. If you haven’t already read it, please take a look at our first installment on starting your search.
There seems to be A LOT of interviewing going on. Our clients are upping their hiring in a targeted way, and our friends in the search industry corroborate that demand for senior leadership is strong, propelled by retirement-related succession, strategic pivots and executives being recruited away. The market for executive talent is dynamic.
It’s also competitive out there. And that brings us to the purpose of this segment: Winning the interview.
• Approach the opportunity as both a buyer and a seller.
Of course, you’re selling your skills and experience to this prospective employer. But you’re also buying the opportunity at hand, the organization’s culture and its strategic direction. Keep front-of-mind what works for you culturally and values-wise, and what your career goals are. Having this “compass” will help you stay true to yourself and can shift the power and help you show up stronger and more discerning.
• Be a storyteller, not a prescriber.
Behavioral based interviewing is increasingly being used as a technique to discover how candidates acted in specific employment-related situations. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future. It also can serve to reduce bias in the selection process, which is a good thing. Be ready to bring your resume to life with stories behind projects, challenges and relationships. As you prepare, review the job description and think about stories from your career that are analogous to the challenges of the role and illustrate your leadership strengths.
As you answer, you’ll want to provide context to the specific situation (i.e., an ERP implementation was failing), describe the challenge or opportunity at hand (i.e., “we had to deliver the ERP implementation within three months and on budget”) and what needed to be done, spell out the action you took and conclude with the result of what happened.
“What do you mean about not being a prescriber?”
We mean coming into an interview and making direct suggestions about how to solve the specific challenges and opportunities you think need to be tackled. You might be seen as presumptuous or straight-out wrong. Instead, you might describe a 100-day process for coming up with those answers. Or you might ask probing questions to understand better those challenges and opportunities.
• Bring your curiosity, not your ego.
95% of interviews conclude with the interviewer asking, “Do you have any questions for us?” So – yes – always come prepared with a list of questions. But when you’re coming up with those questions, try do it from a place of genuine curiosity, not a place of positioning.
What do we mean by that? Well, always do your research, of course. Questions about company culture, strategic opportunities and challenges, diversity and inclusion, and leadership are fantastic. Questions like, “What are they really looking for?” are not. (That makes any recruiter or company wonder if someone has read the position specification!) There are great ways of getting at priorities, like, “There’s a lot in this position specification. Can you share the 2 to 3 most important aspects?” Make sure the preamble to the question is shorter than the question itself, and don’t try to stump the interviewer. No one likes the person who’s trying to be the smartest in the room, so you’ll always benefit from showing up as genuinely curious and invested.
• Optimize your screen presence.
We have all gotten better at video in the past year. And a lot has been published about how to optimize your video presence. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include a few thoughts to help you make a great impression.
First, professionalize your “set” by decluttering the space around you. We’re not big fans of fake backgrounds, as they tend to distort your image and can be distracting. Even if you’re spending your days locked up in a bedroom or playroom, try to set up your corner to be as simple as possible. Get the angle right by propping up your computer to eye level and sitting an arm’s length away.
When you’re in the interview, make every effort to focus on the camera (look at the green light), not yourself.
And the best tip of all (and credit to our friend Allison O’Toole), invest in a $20 dollar ring light to get the effect of natural, indirect light. You’ll look (and feel) like a million bucks.
• Thank you notes matter.
Thank you notes still matter. Write them within a day of a meeting. Make each one unique to the interviewer. And send them by email. Handwritten notes are awesome, but emails have the advantage of speed and actually reaching the intended recipient.
We hope that these tips help you feel confident and prepared for your next interview, and we’d love to hear your best tips and questions! Please – connect with us in any and all ways!