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Eight tips for your CEO job interview


How should you prepare if you’re going to be interviewed for an executive role? Early careerists get plenty of interview advice, but those at the top are left to their own devices, writes Jane Rankin for Management Today.

The author lists eight ways you can prepare for that all-important leadership role interview.

1) Be yourself. Authenticity is the most important leadership quality, says Rankin. Be honest and genuine, especially at interview.

2) Show off your research. Show that you know your stuff, but don’t just parrot the company’s literature. Start a conversation about the company’s successes and failures, or about recent policy and strategy.

3) Have an opinion. At this senior level, your interviewer is going to want to know what you think about the industry and its issues. Talk about the company’s rivals, peers and regulatory issues. Speak confidently and have an opinion. Be controversial, even, so long as you can back up what you think with fact.

4) Have a career plan. One of the big interview questions at senior level is: where do you want to be in five or ten years’ time and how do you plan to get there? Don’t be afraid to talk about where you need to improve, advises Rankin. Demonstrate that you continue to look upwards, even if you are already at or near the top.

5) Choose your words. Don’t let nerves get the better of you, warns Rankin. Don’t gabble and choose your words carefully.

Pensive silence isn’t always a bad thing at interview. If there are gaps in the conversation, don’t feel you have to fill them all, but on the other hand, don’t let awkward silences develop. Try to strike a balance.

6) Ask about corporate governance. The issue of governance is most important for publicly listed companies, says Rankin, but it still matters to other businesses. Ask the interviewer about governance and demonstrate how you ensured good governance in previous roles.

7) Have answers to all the standard questions. Rankin lists five questions that she says come up in every leadership role interview. She advises you prepare answers to the following:

  • Why does this role excite you more than your current position?
  • What has been the hardest challenge of your career and how did you deal with it?
  • What is the toughest decision you have had to make?
  • Describe a target or objective you have failed to meet and how you dealt with the failure.
  • What do you want to achieve in your first 100 days to feel successful in your new role?

8) Show you can work in a team. Demonstrating that you can collaborate successfully in the boardroom tells your interviewer that you are capable of doing so in your new role.