A few months ago, I posted a list of tips on how to manage your next job interview. That blog received such positive feedback that I am at it again. After more than a decade of hearing our executive search clients give my team and me feedback on our candidates, I have some more experience to share.
Know why you want the job
Before an interview, prepare a specific and substantive answer to why you want the job. Interviewers want to hear that a job is attractive to you for concrete reasons, not just because it’s different from the job you have. Too many candidates focus on why they want to leave their current position, not on what, specifically, is exciting to them about the prospective one. Is it the leadership team? The company’s vision? The culture? The challenges? Think it through and articulate it well.
Weave their corporate values into your answers
Most companies believe in their corporate values. More than a list on a poster that forms a cute acronym, values play an increasingly important role in assessing leadership potential and cultural fit. Before your next interview, take a look at your potential employer’s values, usually mentioned on their website, and build a few into your interview strategy. If sustainability is a value, talk about your green IT initiatives; if the company is all about “truth and candor,” discuss how you assess integrity when building your team. You have many concepts to choose from when preparing for your interviews; choose a few that you already know are winners.
Get to the point
When we send a candidate in to interview for an IT leadership job, we would like to hear nothing but praise from our client. But we live in reality, where some qualified candidates are invited back, and others are not. More often than not, the feedback on the rejected candidate goes something like: “The candidate kept talking around the issue, but never really got to the point.” “The candidate went on and on, long after he had answered the question.” “The candidate gave a lot of detail in her examples, but she never drew out the major learnings or themes.” Listen carefully to the question your interviewer is asking and make a bee-line for the answer. Use only enough detail to make your point and focus your time on the larger issues. Remember that every story you tell has a beginning and a middle, and most importantly, an end!
Don’t try to close the deal
At the end of an interview, some recruiters recommend that you use probing questions to learn the status of your candidacy. “Am I one of your leading candidates?” “Do you think I have what it takes to be your next CIO?” In my opinion, it is better to resist the temptation to close the deal. By all means, express strong interest in the role and your confidence that you’re the right person for it, but don’t ask where you rank among the candidates under consideration. Most likely, your interviewer needs to compare notes with others before having an answer anyway; don’t put them on the spot.
The thank-you note
Believe it or not, I have seen CIO candidates perform well on interviews and then blow their chances with a poorly written thank-you note. Here’s the deal with thank-you notes: E-mail them within 24 hours of your interview, include one line of thanks, then a 1 – 2 sentence paragraph that summarizes the major challenges the CEO (or whomever you met) articulated, another 1 – 2 sentence paragraph about why you are qualified to meet those challenges, and a closing line that emphasizes your interest in the role. Make it short (5-6 sentences), grammatically perfect, and let someone proofread it. A hand-written note is a nice touch, but not necessary. If you do send one, do it in addition to the email, not instead.
As an experienced professional, you are expert in many things, but interviewing for a job may not be one of them. I learn something every single time I hear feedback on one of my candidates; benefit from my experience and make your next interview a success!