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How do you prepare for a director level interview? When it comes to interviews – especially at a senior level, you can’t afford to miss anything. From detailed preparation, your entrance to the office and your body posture in the interview. And that’s all before you have been asked a question! Here, Hayley Morris, Head of Professional Services, gives us her top 10 tips for preparing for a director level interview.
As a director, your actions and decisions will significantly impact the organisation. Depending on your area within the organisation, this could be its overall strategy, culture, development, or growth. So, a director level interview is an extremely important event for any organisation, and they need to understand a candidate’s suitability. Not just in terms of skills and experience but also in working methods, leadership style and cultural fit.
Let’s start with the basics, this may seem obvious, but detailed research is extremely important. Firstly, highlight keywords and requirements in the job description. These will be used for the answer preparation in our second tip. Secondly, all available material online, the company website, LinkedIn, news articles and financial reports. You will need to have good all-around knowledge of its operations, culture, and strategic goals, such as its mission statement, core values, and company history. Thirdly, and this is the one that many people forget – research competitors. Showing an awareness of the competition and the things that others in the industry are doing is key. And lastly, research the people who are going to be on the interview panel. Knowing their career history and achievements will help when you finally meet them.
Using your CV, pull out your skills and knowledge relevant to the keywords and requirements of the job role. Write out the situations where you have learnt and developed these skills and become an expert in this area. Also, write down examples of where you successfully demonstrated the experience they are looking for and your key achievements and tangible results that you can display and prove. Think back on all the times when you showed strong leadership qualities. For all examples, write a brief description of the situation, what actions you took and the tangible result. If nothing else, even just thinking and writing about them will help keep them fresh in your mind ahead of the interview. That way, they’re not something new or unexpected for you to talk about when you try to use them as examples.
Now that you know the characteristics of your actions consider how you can show those qualities in an interview. Using your detailed research and your skills bank, prepare some answers to anticipated questions. The best way is by telling a story and discussing when you demonstrated the qualities in question. It would help if you prepared answers to questions about the company and the role itself. You’ll want to show that you’ve done your research on each: what does it do? Who are its competitors? How does this position fit into its overall strategy? And remember: if there’s a particular aspect of the business that seems interesting or important—for example, a new product launch or recent acquisition—you should try including it when describing how your experience translates into value for them. Technical skills are important, but so is understanding the business. It would be best if you showed that you know the business strategy and can help implement it.
You should also prepare some questions of your own. An excellent way to prepare is to consider what you want to know about the company and the role. You could also ask about the strategy for growth and how they are going about it (or how they want someone with your skillset to contribute). Or consider asking about the team, what strengths and weaknesses they have identified and what improvements they see as being needed.
This might sound strange, but in reality, no one has ever got it right the first time, every time. Be prepared to talk about some things you may not have done right. You will always be asked about the failures in your career, so make sure you have planned what to say and how to say it. You shouldn’t be trying to point out your flaws, so consider how you can highlight what you learnt from these situations. Think about the things you did to rectify failed initiatives and projects. Or the improvement measures and lessons learnt from these situations.
With your preparation complete, it’s essential that you practice your responses. Ask someone you trust to give honest and critical feedback on your answers. If there isn’t anyone to help you, then you can use the mirror, audio notes or record a video of yourself. It’s not just your words and tone of voice but also your non-verbal behaviours. So, get feedback on your body language and mannerisms. You want to come across as comfortable and unperturbed, but at the same time, you shouldn’t appear too laid-back.
After preparing for a director level interview, it’s important not to let your hard work go to waste by a poorly executed interview. Plan your journey to ensure an early appearance – fifteen minutes is a good guideline. It’s becoming much more common for organisations hiring for senior positions to ask those who will encounter for their impression of you. So, remember that the “interview” could start as soon as you approach the receptionist. Use the time wisely to gain knowledge about the company, its work culture, work environment and employees by watching what’s happening. You can also chat with those in the reception area; again there is a chance that there are people around to see how you behave.
Walk into the interview with a smile and confidence, greet the interviewers and shake their hands firmly. Wait to be asked to be seated before you sit down. Using people’s names a few times at the right opportunity is an excellent way to show that you are giving them importance. Be poised and prompt in your responses, and never over-enthusiastic or over-confident. It’s vital to display open body language, so no crossed arms or legs. Sit straight with your hands on your lap. A little laughter and personality are important to demonstrate your authentic self. And it’s important to maintain eye contact and direct your answer to the person who asked the question.
At the end of the interview, asking if they are happy with how you answered their questions is a good idea. This can give you a second stab at something the panel may have felt you didn’t respond well enough. Also, try and offer any further information on your experience and achievements that you didn’t get the chance to discuss if they are relevant to the role. The end of the interview offers the last opportunity to clinch the job and leave an all-important lasting impression. Without sounding desperate, let the panel know your eagerness to get the job and the opportunity of working in the company.
As soon as you leave, it’s good practice to make notes – the questions they asked and the answers you gave. If you aren’t successful, these notes can help you prepare for your next interview. Send an email to the hiring manager thanking them for the interview. You can use this to follow up on anything you may have thought of after the interview while making your notes. Reiterate your key strengths and skills now that you have a deeper understanding of the company, the role, and your eagerness for the job.
The director level interview is a chance to demonstrate that you understand the company’s strategy and can play an essential part in helping to implement it. This means displaying good people skills and showing that you have strategic thinking abilities. The interview process will likely include technical questions and questions about your ability to do this work. You need to demonstrate that you are a successful and effective leader that can share your opinion and offer suitable solutions to problems. Whilst showcasing your unique and pioneering vision for the company and your ability to inspire others.
I hope that you have found these tips for preparing for a director level interview useful and if you are looking for your next senior job opportunity, look at our current roles. Or, if you want to make your first move into senior management and want further help and advice, get in touch.