A How to approach an interview for a new role

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If a candidate asks us How to approach an interview for a new role, at Barron Williams our response is always to approach an interview like you would any important meeting.

Karl Wiggins, in his book Wrong Planet: Searching for your Tribe, states that:

“A lot of us are very good at our jobs but absolutely hopeless at job interviews.” 

At the senior exec level, I would probably disagree with Karl’s statement.

I would also caveat that by saying that some are better at getting the job than doing it, but that’s another article.

You don’t get to this stage of your career without the ability to conduct yourself under pressure and that usually includes being in an interview situation.

However, it would be foolish to think there isn’t some room for improvement. 

You are pitting yourself against equally as skilled professionals. 

You need to stand out! 

At this level, the difference between candidates is often marginal.

And for me, nailing an interview is all about good planning and a professional approach. Just like in any important business meeting…

How should you approach an interview?

The way I advise people to approach it, is to prepare… 

In the words of Abraham Lincoln; “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.

Frame it like an important meeting.

Don’t waste the time and opportunity. If you’re doing it, do it right.

Think about your approach.

What are your objectives?

Key points to communicate.

Questions you want answered, outcomes.

Treat it like any other important meeting. You have them everyday with your own clients and colleagues.

Use the same degree of planning, preparation, confidence and professional execution as you would for any meeting where an important outcome is imperative. 

What are your objectives?

Don’t over think it. Don’t go off at tangents. Keep it simple.

What are my key issues? What are their key issues?

Interviews are only one step in the senior exec hiring process, often they’re combined with verbal and written referencing, psychometric assessment.

However, it is not an over-statement to say that they’re the bedrock of the recruitment process, and often key in comparing candidates against each other as well as against the role brief. 

Other elements are important too of course but they often only confirm the interview decision.

The interview is make or break. Your chance to make the role yours. Here you can create chemistry/rapport.

Prove you ‘fit’ the role and organisation. Demonstrate your approach, how you communicate, persuade, engage, challenge. 

In short; “this is what you’d be hiring”. Be you (but the best you).

Establish the critical intangibles like passion, energy, and cultural fit that simply can’t be determined from a CV.

Show them your great personality as well as your professionalism.

The interview is your chance to demonstrate capability, strategic vision, leadership and that all important cultural fit.

They need to see it. You need to demonstrate it.

Our 5 step approach to an interview for a new role

1. Do Your Research

Know the Company. Know their markets. Know the role. Demonstrate that you know. Your Recruitment Consultant can help!

Comment on the company’s website, press announcements, reports on the company and/or industry sector. Use suggestions to demonstrate; “I see that…” or “How does that affect your plans?” for example.

Analyse their market position and key competitors. It’s not difficult these days.

Look up the LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting and the Board/senior exec team. It’s more or less expected these days! A client just recently said to us; “they didn’t even look me up on LinkedIn…”!

Do your homework! Most people do. But doing it well is important.

Clients are flattered by the courtesy of research, unimpressed by poor answers to the question; “what do you know about us?”.

2. Accomplishments Not Activities

No one wants to know your job description or ‘responsibilities’.

Tell them what you’ve achieved or delivered.

What value did you create? What about your numbers? Sales generated? Projects delivered? Profit growth? Costs saved? Teams led? People promoted?

The hiring manager you’re meeting with doesn’t want to hear about your day-to-day. There’s assumption of basic competence in the role.

They want to know what difference have you made?

Why are you better than the next candidate?

Quantify it. Qualify it. Say it.

Accomplishments will tell them exactly what you’ll bring to the role, and how you approach delivering your goals. 

Prepare and rehearse specific examples.

Tell a brief “war” story that shows how you’ve made a difference to your current organisation.

Be a Situation. Tasks. Action. Result.

Keep it concise. Give them hard facts and figures. Answer the question “so what?”. Know the ‘numbers’. 

Be ready to answer the follow-up questions.

In essence, use examples of past behaviour to concisely detail how you’ll quickly deliver ROI, revenue growth, cost savings, etc? 

3. Show Motivation 

Of all the qualities I’m looking for, motivation tops the list. Do you care?

I want to know what gets people excited about their role. 

What they hope to achieve by making the move to the new role? 

What is driving them and their career?

Dynamism always impresses!

4. Demonstrate Cultural Fit

The more senior the position being filled, the more the interviewer will prioritise cultural fit. 

If you’re at the hiring or shortlist interview it’s not about technical skills…

It is all about fit. 

Being able to lead and motivate others and how you’ll ‘fit’ with the rest of the senior management team.

Can you argue effectively?

Give AND take?

Can you “fall out” with colleagues professionally but without falling out personally? Get the job done as part of a team, their team?

In other words, will you positively develop the team more than other candidates?

5. Put yourself in the driving seat

You can’t drive the interview but it needs to be a two way street. 

Turn the tables occasionally. 

Have a couple of nice broad strategic questions for them…

What’s the most important component in your strategy? …That plan?

Which competitor do you respect the most and why?

What’s the next big challenge facing the sector?

You need to know that you’ll be working with the right people and in the right place too.

Ask the tough questions…

Use the conversation to demonstrate your skills, knowledge and achievement. 

Showcase your positivity, curiosity and determination.

Make sure our client knows what they’ll be getting if they hire you, and what they’ll be missing if they don’t!

Good luck in your next interview.

If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

If you’re looking for your next role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation. 

Barron Williams

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