You may have taken up the Chief Money Man’s recommendations and tips on how to write a C-Suite CV and thanks to a well-crafted document, you’ve just landed an interview for your dream job. Well done! You successfully opened the door, and stepped through it, to an important next stage in the journey to that next job. Now how to ace that job interview? What things do you absolutely need to avoid? How do you prepare? And what are the top things to think about?
You’ve passed the tricky first stage
Often it is said that getting a foot into the door is the hardest part and yes, that is often the case. A well written CV goes a long way to opening that door. However, it is also about what things you’ve done in your life and how you put those things into the light and turn them in a way that ignites a desire in the reader of the CV to see you.
It is an exciting moment when you get the call or the email to tell you that you’ve been invited to speak to some people at the company about the role.
It can also be a scary moment.
But don’t worry as you’re feeling things that are completely normal and which billions of people before you have felt, managed and gotten through. You’re definitely not alone.
And with the Chief Money Man to help guide you through the process, you’ve just been given a C-Suite mentor. That is priceless, so read on and learn more.
Avoid the obvious pitfall
So, you’re excited and you’ve gone over your CV a few times and built a storyline of your past and how wonderful you are.
You’ve already realized interviews are a storytelling exercise with you as the main character.
But be careful!
Avoid the common pitfall of just speaking about the same things that are on your CV.
The goal of an interview is not to list off your achievements and your history/background. This is what a lot of people do, thinking they need to replicate the CV exercise.
The CV opened the door. It ignited the needed desire for the reader to want to see and speak to you to learn more about you and if you are right for the role.
Make sure you realize that they have read your CV and now want to understand how you think and what makes you tick! This is very different to WHAT you have done and is all about how those things you did make you right for the role.
What did you learn and how do you apply it now? And how that learning makes you the only person right for this role?
Don’t worry is this is a bit abstract now, it will get clearer the more you read.
Even more important than hearing what you have to say, is what you look like and how you say it!
It has been estimated that as much as 80 percent of communication is about what is not being said. More on this important concept just below when we look at the things to definitely do.
Remember, your goal for this interview is simple: You want the people you meet to intimately believe that you are the ONLY person who can do this job.
So how do you do convince the interviewer that only you can do the job?
1. Prepare the non-verbal aspects of the interview
Every culture has certain cues when it comes to non-verbal communication, so you’ll need to do your research depending on what country you are in.
However, for the purposes of this interview you’re up for a role in a Western company.
Non-verbal communication is undoubtedly powerful if it accounts for 80% of your message.
However, things can also go very wrong if the non-verbal communication is not aligned to the verbal message. This can create confusion and doubt, which when mixed together can be a lethal combination that means you’re not getting the job.
First rule: make sure your non-verbal cues (body-language) are completely aligned to your verbal cues (spoken word).
Don’t go on about how confident you are and how you love taking charge and leading, when you clasp your fingers together and keep your elbows tight up against your sides, which is a clear sign of being unsure, uncertain and nervous. Your interviewer will doubt you right away.
Second rule: It is all about eye contact and hand gestures.
Keeping a good amount of eye contact is important as it shows conviction and truth. Don’t be overpowering and stare, and don’t also keep looking into the distance.
Hold your interviewer’s gaze and notice if that gaze starts getting unfocused. If it is, shake things up because it means they are getting bored. Hand gestures are an important way of conveying and strengthening your message. Use them (wisely but sparingly).
Go and read about non-verbal communication and make sure you know what you should use and what you should avoid.
Third rule: Dress the part.
Don’t turn up to an interview for an executive role in a utility company dressed up in jeans and a hoody. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people get this wrong.
Make sure, as well, that your LinkedIn profile picture is professional and aligned to your aspirations. No pictures with dogs, at the beach or in your car, unless you want to be a vet, work as a lifesaver or be a driving instructor.
Try find out what the dress code is at the company you are applying to. If it is for a promotion, look at the “unwritten” dress code of the people in similar roles to the one you are applying to. Every company has one, you just need to look hard enough.
2. Do your research and prepare for the interview
First rule: research the company
You need to read as much about the company as you can. You need to know some basics, like what they sell, where they sell it and what they are trying to achieve. Do they have a purpose? Do they have a vision? A communicated strategy?
All of this is important as it will help you draw up a picture of the company and role and how you can be of value. This latter part if important and we’ll address more of this in #3 below.
Second rule: Know where they come from and where they are trying to go
It is said that to really understand someone you need to know where they’ve come from. Well the same is true for a company.
Read as much as you can about the company’s history. If it is a public company, you’ll be able to find a lot in their annual reports. If a private company, you’ll need to find other ways to getting the information.
Also, look at what they are trying to achieve. Think about what they’ll need to achieve that and, again, how you can play a role in that success.
Third rule: use the internet
The internet today is an ever-expanding wealth of information so use it.
Glassdoor will give you some unfiltered inside knowledge into how things work, what the over-riding culture is and potentially as well you’ll be able to see areas of weakness or, in our case, opportunities to refer to and how you can help solve for them.
Look at news articles of the company or anything else that can give you insight into what they are doing and where they are going.
Fourth rule: research the people you will be meeting
Write down the names and bios of the people you are seeing. Make sure you know their names and a little about them.
A company is a community and communities have their codes and you need to adhere to them to fit in. Exploit anything in common as it shows you have the ability to be part of the community.
Admitting strangers to a community is always hard and your interviewer will be looking to see how well you’ll do fitting into the company.
Fifth rule: prepare your questions/topics to discuss
There is nothing worse than asking at the end of an interview if the candidate has question, only for them to say “no”. It leaves a feeling that the person doesn’t really care enough about the role to be interested in it.
Prepare the topics you want to discuss, the things you want to know. They don’t necessarily need to be directly linked to the role, but it could be a problem the company is facing, that you can bring up, saying you’ve had experience with it, which allows you to weave in your relevant experience.
Now hold that thought and read #3 below as it should become clearer why this strategy is important.
3. Turn the interviewer toward you
Like dating, going into an interview is not about just talking about yourself, but rather to show to the other person why you can be good for them. And, of course, to find out why they can be good for you, but that is a secondary effect.
Your primary goal is to seduce the interviewer.
You want them to believe that you understand their problems, their pain points, their struggles and that you can help them with it.
They need to know that you understand where the company has come from, what it has been through and where it is trying to go. Understanding something is the first step to being able to do something about it.
They need to believe you can bring value to the organization. You need to be able to weave in the conversation elements of your past, your experience and your skill set that exhibits why you are right for the role and the company at this particular time.
Knowing what the pain points on and (firstly) asking about them and then responding on how your experience and skills can help, with concrete examples of what you have done in the past to illustrate is a very powerful seduction technique.
Your interviewer needs to walk away completely understanding the upside for them in having you in the company. They need to be left with no doubt that you would add value to the organization through the addition of your skills, competencies and experience.
They need to believe that you will help them solve their problems. At best, you want them to know that you can solve them out-rightly.
Acing an interview, like winning a sports game or a race requires preparation.
The importance of the interview dictates the importance of the preparation.
Use the above guide and make sure you take your time with each part as they will all need to work together seamlessly to ensure you make a success of it.
Good luck, or better yet, good preparations!