Top Tips for Interviewing
It’s the first date syndrome. Some people are not great first dates and some people are not great interviewers. Having interviewed thousands of people at this stage of my career, I can usually find some common ground with even the most uncomfortable candidates. My objective is to “get the best” out of a prospective candidate so that I can accurately assess their experience, skills and most importantly, cultural fit against the leadership opportunity.
As such, here are some Top Tips for Interviewing, and while they may seem redundant to those of us in the search industry, I can assure you the stories we hear at ZurickDavis about candidates who present “inappropriately” are far too many to mention.
- Dress Appropriately
Yes, this means being “suited and booted” which means a dark suit for a man – black, navy or grey and a tie. Choose either a white or light blue shirt to complement your suit and make sure your shoes are polished. For women, the advice is the same……a dark suit and shoes (no open toe), as well as a polished overall presentation; no chipped nail polish or untidy hair. Make sure your nails and hair are neat. Remember this is an interview and not New York Fashion Week.
If you are unsure about how to dress, then ask the search firm. Trust me, we are always happy to assist our candidates with advice on interviewing protocols. It’s part of our job.
- Plan Ahead
Make sure you know exactly where you are going, who you are meeting and who you should be asking for upon arrival. Make sure you have the cell phone of your Search Consultant or the administrative support of the person you will be meeting with. Life happens! You may have a family emergency and need to cancel, or a traffic accident will cause you to be late. Be prepared and plan ahead.
Do your homework. Make sure you read the Job Description or Leadership Profile provided by the search firm. Make sure you conduct online research about the organization and the role. Important elements to understand are the organizational mission, values statement and the type of person who they are looking for, both from a technical and fit perspective. You will only be able to conduct so much research but do whatever you can to educate yourself in advance of an interview.
- Psychometric Testing
The dreaded psychometric test…. When completed it is assumed to be the reason you are ruled in or out for a position. While I am certain that sometimes unfortunately this happens, it is certainly not the correct use of any psychometric testing tool that I am aware of. When used correctly a validated testing tool is invaluable. It provides insight into work behavior, how stress affects your work performance and offers employers a chance to understand how to manage, mentor and professionally develop you as a member of the team.
At ZurickDavis we use a Predictive Index (PI) to evaluate candidates and benchmark them against position criteria but we never use it to decide in favor of or against anyone’s candidacy. We use it to guide interviewing, identify areas where we or our client may want to explore further. We use it as part of your interviewing experience so that we gather a holistic view of each of our leadership candidates.
The bottom line – don’t be alarmed if asked to conduct an assessment. It’s just part of the process.
- Kicking Off the Interview
Prepare a 2-3-minute summary of your career trajectory to date. Note: I said 2-3 minutes NOT 5 minutes or 10 minutes! This is important. Do not wax lyrical about your career in excruciating detail. This is an overview. It is a framing question many interviewers ask at the outset of an interview to gain a quick understanding of how they want to move forward. It is easy to talk when nervous but try to listen to what the interviewer is saying and read their body language, because if you are getting too long winded you will probably sense that, so wrap up your answer.
- Answering Questions
Most formal interviews are weighted with a number of questions that require short answers and a number of questions that require an extensive and explanatory answer. Know the difference. I always say, “less is more” in that you can always ask the interviewer “did that answer your question, or shall I go into further detail?” This approach ensures that the interview stays on track for all parties. Use examples as much as possible to illustrate your points. I always interview candidates around SBAR – what was the situation, describe the background to the situation (the why), tell me the action you took and the results you achieved. It’s a clean and concise way to think through a problem and solution.
- Prepare Questions
Interviewing for an executive position is a two-way street. Prepare, in advance a few relevant and intelligent questions that you want to ask. Don’t try and think of questions ad hoc during an interview. Undoubtedly, questions will arise and that’s great, but in the event that doesn’t happen, have something to bring to the table to discuss. It demonstrates interest and curiosity on your behalf.
- Behave like an Executive
You are interviewing for a leadership position. Behave like a leader and present as an executive worthy of being a leader in the prospective organization.
Be cautious in your use of language. Don’t swear! (oh, yes, we have had that happen numerous times), it shows a lack of judgement to use bad language. Err on using more formal versus less formal language. Obviously, you must be yourself and we would not advise anything different but remember the organization is assessing you to determine whether they will be proud to have you as part of their leadership team.
Follow up and let your Search Consultant know how the interview went from your perspective. Be proactive in doing this so that if the client reaches out immediately to the search firm, they also have your feedback to relay and discuss.
If appropriate, send short thank you notes via email to those stakeholders you interviewed with and if in doubt as to what you should or should not do, ask the search firm. This is our expertise.
- Virtual Interviews
Virtual interviews are now a part of our daily life. We use SKYPE, FaceTime, Zoom and a myriad of other products to connect with potential employers. Take note of all the tips I have listed and do exactly the same things when engaging virtually. Be groomed and make sure you test your equipment before the actual interview. Make sure your back lighting is good and that you are in a quiet area, preferably an office where you can speak openly and freely without being disturbed.
Personally, I have experienced some horrific virtual interviews…. but, I’ll save those for another time…. Best of luck in your interviews.
Annette Cooke is a Senior Vice President at ZurickDavis, a retained executive search firm exclusively serving health care organizations.
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Posted on Jul 10, 2018