In the current economic crisis, executive level roles are few and far between and competition is fierce. Once you have spent time making your Curriculum Vitae as professionally written as possible, securing a first interview is only the first hurdle. Employers today’s marketplace have their pick of high calibre candidates and the interview process is more rigorous than ever and complacence on your part is a pathway to failure.

Effective preparation is the key to performing well in an interview scenario and there are many key questions which should be considered carefully in advance of your interview.

To ensure that you make a positive impression, make sure that you have researched the organisation you are applying to fully; Read the profiles and background of board members from the website, particularly the people that you are meeting. Read through news articles over recent months so that you are abreast of any developments within the organisation and make sure that you memorise a few examples of projects, contract wins or company/product developments to show that you have done your homework.

As a ‘head-hunter’ with over 15 years’ experience recruiting at board level, I have written my fair share of competency interview frameworks and believe me when I say that the amount of candidates who have attended interview unprepared is astounding. With this in mind I would like to share with you some of the questions which you should be prepared to answer succinctly when attending an interview:

Q. What are the key skills you can you bring the role, and why have you applied?

Tip: Make sure that you have request a full copy of the job description and read the advertisement, then try to pick out the skills and attributes you can apply using key words from the information you have digested. Thing of 4 or 5 areas where you can add value in advance so that you can answer this question and be clear, confident and most of all ‘to the point’..

Q. Please describe your leadership style to us.

Tip: This is a great opportunity to show you are versatile and able to adapt your style to new environments. Make sure you request a person specification and pick out key areas that the role demands, giving examples of how your experience suits the remit.

Q. Give us an example of a challenging management issue which you have faced in the past. How did you resolve the issue?

Tip: Make sure that you give an example of a circumstance where you utilised your leadership skills to affect a positive outcome i.e. an individual performance management issue which you rectified through coaching and mentoring, or a team performance issue which you resolved through improved communication.

Q. Give an example of how you have successfully delivered strategic objectives.

Tip: Prepare in advance a list of key achievements and make sure that they are quantifiable. For example, projects you have delivered on time and under budget, key accounts you have secured, cost savings you have initiated and any occasions when you have met or exceeded targets. Make sure that you have the monetary or percentage figures to hand, ready to quote them.

Q. What do you see as the key external/market challenges for our organization?

Tip: This question can catch unprepared. Ensure that you have researched the company, their industry trends any changes in regulation which may affect them and their competitors. Use Trade journals, media financial supplements and internet searches to do your homework.

Q. If appointed to this post, what would within your first three, six and twelve months in post?

Tip: This is a very common question and one which is hard to answer succinctly unless you have come prepared. Think seriously in advance about your 12 month business plan, imagining you have been offered the post and outline how you would build relationships inside and outside of the organisation and begin to add value.

Q. Do you have any questions for us?

Tip: Never say 1what is the salary’, or ’what is the interview process’. This is a great opportunity to show off your research and enthusiasm for the post. Ask about the future vision of the company, a recent development you have noticed in their news articles and most importantly ask if you have answered all their questions fully.

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