TYLER, Texas — The competition for best executive leadership positions is intensifying.

With market consolidation and an increasing number of layoffs due to health systems and hospitals trimming operating expenses, there are way more candidates than there are jobs.  This puts more pressure on the candidates to hit the ball out of the park during the in-depth interview with the search consultant or employer.

in-depth interviewThe really good search firms are forsaking Skype and other forms of videoconferencing interviews in favor of meeting candidates in person for a more in-depth interviews.  Skype may be less expensive and is a nice tool for initial screening interviews, but it is not as effective in developing the critical multi-dimensional profile of a candidate.  So, candidates should expect longer, more focused interviews in the selection process, some lasting as much as three hours.

With a properly constructed questionnaire, the recruiter or employer can divine a great deal in a comprehensive interview versus an hour-long chit chat over lunch or dinner as is the case in some searches.

So how does one prepare for such an in-depth interview?  Here are 10 suggestions to help prepare:

  1. Re-read and know, inside and out, what the Position Prospectus says.  It is bad form to ask questions that are already covered in that document.  The more information the search firm gives you, the less excuse you have for not being prepared with your own set of questions regarding key decision-point issues.
  2. Research the recruiter conducting the interview.  For most recruiters, there is ample information on the web — their web site, LinkedIn, etc, know their background.  Check with your network of contacts to see if they have interviewed with him or her, or knows someone who has.
  3. Research the potential employer. From their website to Google news searches and a review of their 990 filings, there is generally ample information available.
  4. Match the needs of the prospective employer — their job posting or using information from the search firm — with your experience.  Be prepared to provide relevant examples of your experience in dealing with their needs  along with quantifiable evidence of your success.
  5. Be prepared for the core questions that are asked in virtually all interviews.  If you cannot nail these questions, you probably will not make the cut.  Hint, so many candidates wing it on these questions.  If you want to distinguish yourself from the competitors, practice some answers in advance.
  6. Know your numbers.  When a candidate is asked about net revenue, average daily census, length of stay, etc. and they cannot provide specific responses, that is enough to raise a yellow, if not a red flag.  Clients want top candidates who know their numbers.
  7. Your competencies are important.  More and more, candidates are being asked about their competencies.  Be prepared with what I call values-based answers — responses that reaffirm your potential value to the client.
  8. Make it personal.  Have some short and on-point stories that illustrate your style of leadership, how you overcame a challenge, etc.  There are no perfect candidates, only those who do a better job communicating their value.
  9. Know what your references will say about your weaknesses.  Use that information to provide a truthful response that accentuates some positive elements about how you lead.  Everyone has weaknesses.  Do not run from them.  Make them a positive.
  10. Many candidates have experienced career hiccups.  Have a true, well rehearsed, believable response to these situations — whether it is bad press, a personal setback like alcoholism or a serious illness, a mistake that led to termination, etc.  A lot of people have been fired or dealt with a personal crisis and some went on to have successful careers.

The successful candidates are not always the best qualified.  The candidate who gets the job is typically the qualified person who came in well prepared and did a better job telling their story, warts and all.