Executive Interview Preparation: The Checklist

If you are a typical executive, it’s a challenge to find time on your calendar to prepare for interviews. When you do carve out that space, here’s a checklist of what you should cover.

Businesswoman working in the office

Due diligence – know as much as you can about the target organization and management beforehand, including what they do, why and who else is in the game

If you are extra short on time and not familiar with the market, management team, products or other other important data points, check if there are videos online that you can watch or hear while going about your other activities. 

Common ground – find out what you have in common with your interviewers and who else you might know (or can get to know) at the company; use LinkedIn® and other resources; reach out to colleagues and their networks where appropriate

Posture / Energy – plan how you can gear up on interview day with a power pose; watch your body language in the room (eat well the night before and that morning!)

Confidence – “I can handle it. Here’s what I’ve done that’s analogous….”

Concise, targeted value proposition – why should they hire you? what do you offer?

For phone interviews, you can have this in front of you, with a page for each of your three to five most important points and examples that support each.

Edge – what’s unique about you that others won’t bring to the role?

Curiosity – ask light, open-ended questions to get better answers

Story / Narrative – who are you as a candidate and a person? why is this organization a fit?

Accomplishments – have accomplishments ready to discuss that fit what you will be asked to do in the role; give examples (without revealing proprietary information)

Behavioral or hypothetical questions – be ready for “what would you do if…?” e.g., if the organization is expanding into new markets or lines of business and they hit a snag (legally, reputation-related or otherwise), if an employee came to you with a certain problem or opportunity, how you would handle a poor judgment call by the Board or another senior leader, etc. 

About you – be ready for “tell me about a time when…” e.g., work style, challenges, successes, etc.; have a short list of versatile examples prepared for these questions

Reason for leaving current role – have a positive way to tell the story; negativity doesn’t sell; give a concise answer and move to why current role excites you

Organizational vision – if you will be leading a company or team, share your vision

Resume – know your experience cold, be open to discuss anything on your resume

Gaps – if you have any that are key to the job, be ready to address them head on

Weaknesses – prepare for the ubiquitous “strengths and weaknesses” type questions

Follow-up – ask intelligent questions to determine if it’s a fit, tailored by interviewer

If you falter, do it gracefully – have a plan to recover from surprises

Interview them back – it’s a conversation, not an interrogation

Compensation – be ready to “talk comp” if they ask; know how you’ll approach this conversation and deflect tough questions

Red flags – save the toughest questions for when you have the offer letter in hand, but note them so you don’t forget

Re-read the job description (if any): prepare for any point that might come up; research terms you don’t know, so you can sound intelligent on what you might be asked

Concise answers – answer the questions asked; avoid tangents; speak to your value

Close well – find out next steps on their end; know yours; if you want the job, make it known

If you need help formulating a personal value proposition, check out my worksheets here.

Congratulations on your interview! Best of luck!

Anne Marie Segal - Web Image (Credit Alejandro Barragan IV)

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer, Forbes Coaches Council member and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She was a corporate attorney for 15 years before launching her coaching practice.

Image above: Adobe Stock.

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ABOUT ANNE MARIE SEGAL Anne Marie Segal, founder of Segal Coaching LLC, is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer who guides attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs through career transitions, advancement, job interview preparation, leadership development and personal branding. A former finance and hedge fund attorney, Anne Marie has presented to the United Nations (ICTY/MICT), University of Chicago, United Way, Association of Corporate Counsel and National Resume Writers Association, among other organizations. She has published two career-related books: Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook, has written on career and resume topics as a Forbes Coaches Council member at Forbes.com and been quoted on CNBC.com, Monster.com and other media outlets. You can learn more at annemariesegal.com or visit her LinkedIn profile at linkedin.com/in/annemariesegal.

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