Interviewing at the C-level is obviously different than interviewing for other positions. One of the main things to remember as an outsider competing for a spot at the executive table is that in most cases, your audience does not know you yet. You have a very small window of time to do one thing: Win their trust. The tips below were developed to give you a foundation with which to do that.
C-suite interviews should involve a combination of focus on the metric-driven accomplishments you’ve made that align with the responsibilities of the position you are vetting AND demonstrating your leader/mentor qualities. Ultimately, they should be intrigued, impressed, like you, and trust you.
Consider the seven points below foundational to every interview:
- Get them to invest their energy in you first. In the beginning of the interview, ask them to help you understand in their words what kind of person they are looking for and a summary of the role. ***Take short notes on what they say. These are your interview talking points. ***
- Use broad ranges when discussing salary. For example:
“North of $350K.”
“In the mid-six figures.”
“For the past few years my TOTAL comp has ranged from $1 to $3M.”
Then add, “Since you brought it up, do you mind me asking if you have a budgeted range in mind for this position?”
- In tight spots just play it cool. Never let them see you defensive or frustrated. They will take that as an indicator of how you handle stress and judge accordingly. Your calm, cool demeanor will engender their trust. Phrases associated with this include:
“That’s absolutely no problem.”
“I am sure that won’t be an issue.”
“I am confident we can work that out.”
“I can do that – I am not worried about that.”
- Answer every third or fourth question with a question of your own. This builds co-communication and trust in you as it demonstrates your leadership. You can segue with:
“Since we are on the subject…”
“Since you brought it up…”
“It is interesting that you say that, because I wanted to ask if…”
- Questions you can ask in an interview:
Why is this position open?
Can you describe the qualities and background you believe one will need to possess to perform exceptionally in this role and in the current circumstances?
If I was hired, what would you expect me to accomplish in the first 6 months?
Tell me the best things about your corporate culture that makes this company great?
What motivates your executive team?
How does the company deal with changing priorities?
What are your most pressing issues?
Where do we go from here?
- Finish on a positive note. At the end of the interview, say something complimentary from your heart about them – either the company/the product or the service/the culture. Tell them you are excited and want the position, if that is how you feel.
- Follow up with a thank-you letter and a page of short third party testimonials. After the interview, send a thank-you letter that identifies a couple of important things you discussed and remind them of a few short results you have achieved that demonstrate your accomplishments are in alignment with their goals. Third party testimonials are extremely important to gaining the trust needed for placement in leadership roles.