It is important for candidates to be prepared for the face-to-face meeting with the recruiter or the client. This is a pivotal moment in the search process. You want to be ready for the meeting, but take care. You are entering a danger zone.
Here are some important points to consider:
- Do not show up for an interview without knowing something about the person who will be interviewing you. The bios of most executive recruiters are posted on the web — either on a corporate website or LinkedIn. If they do not know anything about the recruiter or the executive leading the interview, you have to question whether the candidate adequately prepares for important meetings. You may think this is a classic no-brainer, but you would be shocked at the number of candidates who know very little about the person who will be interviewing them. In a hyper-competitive job market, not taking every opportunity to get a leg up on the competition boggles the mind.
- Do not try to prove that you are smarter than the person who is interviewing you. Recruiters and employers will push and probe, asking questions to see how you you react. Trying to outsmart them is your ego talking, not a candidate who is exercising good judgment. Arrogance is one of the least attractive qualities of a good leader.
- Do your homework on the client, but be careful how you use that information. More than a few candidates have shot themselves in the foot by using information that is out of date or out of context.
- Do practice your answers. Today, virtually every interview has the predictable core questions — from tell me about yourself, to why do you want to work for our company — job specific queries, and probes — those questions regarding job transitions, performance and subject matter expertise. Every honest candidate knows what these are and they can guess what the questions will be. Not being prepared with solid, authentic answers that have been carefully thought out is a sure way not to get chosen. Besides, it is unforgivable.
The bigger lesson is that successful careers do not happen. People achieve their goals because they establish a thoughtful career plan and execute. Hitting home runs in interviews is about executing.
© 2012 John Gregory Self
Candidates interviewing for executive jobs should avoid the common mistake of dialing back their interest and energy when they hear something during the site interview that suggests that, perhaps, the position is not the right fit for them.
Rarely do candidates ask for a clarification when they hear something that concerns them. Instead, spontaneously, their intensity drops and their interest in the job wanes. Then, later in the day, they discover that what they heard was inaccurate or exaggerated, they hit the interview gas pedal again, turn on the charm and reactivate their interest. But by then it is often too late.
Our anecdotal research, obtained from conducting numerous “post-mortem” site visit interviews with clients and candidates, indicates that this phenomenon usually occurs mid-morning, but by 2 PM the error is discovered and all is well in the candidate’s mind. The problem is that the 5 to 10 people who were in the late morning and/or lunch interviews have picked up on the decline in the candidate’s interest. Their feedback to HR is usually very negative. At best the candidate slips in the ratings, but more often than not, they are eliminated.
The candidate thinks no one on the interview team notices the fall off in their energy or decline in interest, but they almost always do.
Here is how to avoid this frequent interviewing mistake: Keep the pedal to the metal all day. Do not even think about slowing down. If you hear something that is a major “flag” for you, ask for clarification. Do not assume anything.
You will often find the issue that created the alarm is probably not a deal killer.
© 2012 John Gregory Self
One of the most common questions in a candidate interview and one that seems to trip up many executives is, “What are your weaknesses?”
When you have been recruiting for as long as I have, you can tell when a candidate is not prepared for a certain question. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their nervous laugh.
There are a lot of good answers, but “I work too much” is not one of them. When someone uses that tried and lame answer, it is a good bet that you are getting close to a career sore point.
There is no reason to let this simple question throw you off. Here are some hints to deal with it:
- Tell your references that you are using your current job search as a career learning and development opportunity and then ask them what they think your weaknesses are. Listen carefully. Even if you hear something you do not agree with, be quiet. Do not argue. Ask for clarification and then hang up and assess what you heard.
- After talking to your references—who presumably will be honest in a nice way—you will have the necessary feedback to help you answer the “weakness” question with confidence and real substance.
- When this question comes up in an interview, use your real weaknesses. Acknowledge them but in a more positive light. Assure the recruiter that everyone has weaknesses and that you are very aware of yours and that you have a plan of action to help yourself mitigate any negative effects. It is OK to spin something to your benefit—that is what selling yourself really is. It is not OK to enhance your weaknesses beyond the point of credible belief. Misrepresentation is usually found out and even if it is not discovered, it cheapens your brand.
Candidates tend to fret over the simplest questions that actually afford the most opportunity to drive home a great selling point for why you should be hired.
© 2012 John Gregory Self