If you’ve been working for any length of time, you’ll have already been through countless job interviews. But if you’re trying to take that next step on the career ladder by securing yourself an executive role, you need to be aware that job interviews at this level are a different proposition.

When it comes to interviewing for senior-level jobs, employers are looking for a specific set of characteristics. Obviously, they want someone with the requisite experience and leadership skills – but on top of this, they also need to be confident that you’ll be a good culture fit as well.

So, if you’re on the lookout for a new executive role – whether it’s your first job at this level or you already have some senior-level experience – you need to be aware of what’ll be expected of you at the interview stage. Here are some top tips to bear in mind.

 

Show, don’t tell

Employers interviewing for executive-level roles are looking for more than just warm words. While it’s true that you do need to be able to tell a compelling story about yourself, you also need to be able to back this up with solid evidence of relevant skills and experience.

Interviews for senior-level positions tend to be more scenario-based than for less senior jobs. This is specifically because employers want to see proof that candidates have the kind of leadership skills which are a prerequisite for senior-level positions.

This is why you need to be able to discuss specific accomplishments from your previous work history. Specific facts and figures are always good where relevant, but more to the point, employers will be looking for specific challenges and how you’ve overcome them.

It’s worth emphasising here that though it’s important to acknowledge the role of your team when giving these examples, it’s even more important that you’re clear on what you brought to the party – so this is a time when it’s good to talk about ‘I’ rather than ‘we’. Don’t be held back by modesty.

 

Demonstrate your leadership style

Following on from the previous point, it’s not just about specific achievements in your earlier roles. Employers will also want to know more about your individual approach to leadership, in order to ascertain whether or not it’s likely to be a good fit for their organisation.

When you’re interviewed for an executive-level position, your prospective employer will be looking for evidence that you’re not only competent enough to handle the challenges that go with the job, but also that you have the kind of leadership style that brings the best out of your colleagues.

So, before you go into your interview, think about instances from your previous work experience that are likely to provide your interviewers with reassurance on this score. You need to demonstrate the ability to lead a team, but also to show that you’re a constructive and positive influence.

 

Be generous to your colleagues

You might think, when you’re trying to secure a senior-level job, that you need to make everything about yourself at the interview stage. This isn’t necessarily the case – again, you should be looking to show your potential employer that you’re a genuine team player, being generous to colleagues to demonstrate inclusive leadership while at the same time emphasising what you’ve contributed as an individual.

A lot of people still have an outdated and simplistic view of what actually constitutes good leadership. Too often, they assume that it’s all about authority – as if it were a matter of simply dishing out orders to subordinates, and have them carrying out your directives, pronto.

Of course, when you’re in an executive position you do have to be prepared to lead – but giving your colleagues the confidence to act on their own initiative is an important aspect of this. You need to prove that you understand this in your interview, so when you’re asked about your previous accomplishments at work, don’t try to claim all the credit for yourself; show some team spirit.

Now, this might seem contradictory to what we discussed earlier, namely talking about ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ in interviews. But effective leadership involves bringing the best out of your colleagues, which is why prospective employers will also want to see evidence that you understand the value of teamwork and can spur the rest of your team on to achieve more.

 

Values matter

Another increasingly important aspect of leadership is culture fit. Forward-thinking employers put ever-greater emphasis on values, and they want to have confidence that new hires share a similar set of values to themselves – so this is something they’ll be looking to ascertain at interview.

This is important at all levels, but especially so at executive level. So, before you go into your interview, take the time to study the organisation you want to work for in detail. Employers are usually upfront about their values and priorities, so it shouldn’t be hard to find out what they are.

This doesn’t mean simply looking at its website or Glassdoor. Think about who you know at the organisation, who you could potentially speak to – confidentially – to find out more about what the culture there is like. Intuitive’s Talent Team carry out interview preparation for each candidate, and so will help with this background knowledge.

You then need to think about the values that matter to you, and how closely they fit with those of the organisation you’re applying to. Of course, if your values don’t chime with those of the organisation, then it may be worth reconsidering whether the job is really for you.

For a decade, Intuitive has been helping talented leadership candidates make lasting connections with like-minded employers in the transport sector. If you’re considering an executive-level career in UK transport, get in touch with our friendly team of specialist recruiters today to discuss what we can do to help you take the next big step in your professional journey.

WE would love to get to know you!

Please do give us a call, drop us a message or follow us on Twitter & Linkedin!

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