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.

How to Prepare for a Second Interview – What’s Different than the First?

AdobeStock_83147118 (interview prep).jpg

If you are moving onto a second interview with the same company, congratulations! You have passed through the gatekeepers and are now poised to refine your presentation and move one step closer to getting the job.

So what changes in the second round and how should you prepare yourself differently than for the first interview?

Often companies use further interviews to introduce you to more people, ferret out any concerns, check for consistency (from one interview to the next) and gauge your overall energy level, interest in and fit for the job. They may also present you with new challenges, such as behavioral questions (e.g., “Tell me about a time when…”).

Here are some of the key ways I suggest you prepare for a second interview:

  1. Research any concepts, other companies, approaches or themes presented in the first interview you did not understand or with which you were not familiar.

    For example:

    – a business line, product or service that is new to you
    – a partner or competitor that is significant to the company
    – a type of organizational structure (e.g., matrixed organizations)
    – a certain leadership approach or management style

  2. Reread the job description and make sure you can address all aspects of it.

    Job seekers often have a tendency to focus on certain aspects of a role – the ones that they find more interesting – and assume that the rest will fall into place. You do not need to know every aspect of the job before you even start – and in some cases there will be considerable ramp-up or stretch goals – but you do need to be able to formulate a plan of how you will learn what you don’t know.

    For example, if the job description indicates that you will interact with the Board of Directors or manage a team of 100 direct reports, and you are lacking one or both of these skills in your background, be ready to explain (without sounding defensive) what you have done that is analogous or prepares you for it. In the absence of any related background, you can also build out from what you have learned.

    For example:

    “As you know, I have managed teams of 20, and a good portion of my day is already spent on leadership-building, evaluating and mentoring team members. I’ve spoken with a few of the senior managers in my network, and they have told me that some of the adjustments between managing 20 and 100 are [fill in with some wisdom you have learned]….”

    Half of the battle is to sound upbeat and ready to rise to the task and suffer any growing pains gracefully. Yes, this may nonetheless be a breaking point for your candidacy, but you cannot create experience that doesn’t exist. You can only give it your best shot.

  3. Learn more about management and any interviewers you expect to meet.

    You have likely done some of this diligence before the first interview, but it is good to refresh yourself for the second time around and also check whether what you see presented online matches your view of a company based on what you have learned in the interview and through your additional research and connections.

    LinkedIn® and other online sources provide a great deal of information, as many company CEOs and marketing and recruiting leaders have released videos or articles discussing their goals for the company and talent acquisition. Find out what you can from these sources.

    In addition, become a “mini-expert” on the people who will interview you. You don’t need to know their shoe size or most recent vacation spot – of course! – but you should find out basic information to understand their perspective of the world and what they may want from a candidate.

    For example:

    Do their values match with yours?

    How do they see the firm’s culture and do they participate in creating it? 

    What is their leadership or management style?

    What or whom might you have in common? 

    What topics should you avoid discussing?

    How can you build a bond?

    As an example of the above, I worked with a job candidate on interview prep, and we discovered that her interviewer placed a strong value on diversity. We crafted her “tell me about yourself” story – which was entirely authentic, or it would not have been appropriate – to include the fact that (1) she had moved to the U.S. from Europe at a young age and (2) she was looking for an environment where there were people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. (Yes, she got the job!)

    This candidate had not initially thought of herself as “diverse” but we reframed her perspective, and I believe she will take this larger point of view with her into the job and life going forward.

  4. Be ready for multiple interviewers simultaneously (the panel interview.)

    Another common strategy companies employ in a second interview is to engage you with multiple interviewers at the same time. Some keys here are:

    Remember it’s a conversation, even if it feels like a panel inquiry

    – Show that you are able to relate to multiple people at once

    – Address and show respect for everyone in the room, even if only one person is asking questions (especially if the person leading the meeting is the “boss” and the others will be your colleagues; you don’t want to give the impression that their opinions are not important)

    – Pay extra attention to your body language, as the second or third person may be watching you closely (i.e., facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact)

    – Give consistent answers and don’t falter if challenged (which is different than thoughtfully revising an answer based on new information)

  5. Prepare follow-up questions to decide whether the job is a fit for you.

    At this second interview, you want to ask what I sometimes call “stage- appropriate” questions to understand fit. That means you can ask more in-depth questions on some aspects of the job than the first stage, but tread lightly on other topics.

