Over the years, I’ve heard executive clients proclaim that they are skilled at job interviews, negotiations, and interpersonal skills. Here is what I hear:
“People love me.”
“I do well.”
“I’ve never had a problem.”
. . . And then, after a series of senior-level job interviews, there are zero offers on the table. These high-level professionals are competent, repeatedly recruited, and rapidly promoted during their careers.
Being invited to participate in a job interview is a privilege extended to the applicant. At the executive level, it is assumed that applicants have the skills and technical abilities required to do the job. At this level, a great deal of weight is given to the “fit” factor.
If you are not known to the organization (i.e., you were not referred), decision-makers will be even more critical and careful when assessing your credentials and fit.
Here are a handful of questions that will be on the mind of the CEO, the chairman of the board, or other decision-maker.
- Will you get along well with our team?
- Will you rock the boat?
- Will you steal from us? Yes, this is a reality when you consider White collar crime is on the rise. Of internal crimes, 53% are committed by middle management; 18% by senior management (up from 4%) according to a report conducted by PWC. Since 9/11, companies are vigilant about hiring executives with even the most impeccable credentials. Even before you make it to the first conversation, there will be preliminary background checks conducted, including a Google search and LinkedIn search to see if anything comes up attached to your name.
- What will you cost our organization? What training will you need? If you are from another industry, how will you ramp up and who will pick up the slack while you’re ramping?
- How long will you stay with us?
This is just the beginning of the many questions that are at the forefront of your interviewers’ minds. Each C-level leader on the team will have his/her opinion of what the ideal candidate will look like and will therefore have his/her own questions that will need to be answered.
Now onto the deal breakers for job interviews. Business and tech-savvy executive candidates have a great deal to bring to an organization and are experts in finance, production, sales, marketing, customer service, investor relations, legal counsel, etc.
However, when overzealous job candidates approach the interview as the expert, here is what can turn a potential deal into a deal breaker:
- Telling the CEO how to run his/her business.
- Telling the CEO what’s wrong with his/her product.
- Trying to influence the CEO to close the job offer too soon.
Job interviews are not like negotiating a standard business deal—at least not at first. The purpose of the job interview for the organization’s decision makers is risk mitigation. Your job, as the candidate, is to demonstrate humility and follow the lead of the interviewer.
Listen carefully to the questions asked at this stage. Listen for themes. If there is a major emphasis on shrinkage or internal audit for example, you may be able to glean where the needs are in this job.
Job interviews are like the dating game in many ways. You begin with a preliminary “discovery” conversation before you move onto dinner with the date’s parents and certainly you would not propose marriage on the first date.
Your job during the process is to gain the trust and address any objections they may have about your suitability.
Here is an approach to job interviews that is popular with my clients:
- Approach the interview conversation from a place of curiosity about the company. Of course, you’ll have done your homework and know what they do, etc., but coming to the conversation from a place of genuine curiosity will be well received.
“Tell me Mr. CEO, what is the biggest trend you’re seeing in the cybersecurity vertical today? What do you think of x?” [x being a recent topic that you’ve researched in detail].
2. Be humble. You’re a guest in the CEO’s office.
3. Be respectful. It’s his/her business after all.
You don’t get to tell him how to run his business until you’re hired.
Ask permission: “Mr. CEO, may I tell you what I learned about your product? I have a few ideas.”
The main objective of the job interview is to win another meeting with the decision-makers so that you can get to know one another.
Trust is the critical value proposition at this stage.
In addition, winning a job offer is much like sports game. You may need to take many shots before scoring.
If you think you’re missing the mark, contact us to discuss your challenges.
And take some well-earned advice from the sports pros:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
“Most ball games are lost, not won.” Casey Stengel
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Babe Ruth
For more insights, read Power Moves for Executive-Level Job Interviews.
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