The interview may very well be more than the “final nod” of approval. This final crucial encounter could make or break your success in landing the position. At this executive level, it’s important to know what to expect in order to best prepare for it, say experts at Harris Allied, a recruiting firm specializing in the placement of technology professionals within the financial services sector.
“What typically throws candidates when interviewing with the ‘C’ suite is not the substance of the questions but the style of the interviewer,” explained Kathy Harris, managing director at Harris Allied. “Stylistically the CEO/CIO/CFO/COO can throw even the most practiced interviewer off of their game. Even if you’ve done your homework, it’s important to remember that the interview style of the CEO will probably be very different from their television or video personality.”
Harris offers her insights on six interview styles she’s seen foil top candidates:
Autocratic: This domineering style might put you on edge or distract you with concerns about the work environment under this type of authority. Don’t take it personally or let it throw you off. Even the most approachable CEO can have a bad day or quirky interview style. It’s not necessarily reflective of their management style. Candidates should almost over prepare for interviews by researching the company, key executives and initiatives. It’s not just enough to look at the website and know revenues and industry position. Candidates who prep by rehearsing their key messages and questions for the interviewer are more confident and less likely to be caught off guard.
Folksy/Neighborly: This overly casual style might make you lose focus or feel so comfortable you let the conversation drift to off-topic matters. This can be especially deadly — it’s still an interview. Smile and look for a segue to bring the conversation back to the company and position. “I can see why people like working here. You’ve reinforced my desire to join and make a contribution to this organization. Please tell me more about some of your top initiatives.”
Disinterested: This distracted style might make you wonder if they are even seriously considering you for the position, or perhaps they are just going through the motions for some unknown reason. Keep in mind that a busy executive wouldn’t spend time in an interview for no reason. They may have come from a difficult meeting, be trying to solve another problem, or haven’t had time to thoroughly review your resume. They are listening and you’re in their office. Stick to your plan.
Salesy: This “look at everything we can do for you” style might make you feel like “this is a slam dunk” and leave you complacent. Don’t get overconfident — you don’t have the job yet! Most senior hires are consensus decisions made by a team. It’s important to give them the answer to the question “Why hire him?” that will inevitably come up later.
Brick Wall: This hard-to-grasp style might be frustrating in its lack of feedback. You just can’t get a “read” on them and think to yourself “who is this person?” This is where preparation builds the confidence to speak to the value you bring to the organization. Keep it businesslike and professional. A good question to ask is what do they see as the greatest challenge facing the company at the present time. Sometimes even senior people need an icebreaker.
Contrarian: This style seems to be just plain argumentative. This is especially tough for candidates to get past. I’ve known organizations where an interviewer intentionally takes this position to see how candidates react in difficult or stressful situations. Will they lose their cool? Become agitated or distracted? Smile. Take a breath and think “Teflon.”
“Regardless of which style of interview you face — you’ve made your plan, you’ve come prepared, and you know you are the best candidate for the job,” noted Harris. “The interview process is difficult for most organizations to navigate. It’s time-consuming, distracting, and, while everyone agrees there’s nothing more important than talent acquisition, it’s generally no one’s first choice of activities. This is your chance to shine; prepare and bring your ‘A Game.'” – By Barbara Safani
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