9 Ways to Ace the IT Executive Interview

Your networking and resume work has paid off. You finally landed an interview for your dream job as an IT executive and you couldn't be more excited. The only thing that stands between you and the executive washroom is the interview itself.

Mon, August 12, 2013

CIO — Interviewing for executive positions is a tricky business and at times feels like running a gauntlet. You have to interview with different people, convey the story of your value and there's no hiding behind your monitor. You are exposed. While there will always be things out of your control, preparation is the key and with that in mind CIO.com has put together this list to help you nail your next interview.

Executive interviews are unlike other positions you may have interviewed for in the past. There are normally several people or groups to interview with and the process can be much longer than for a typical IT management role. How you prepare and conduct yourself is the key, as in any interview, but at this level your presentation has to be perfect.

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What's Important to Employers

Interviewing can make you feel powerless, but what's important to remember is that both parties are there to find out if this match will work out, much like a first date. Underneath all the resumes and interview questions, employers are essentially after three critical pieces of data.

  • Are you capable of doing the job?
  • Will you fit in with our culture?
  • Are you passionate about what you do?

When you get to this level in IT, it becomes less about technical skills and more about your leadership and ability to influence people. If you've prepared yourself correctly, the career achievements you highlight will showcase the answers to these questions.

What You Should Expect in an IT Executive Interview

"Executives are often contacted initially by recruiters who screen interview candidates and review qualifications. This is often followed by a more formal interview with the recruiter or an HR manager in the client company," says Cheryl Lynch Simpson, career coach, resume writer and founder of Executive Resume Rescue.

"Depending on the employer's size and organizational structure, the candidate is interviewed next by other executive team members, a board committee, and/or their prospective manager. One or more of the interviews may be a group session with multiple interviewers present," says Simpson.

Arm Yourself With Information

Be prepared and know about the business and company. "One of IT recruiters' biggest complaints is candidates showing up to the interview having done no research. They have no clue what the company does, who their competitors are and how they are organized," says executive career coach Donald Burns. In order to be the most effective in your interview you need to arm yourself with as much data as you possibly can. Here is an article that will help you research your next employer.

This preparation should include knowing what products and services a company offers; reading through press releases and company's websites to see what they are putting out; and visiting there social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ to see what type of presence they have. "Research into the company's performance, and any news one can get through one's CIO network as to the performance of the preceding CIO will be an aid in developing hypotheses about what one should accentuate when talking about past experiences," says Peter High, author of World Class IT.

At the executive level you also need to have a keen understanding of what is going on within the business/industry that the company is a part of. You should be able to discuss industry trends and major events and unique challenges that the company has faced.

"You need to really understand the company, where it's going, where it's been and who's working there. When you're in the interview and you've done your homework, you sound smart. You already know what they are doing and you can focus on how you best fit in. Once you have all this data at your fingertips and you can begin to analyze and start to see how you fit into the company and how you can be the most impactful," says Dan Schawbel author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.

The bottom-line is that regardless of the level of job you are interviewing for, this type of preparation is necessary, but at the IT executive level you've got to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the company you're interviewing with and the industry in which they reside.

If possible you should also find out about the people you're interviewing with. The more you know about the person sitting across from you, the more comfortable you will feel having a conversation with them. The deeper the insight into the company you are targeting the easier it becomes to be the solution to their problems.

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