How to Ace an Executive-Level Interview


The interview process for an executive-level role is understandably much more intricate and intense than that of a lower level job interview. The goal, however, is the same: convince your interviewer that you are the best person for this job in the clearest and most concise way possible. To do this, many things come into play. It’s not just about what you say – it’s about your preparedness, your mannerisms, your follow up, and more. Here are some tips to walk you through the interview process, from preparation to follow-up, that’ll help you ace that executive-level interview.

Do Your Due Diligence

Do your research beforehand. “It’s obvious, but people – even at the executive level – don’t do it,” says Pam Pezzoli, Client Partner at Lochlin Partners. Take the time to look at the company’s website, but more importantly, be aware of real-time information by looking up recent news articles and headlines.  Liza Wright, Managing Partner, advises candidates to use YouTube as a research tool. “If the person you are meeting with has been interviewed on camera, it’s incredibly helpful to watch those videos and get a sense of their communication style and personality,” she says. “This will give you a better sense of the best way to communicate and connect with them.”

Ask for a Prep Call

Executive recruiters spend a lot of time getting to know their client’s company and culture, so they have a lot of valuable insight that could be helpful in an interview.  While prep calls are typically quick, candidates find the information immensely helpful for knowing what to expect when meeting the client face-to-face.

Have Examples Prepared

“Most executive-level interviews consist of situational questions,” says Liza Wright. “You can anticipate these types of questions ahead of time and think through your answers and the examples you have demonstrated in your own career path.”

Don’t Try to Take Control

Sometimes a well-prepared candidate will unintentionally try to control the interview in hopes of hitting on all the points for which they’ve planned.  While preparedness is important, so is fluidity.  A candidate should always follow the lead of the interviewer. For example, if an interviewer begins engaging in small talk, go ahead and use that time to build some rapport.  However, don’t try to engage the interviewer in small talk if they don’t initiate.  Pat Friel, Managing Partner, says it’s important to “carefully listen to the questions and answer only the questions that are being asked, not the questions you want to answer.”  Answers should be example-based, direct, clear, and concise.

Be Candid

Oftentimes in interview situations, candidates feel the need to present a flawless version of themselves.  It’s important to note, however, that there is value in being candid.  “We write position specifications with Superwoman/Superman in mind,” says Liza Wright. “No one candidate fits the bill entirely.”  Liza advises when asked about weaknesses, that a candidate should use candor.  “Be honest about where you need some support while simultaneously using the interview to highlight your strengths,” she says.

Do the Little Things

There are a couple of small things that are nonnegotiable in interviews.  For one, arrive 15 minutes early.  Also, “have a list of meaty, insightful questions for the end of the interview,” says Liza.  “Even if you don’t get to them all, they showcase interest and an inquisitive mind.”   Questions such as, “What does success look like in this role, and how is it measured?” or “What are some of the key issues and goals of the organization right now?”

Close Like a Pro

At the end of an interview, when the interviewer thanks you for coming, it’s a great time for you to re-confirm your interest.   “The end of an interview is not a time to ask for immediate feedback, but rather to reinforce interest,” says Pat.   Also, it’s important to send a thank you email within the next day or two.  “We’ve had clients who have rejected candidates because they either haven’t received a thank you note, or received one but not in a timely manner,” says Vickie Moore, Client Partner.  “That speaks to its importance.”