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My BEST Tips for C-level Executives on Interviewing and Negotiating

executive-interviewInterviewing 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:

  1. 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. ***
  1. 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?”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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…”

  1. 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?

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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Quick Tips for C-Level Executives on Working with Executive Recruiters

executive-recruitersWorking with executive recruiters is one of the primary ways top executives find their next opportunity. Here are a few tips from the top retained recruiting firms that place senior executives and those seeking BOD positions.

  1. Make sure you match up your skills and industry with their specialty for best results – although many major recruiting firms cover most industries.
  1. Don’t worry about geography. Recruiters are primarily industry specialists and will have clients everywhere.
  1. Send them a great resume in PDF format. They may ask for a word version, or ask you to upload your resume into their database or fill out a form on their website (someone has to do it) as well. You can take a look at some of our executive resume samples here.
  1. Call. It takes more time to call, but your call will be worth it. Ask the person answering the phone for someone specifically or the recruiter who is in charge of your industry (e.g., the recruiter that specializes in general operations searches, or construction, or healthcare, etc.). Have what you want to say written out. Note that you should call before sending your resume if you are in a confidential or passive search.

If you have not sent your resume:

“Hi, this is ____ and I am a(n) ____. I am calling to introduce myself. I am in a (highly confidential – tell them if you are!) career transition and I wanted to reach out to you personally because I understand that you specialize in my industry.  May I send you my resume? I would welcome a conversation if you feel I am a good match for any of your open searches.”

If you have sent your resume:

“Hi this is ____. I sent my resume in last week and wanted to follow up with a phone call to briefly introduce myself and to find out if you have any open searches in the ____ industry that I might be a good potential candidate for.”

If you want or need more tips on networking, phone and email scripts, I provide step-by-step templates in my online store.

  1. Understand what motivates recruiters to pitch you their best client company job openings.
  • Have excellent marketing material and learn how to interview so they don’t have to train you.
  • Act professionally on the phone and in person.
  • If you say something that sounds an alarm, the client company will typically tell the recruiter. The recruiter may or may not divulge this to you, because it’s a slippery slope.
  • Rehearse your interviews and understand what the right and wrong things to say are.  Speak to the recruiter professionally; don’t confide, even if pressed or if you are buddies with the recruiter. They are not working for you, they are working for the company. You can find some tips on C-level interviewing here.

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