Always Coming Second Best? 4 Tips To Up Your Interview Game

Frustrated when someone you feel you could outperform, gets the job over you? Always been told you do a ‘good’ interview but you haven’t got ‘quite the right type of experience’?

If this sounds familiar, it’s likely down to your interview technique. At the core, is probably a failure to connect your experience and capabilities to the role at hand – and give your interviewer the confidence that you can perform at the next level up.

Here are our top tips to overcome this widespread challenge.

Recognise that your interview process starts from the minute they open your CV

So, yes, you need a kicking CV. And one that positions you at the next level, not what you have been for 5 or 10 years. It needs to be achievement focused, it needs to call out your leadership competencies and it needs to prioritise any experience acting at the next level up or supporting the design and execution of your boss’s strategic initiatives and/or projects.

Accept also that the minute you get a call back from your application, you’re being tested. Never take a call from a number you suspect could be an interviewer or a recruiter if you’re not in a quiet space. Critically, prepare your pitch for why you are good for this role before you even press ‘send’ on that application email.

Accept that leadership at this level is far more than subject matter expertise

When you get to senior management and beyond, you could say that your subject matter expertise is assumed. Of course, expect to have it tested at some point, but really what your interviewer will be interested in pressing upon is your broader leadership competence – spanning topics like strategic thinking, stakeholder engagement, influencing, problem solving, decision making and people management. At a senior level, you are always leading others to an outcome, whether that’s vendors, direct reports or business stakeholders, so it is this ability that is the key to you coming across as a credible and suitable contender.

Think ‘why’ and ‘how’, not ‘what’

Throw out the tasks. Don’t give your interviewer a shopping list of ‘what’ you do on a daily basis. They are interested in ‘why’ and ‘how’ you do what you do. Think about your role strategically – yes you prepare management accounts, but ‘why?’ (as in, why is this important to the business?) and ‘how’ (i.e. how do you do it better than others?). Pick apart your tried and tested interview examples and think about the ‘why’ (and the outcome for the business) and the how (what did you do differently to arrive at that outcome?).

Always give a reflection on your leadership contribution/input

Lastly, self-awareness is key to being a strong leader. This doesn’t mean sitting there lamenting your weaknesses. It does mean being able to communicate that you know what the contribution you made to a particular outcome was. It’s no good saying you negotiated a 20% cost reduction with a vendor if you can’t explain how you got to that achievement, or why your approach was important. If you can’t explain, it makes the achievement look like luck or maybe not that significant.

If you can, you can use it to position your strategic ability and tactical tenacity, amplifying your whole positioning as a leader of tomorrow, not just today.

Good luck!

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At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future.
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