Over the years, we’ve found one of the most important interactions we have with candidates during a search is a “touch base” call before a candidate goes to interview with a client for the first time. Even though most of our candidates are seasoned leaders who have substantial experience interviewing, we still take the opportunity to share some lessons we’ve learned about general best practices for first round interviews. While no two calls are exactly the same, there are three points we share during every call. They are, in order of importance: energy, specifics, and time management.
- Energy: In our experience, one of the greatest de-railers to an otherwise strong candidacy is a perceived lack of energy during the interviews. To put it bluntly: regardless of how qualified or credentialed you are, it can be very difficult for an organization to overcome concerns about a lack of energy during your interview. Conversely, a high energy level can indicate enthusiasm and stamina, which are often identified as notable strengths of a candidate’s interview. Even if the interview is a full day event with many stakeholders, make sure that you are maintaining a high level of energy throughout the day. Right or wrong, energy level is directly correlated with perceived interest in the position itself. Organizations will rarely be excited about a candidate who doesn’t appear excited about them.
- Specifics: If you have been invited to interview for a leadership position, chances are you have plenty of rich experience to draw upon when discussing your background. Oftentimes, organizations will use behavior-based interviewing techniques, with questions beginning with “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of your work in…" This should be seen as a great opportunity for you to share specific, real world examples of your work. Philosophical, theoretical discussions may have value and relevance at some point in the process, but during first round interviews, organizations are most interested in understanding what you’ve actually done. It is not enough to simply have accomplishments listed on your resume. Make sure that the person interviewing you is leaving with a clear understanding of some of your specific achievements and successes.
- Time Management: This one is most relevant when two factors are present: 1) the scheduled interviews are shorter, i.e. scheduled for less than 1 hour, and 2) whenever there is a group or “panel” interview on the schedule. In line with the above comment about specificity, make sure that you're answering questions in the time allotted. Although you may have many specific examples to share, you should exercise caution against long-windedness. Most interviewers will come to the interview with a number of questions to ask, and if you are meeting with a panel of individuals, this dynamic is even more pronounced as you have several people with several questions to ask. This is not to encourage “short” answers. It is, however, a gesture of respect to the interviewer who has taken time out of his or her day to meet with you and likely has a number of questions to ask in a set period of time.