If you're mid-career and think all interviews are the same, no matter your level, think again. Preparing for a big interview for a momentous step up in your career should not be overlooked.
To help make sure you know what to expect and how to nail an interview for a Senior-level position, we spoke with Carol Bowser, President of Conflict Management Strategies Inc., to share some advice on the interview process.
The necessary skills for a senior level job
Just as any position would require a set-level of skills, before you interview for a senior position, make sure you are a qualified candidate that has the necessary skills for the job. If you are hoping to work in a senior level position, the best thing you can do right now, or before an interview, is make sure you are the best candidate, and much of that involves developing skills in management, conflict resolution, problem solving and giving feedback.
“The workplace is littered with folks who are technically component but managerially inept,” says Bowser. “If you can give feedback, hold yourself accountable, help teams function better, and get the work done, you’ll be seen as the best candidate for the job.”
If the position has less to do with managing a team and more to do with technical skills, Bowser says you still need to have decent communication skills, so that is an area to focus on during your interview where you can highlight how well you communicate with your co-workers.
Network, network, network!
If you are interviewing for a senior level position, you cannot just sit back and approach it as if it’s your first job interview. You have to network and be in communication with the other senior leaders if you want to make a strong impression.
“If you get the job, the result is that you must regularly communicate with other senior leaders and outside stakeholders. You must know how to play well in the sand box with others even if you don’t have direct reports,” says Bowser. “Although, we may not want to admit it, the workplace is full of politics and work is usually done through others. Building relationships while getting the work done is important, and it is key to deliver results without destroying relationships or making enemies-particularly at the senior level.”
The biggest thing that hiring managers are looking for in senior level employees?
The answer: leadership.
Bowser advises honing in on your leadership skills if you want to land a senior level position. She explains that the ability to do many things that are all labeled as important without getting stuck is a huge part of being a senior level worker. You also need to be able to manage your stress without blowing up and be able to adapt to many different changes.
Possessing all these qualities and showcasing your readiness to be a strong and efficient leader will help set you apart in an interview.
Be prepared to “dig deep” during the interview
Bowser notes that there is a trend among hiring managers to “dig deep” during an interview for a senior level position. This means you need to be prepared for probing questions, such as “Tell me about a time when you have failed,” or “What is your biggest challenge?” and “How do you handle working with someone with whom you disagreed?”
This tactic allows hiring managers and employers to try and dig in to see how you respond and determine how self-aware you are. How you respond to these questions could make or break your interview–so make sure you are prepared.
“When in doubt, pivot to the requirements of the job. How you see yourself performing and leading other smart competent people,” advises Bowser.
Don’t just apply for the senior level position just because it’s a higher pay or will look good on your resume later. Rather, take the time to actually consider if this is what you want and if you’re moving up at the right company. Bowser advises talking to those who can give you information about the working environment of the senior level staff because if you step into a situation that ends up not being a good cultural fit for you, it could end up being a nightmare.
If you get hired, you will have all these new expectations and you will need to quickly grow better and more efficient at all of your tasks. Moreover, you will now likely be supervising your former co-workers, so you need to take the time to consider how you will go about that transition to avoid any awkwardness and make sure they take you seriously.
This interview is going to be much different from your first job interview, during which you had no experience. Stepping into an interview for a senior level position is a huge step and the interviewer will be ready to ask the big questions.
“There are two universal assessment questions they will ask, “Can this person do the job in the time and to the quality standard we need?” and, “Is this someone I can work with?” But, these are questions that both sides should be asking,” says Bowser.