Ways to impress at your next senior interview.

Interviewing for senior or managerial positions is very different to mid-weight or junior roles. Not only are expectations higher, the process itself is often longer and more intensive.

Managerial interviews are typically conducted in multiple stages, with two, three or sometimes four rounds of interviews. You could meet a range of individuals, from line and hiring managers to senior stakeholders and even members of the team you hope to take on.

To help you prepare, here are six top tips.

1. Prepare for scenario-style questions

Your success in any interview process is based on your ability to offer detailed examples of the skills laid out in your CV. 

Questions that require candidates to apply experience to new situations are common when interviewing for a managerial post. These might touch upon your leadership skills, management style, or even potential issues within your team or work environment, enabling the hiring manager to gauge your ability to adapt your current skill set to meet the requirements of the role.  

While sharing examples to demonstrate your experience is great, you may find being asked to share an example where you have limited or no experience. In such situations, be honest and explain you haven’t come across the situation previously but talk the interviewer through how you would approach that situation. These types of questions are aimed to assess your thought process. So, to prepare, be honest with yourself and evaluate your blind spots before the interview.

2. Own your mistakes

When interviewing, it’s natural to try to focus the discussion on your successes, talking up your most impressive achievements and skirting around those you are less proud of. 

However, talking about the difficulties you’ve faced might make you a more desirable candidate than someone who appears to have had an easy ride. 

Treat this as an opportunity to demonstrate competencies and lessons learned. For senior roles, it’s the time to talk about problem-solving, overcoming challenges, critical thinking, and thoughtful decision making. Those are all skills that are important in leadership roles, and it’s the reality for senior leaders. Overcoming those challenges are important achievements in themselves and demonstrate a lot of value to a potential employer.

3. Have confidence in your managerial strategy

When hiring for a managerial post, interviewers are looking for someone who can lead as well as work well with others.

A desirable managerial candidate should be able to demonstrate a passion for people and a proven ability to lead and grow a team, bringing different experiences or a new approach that might add value to, or accelerate business operations. 

A team consists of different profiles and capabilities. Each of them, integral in their way, contribute to the success of the overall deliverables. So, when interviewing managers, I often focus on two key aspects of their managerial strategy; managing high performers and average performers. The key assessment here is to understand their approach to managing these very different profiles within the team. Consider examples of how you change your management approach to cater to these different profiles in your team.

4. Ask the right questions

While asking questions during an interview shows a healthy level of interest, there are some lines of questioning that cause a hiring manager to lose confidence in your motivation for the role. It’s so important to ask questions that not only provide you with insight as a candidate but also let the hiring manager know that you’re interested in the company and the role. Focusing on culture, projects, interaction with different stakeholders is a great way to do that. Candidates who focus on compensation and benefits too much in their questioning may give the impression that they are driven only by this.

Meanwhile, questions about career progression in the organization might demonstrate a progressive mindset. However, asking about future work and direction of the department or company as a whole is also a great way to find out more about potential progression and how the role may evolve but diving straight into what’s the next step in the role could be a warning sign to a potential hiring manager that you’re more focused on your next role and aren’t committed to the one they’re hiring for.

5. Don’t make it all about you

When presenting yourself as a desirable managerial candidate, it is essential to remember that while you’ll be keen to push the value of your achievements, you mustn’t let this detract from your passion and ability as a leader. 

If you are asked a question on your leadership skills and do not want to sound like “it’s all about you,” I would recommend, sharing an example where you empowered someone in your team; another manager or team lead perhaps whom you coached, nurtured to take on a more significant role.

Note, this nurturing process may have involved internal stakeholders, e.g., HR, Learning and Development, etc. so be sure to mention how you worked with your internal functions to develop this individual. This way you demonstrate your leadership skills, ability to identify talent in your team and your ability to partner and leverage internal stakeholders; but the focus of this example is the team member who went on to expand his/her skill set or current role or even went on to take a bigger role either within your team or in another team.

6. Go the extra mile

One of the most significant differentiators of a managerial interview is having the time to present your ideas and offer a new direction. 

With so much competition for senior roles, it’s becoming increasingly important for candidates to go the extra mile in articulating and presenting how they might add value to the role. 

Hopefully, there’s an opportunity in the interview to demonstrate critical thinking and creativity – sometimes, you have to create that opportunity! – whereby you can present ideas on initiatives and projects that have been a value add in the past, how they would be relevant to the role your interviewing for. You can do this by working it into the conversation, or if the situation is appropriate, preparing a short presentation. That level of preparation demonstrates a high level of interest in the role and the organisation, keep it succinct and relevant for the audience.

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