Job Search

7 Tips on Interviewing for an Executive-Level Position

job interview

To ace an executive-level job interview, you need to have good answers, ask questions of your own, and cover all the basics that every job seeker should be doing.

However, that’s not always enough to get the best jobs. At the senior levels, employers are looking for specific examples of past successes, a strong cultural fit, and more.

How to Ace the Job Interview and Land a Senior-Level Role

1. Be ready to show off specific accomplishments.

One way to stand out is to talk about specific results you brought about in your past work.

While other candidates are saying, “Yes, I’ve managed people before,” you should be saying, “Yes, I’ve managed people before. In fact, in my last position, I managed a team of 7 sales associates who brought in $22 million in sales last quarter.”

You don’t need to be in sales to come up with metrics and specific accomplishments, either.

You can talk about headcounts or the number of projects you managed. You can talk about the volume of work (e.g. “I led a team handling 900 inbound customer requests per day).”

You can also talk about company-wide metrics or business metrics. For example, you could say, “I led the content marketing effort for a website receiving 5,000,000 monthly page views and generating $28,000,000 in revenue annually.”

Getting familiar with metrics and results will help you stand out when answering a variety of interview questions. You can mention one or two of these details when responding to surface-level questions like, “Can you tell me about yourself?” and you’ll feel confident going more in-depth as they ask more questions about your past.

2. Make them picture a future with you.

In an executive-level interview, getting them excited about your background is only half the battle; you also need to get them excited about what you’d do for them.

While most candidates spend the interview discussing their past, try to spend an equal amount of time discussing the future.

Talk about how you’d help them succeed. Discuss their goals and priorities and how your skill set fits into that. Share ideas and suggestions. Show you have a vision for what you could accomplish in this role.

Talking about the future is a great way to stand out and get them warmed up to the idea of hiring you.

3. Make it personal.

job interviewEmployers aren’t just thinking, “Can this person do the job?” in your interview.

They’re evaluating whether you seem passionate, whether you’ll fit into the company culture, and whether you’re the type of person they’d enjoy working with each day. This is especially true at higher levels.

So make sure you’re selling yourself as a person, not just a professional. Make the conversation feel real. Show excitement for your work. If the job involves leadership, demonstrate enthusiasm for that area and talk about your leadership style and why you enjoy it.

Get to know the interviewer, too. Learn their name and use it in the conversation.

Also, send thank-you emails after the job interview to reaffirm your interest in the position and show appreciation for the interviewer’s time. When you do this, mention something specific you enjoyed talking about with that person. If you met with multiple people, send separate emails to each person to ensure a personalized feel.

4. Research the people you’re speaking with.

Hiring decisions often come down to cultural fit and “chemistry” at the higher levels, so the more you can bond with the interviewer(s), the better.

That means you should do some research on LinkedIn to understand the interviewer’s background. Take a look at their education, career path, and how they got into their current position.

This will give you talking points and help you build rapport during the interview.

For example, you could think of one or two questions you want to ask them about how they advanced within the company, after seeing their career path on LinkedIn. Anytime you can ask a personalized question that shows you did your research, you’ll stand out from other candidates.

By doing this research, you’ll also be able to anticipate what questions they’re likely to ask you. For example, if you’re interviewing for a Chief Information Officer (CIO) role, you’re going to face different questions when the HR coordinator interviews you compared to when you talk with the VP of Technology. Knowing who you’re talking to will help you prepare better answers.

5. Practice storytelling.

Storytelling can set you apart from other job seekers in an interview.

It helps the other person picture the scenario and makes it more likely they’ll remember what you’re saying. So before your interview, practice explaining past situations and telling stories that you think will highlight your fit for their role.

I recommend the S.T.A.R. method for this:

  • Situation: Explain the general situation you were in.
  • Task: Describe the task that needed to be done.
  • Action: Talk about the action or strategy you chose and why.
  • Result: Finally, tell the interviewer about the final outcome. 

This is a simple, effective framework for storytelling and answering behavioral interview questions that will keep you organized and on-track.

6. Prepare open-ended questions to create a dialogue.

Asking questions like, “What does it take to be successful here?” can lead to an in-depth conversation where you can learn about the role, talk about how you’d help the company, and build even more rapport with the interviewer.

Other good questions you can ask:

  • What does success look like in the first 90 days with this position?
  • What is something you’re hoping a new person can bring to this role?
  • What are some of the challenges of working here?

There’s one other tactic you can use to transform the interview into a back-and-forth dialogue, too: End some of your interview answers with a question directed back at them.

For example, imagine they ask, “What were you responsible for in your last role?”

Perhaps you built and led a small team, so you describe that process in your answer. Now here’s the key to this strategy: After giving your response, you can say, “I saw on the job description that this role would involve the chance to build a small team, too. Can you tell me more about that?”

If you approach the interview like this and mix your own questions into the conversation, they’ll start to see you as a colleague and feel more at-ease with you, which will boost your chances of getting the job.

7. Reference past conversations.

If you’re in a second- or third-round interview and a repeat topic comes up, you can say something like, “Beth and I discussed this quite a bit in my last interview, too. What are your thoughts on ___?”

Referencing past conversations is a great way to show you’re engaged, interested, and that you’d fit in well with the team.

Note that you should never use this as a tactic to avoid discussing a repeat topic; instead, use this as a way to add to the conversation and show that you take a collaborative approach.

If you do this, they’ll see you as someone who can facilitate discussions and pull together information from multiple conversations, which will be an asset to any employer who’s looking for a leader.

The bottom line: Employers are looking for more than just past experience and knowledge when they’re hiring senior-level employees. If you follow the tips above, you’ll stand out from the competition and receive more job offers.


Don’t go into a job interview without knowing how to negotiate your salary.


 

About the Author

Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter and job search author. His blog, Career Sidekick, is read by over one million people a month and has been mentioned in Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and more. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 on how to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive jobs with less stress. Connect with Biron on LinkedIn here.