    Example:

    I worked recently with a candidate who was encouraged to hear that the office closes early on Fridays but discouraged to note that there seems to be a “difficult person” with whom she will be working closely. We formulated a plan to address the latter but determined that she should save any questions about the workday – do they actually leave at lunchtime every Friday? – until a later stage or (possibly) after the offer.

    On word of a difficult colleague or other negative aspect of the job, I suggest approaching it from a place of curiosity rather than negativity.

    So if Kendra says Lisa is difficult, ask Tomas if he knows more about how you’ll be working with Kendra and what he knows about her rather than seeking confirmation if she is difficult as Kendra would have you believe.

    You also will want to understand – if it hasn’t been explained already – how your group relates to each other and the rest of the company, what success will look like in this role and what you’ll be expected to complete on a daily and long-term basis.

  6. Plan how you’ll clarify any “loose ends” from the prior interview. 

    If your first interview generally went well except that you floundered on a certain answer, be ready to circle that topic back into the conversation in a positive way.

    You may, for example, say that you were reflecting on your earlier conversation and have more to add about a certain question. It could be how you would approach a certain situation or whether you have experience in a certain area.

    Make sure your additional information puts you in a confident light, rather than sounding worried or apologetic. You do not wish to dwell on the point, only supplement and clarify. In addition, address this topic at an appropriate point so you don’t break the flow of the new conversation. For example, if the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you might say, “Do you mind if I expand on something we discussed last time…?” If you have already addressed the topic in a thank you note, you don’t need to revisit it again.

  7. Rehearse situational or behavioral questions.

    As I mentioned above, you may be asked hypotheticals about how you would approach a certain situation or prompted to tell the interviewer “about a time when” you rose to a certain challenge, faced an ethical concern, needed to break bad news or otherwise.

    I discuss how to approach behavioral questions in this podcast, if you have time to review that before your meeting. If not, keep in mind a few key points:

    – Choose situations that speak to the call of the job

    – Have your top accomplishments in mind and pull from those where possible

    – Do not betray confidences of your current or former company

    – Remember that every interview question is a version of “why should I hire you?”  and speak to that

  8. Drive home your value proposition.

    If you do nothing else, have a clear statement of value proposition and be ready to work it into the meeting.

    What are the three or four key reasons you are the one to hire? What do you offer that they need – in terms of soft and hard skills, knowledge and talents?

    Turn back to the preparation you have done for the points above. What does the company need – more generally and from someone in this role – and how can you deliver it?

    If you need more help formulating a personal value proposition, please refer to my worksheets here.

    The second interview is an exciting time! 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, former practicing attorney and author of two highly-praised books on interviewing and career development.

    Image credit: Adobe Stock.


 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Want Out of Life? (and, by extension, your career?)

When I was growing up, I never understood the fascination with celebrities. My mother would take me to the grocery store, and I would see print magazines spilling off the racks, full of minute details about their lives. This was back before the Internet, of course. Now we visit websites, download videos and podcasts and follow Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter feeds of our favorite larger-than-life personalities.

What is it about the people “the world” admires that is different from the average Jane or Joe? What gets at the heart of making someone into a success? These were questions that interested me at a young age. As I grew up, I learned that fame and success were often unrelated. There is a whole other class of people who are highly successful and receive more private accolades and other forms of praise (compensation being only one).

As I was working on my second book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career, I approached this question from another angle. Rather than asking what are the hallmarks of success, I asked how someone can create success from the inside.

The conundrum is always this – how can we do what we want to do and also find a way to make that into a career? If you have young children, you will see that they naturally find things they like to do. Sports, music, art, performance, cooking and other talents emerge. As parents, we can encourage these tendencies, and we often judge whether a child is “actually talented enough” to make a career of something. I hear parents say all the time things like, “Yes, Tim is really good at soccer, but I don’t think he’s good enough to make a career out of it.”

Most of us appreciate, in the context of children, that these judgment calls are important on one level but can be very limiting on another. They can help children develop an appropriate level of risk aversion, and most parents mean them in this vein. But sometimes these comments can take away the very things that give a child joy because they are focused on a bright-line test: the yes-no answer of whether one can make money and success out of one’s passions.

If we could fast-forward twenty years in Tim’s life, we would get to see what happened with the soccer. Did he continue to play? Does he still love the game? Is he athletic in other ways as an adult? What carried through from his early interests into his adult life?

