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This may surprise some candidates but executive recruiters are not indifferent to how you perform in the in-depth interview.  They want you to hit the ball out of the ballpark, to provide good answers to key questions about your leadership style and experience.

When candidates put their best foot forward they make the recruiter look good, and everyone wins, including the client who, in those situations, tend to make better decisions about the executives they hire.

good answersAfter more than 20 years as an executive recruiter, and before that, years as a crime writer/investigative reporter, I know a little something about constructing probing questions that maximize the information from, and insight into, the candidates.

Today I want to focus on tips to help candidates to deal with and provide effective responses, not recruiters efforts to construct the best questions.

The secret begins with a candidate’s ability to dig deep to understand who they are and what they really believe.  They need to forget about all the leadership stereotypes from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.  That approach no longer works.

Let’s break it down.

  • The vast majority of questions candidates are asked are core questions, those that apply to virtually every job interview.  There is no excuse not to be prepared and to nail these answers.  But, sadly, many candidates are not prepared.
  • Candidates know thy self.  What do you believe about what makes a good leader, an effective executive?
  • When preparing for interviews think of your beliefs, not from your perspective (self interest) but how others will react to your answers.
  • Candidates, this process is NOT about you.  Construct answers that take your beliefs and values and wrap them around the mission, vision and values of the prospective employer, not your beliefs of what they need.  As a cautionary warning, if you are not perceived to be authentic in the content or style of your answers, you might as well give a bad response.
  • Prepared candidates know their vulnerabilities.  Even for the best candidates, there are certain questions that they wish would never be asked.  Reacting as if you never thought the issue would come up is harmful to your candidacy.  There are ways to convert those moments into a positive experience.  Be honest, be authentic, be candid, be personable and, above all else, be prepared.  Very few, precious few, candidates are really that good in constructing answers on the fly.  I am willing to bet that most candidates did not take a speech course with an emphasis on extemporaneous speaking.

In every interview, there are good and bad answers.  Showing up for the interview without purposefully planning is a bad idea and typically results in a less than adequate performance.

In a competitive job market, that is not a good job search strategy.