Beautiful girl enjoying nature

We often view those who achieve success and fame with a lens of sentimentality and a sense that living with purpose, in touch with our interests and values, is out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If I return to my initial question – what do we admire about celebrities? – it is essentially this: they are doing what they love. (Or, at least, they appear so from the outside.) The average Joes, Janes and Tims, on the other hand, have foregone what they love in the service of what they can tolerate and get paid to do.

Now let’s avoid the pejoratives here. Soccer isn’t necessarily a higher calling than lawyering, for example. A kid who loves soccer can grow up, become a lawyer and love his career and life. This means his interests have changed. On the other hand, a kid can love soccer, be told it’s child’s play and he needs to “get serious.” He then looks around, latches on lawyering because of one influence or another (without thinking it through) and end up with a career and life that he abhors.

I’m talking to that second Tim. As a career coach, I get calls all the time from people just like him. They chose careers so removed from their interests, talents and strengths that they are floundering, just treading water or completely overwhelmed in their jobs. It’s hard to talk about concepts like thought leadership or career advancement when they can’t even see a future for themselves beyond the current week.

If you are in that place, here’s a glimmer of where to start. Think of what you loved as a child. Drill down into that. If it was soccer, was it the feeling of being part of a team? Was it the adrenaline rush of a goal? If it was guitar, did you feel “one” with the music, loving the vibrations rushing through your body? Did you achieve a sense of peace that you find difficult to replicate in other areas of your life?

These are just ideas. Rekindle and regain a connection with your deepest desires – or find new ones – and ask yourself what speaks to you when you connect with them. Then, from that place of feeling centered and whole, ask yourself how you can build out your life and career from there. 

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist, member of Forbes Coaches Council, mother of two middle schoolers and former practicing attorney. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook (available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local booksellers).

Image credit above: Adobe Stock.

 

Two Book Giveaways on Goodreads

If you are on Goodreads, here’s a chance for U.S. readers to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of one of my books:

Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook

Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals

To learn more about my books, you can visit my Amazon Author Page at amazon.com/author/annemariesegal.

Two Books

Check Out My New Book on Amazon! Know Yourself, Grow Your Career

Book Cover Front-Back

I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting my second book. Here it is!

Know Yourself, Grow Your Career provides a framework to reconnect with and enhance your skills, talents, interests and values and construct a personal value proposition that advances your own career goals while meeting the needs of employers, clients and others who may hire or invest in you.

If you would like to know more, check out:

Twenty five percent (25%) of the profits for sales in September and October 2017 will be donated to the Houston Food Bank and Save the Children.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook.

Image credit above: Olly/Adobe Stock.

#pvp

 

What Is Your Personal Value Proposition (PVP) Equation?

Untitled front coverKnow Yourself, Grow Your Career

Are you ready to create a self-guided vision for your career? Would you like help doing that?

Do you want to discover your own personal value proposition (PVP) equation and how it can help give you clarity and increase your professional worth?

WHAT IS A PVP EQUATION?

A personal value proposition equation takes into account your interests, values, preferences (collectively priorities), skills and talents (collectively strengths) and combines them with existing or potential roles that benefit from what you offer (market needs). 

Here’s the equation:

Your Priorities + Your Strengths +

Market Needs =

Your Personal Value Proposition

Often we are hyper-focused on one set of factors, based on our current situations and outlook for our careers, such as:

  • our strengths (actual or perceived),
  • our own needs and priorities, or
  • what we expect (without outside verification) is needed by employers or clients,

without truly understanding any of these in depth or considering how they work together. Know Yourself, Grow Your Career helps you analyze and synthesize each part of the equation, so you can bring your highest personal value to the marketplace. As a bonus, Units 9 and 10 of the book show you how to take your personal value proposition and turn it into an authentic and compelling brand and elevator pitches.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

Image credit: Adobe Images.

Still a Few Spaces Available! Join My Networking Workshop in Stamford, CT.

“If you develop your brand without knowing your value proposition first, you will have a very shallow brand.” – Anne Marie Segal at Forbes.com

Join me in Stamford, CT on May 4, 2017 for a small group workshop on developing your value proposition for networking, business development and job search.

Please click here for details.

If you can’t join us, here’s an article you may like to help think further about value:

Six Key Value Proposition Questions to Understanding Your Personal ROI.”

business team

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership development coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon.com) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond. 

Image credit: Adobe Images.