The (almost) definitive guide to what’s required for success in an executive interview! (Part 3)

Published: 11 May 2016 By James Dunne

This is the final part of my survey of a random sample of 20 different articles* from recruiters and publishers, examining the vexed question of what makes for a successful interview.

Having identified that the three biggest/most commonly cited errors people seem to make in interviews are, in order, “not preparing”, “inappropriate dress” and “issues around questions - either not asking or not answering them”, the next key fault identified was “criticising your current or former employer(s)”.   This was mentioned by 45% of the 20 blogs surveyed (equal in fact to the number who specifically noted “failure to ask questions”). 

It’s a bit obvious, or so you would think, not to make pejorative remarks about your current employer.  Clearly though, a lot of people leave, or want to leave their current job because they don’t like it/their boss/commute etc. but a golden rule of business is not to criticise publicly, whether it’s the competition, your boss or indeed your pay.  It may be tempting, especially when you’re given a leading question (“tell me, what kind of business environment do you work best in?”), but don’t do it as it will only end in your continuing to not enjoy your current job.

The last of our interview no-nos was a slight surprise to me at least.  At least 35% of the articles surveyed said that a major failing was when interviewees failed to follow up their interview.  It may be my age, but I was always told not to try to influence the result by getting in touch after an interview as it may make one look desperate.  Apparently things have moved on since I was last interviewed (and no, I don’t just mean they have invented the airplane), and it’s often regarded as the done thing to, at least, send a thank you note/email.  Just don’t make it sound obsequious or desperate.

One other thing that was mentioned quite often was the suggestion that interviewees should not discuss remuneration/benefits at interviews.  Usually, a reasonable indication of what you are likely to get paid will have been provided before this stage, but it’s bad form to be too up front at interview stage.  However, I believe that once you’re offered the job, you are then usually (use common sense) perfectly entitled to try to negotiate.

Finally, such is the nature of blogs, many of those I studied contained examples of times when things went not just wrong but hideously wrong.  Bad breath, including viruses/malware in emails you send to the interviewers, swearing, not switching off your mobile and even worse taking a call during the interview, lying, and my favourite, “the candidate who arrived ten minutes late, all dressed and ready to go…to the beach. Told to dress smartly, our interviewee chose his best Hawaiian shirt and trainers. And, to complete his hat-trick of howlers, his phone rang half way through the interview”.

To be fair, interviewing is stressful for all concerned.  And if you think that you’ve had the most difficult interview that has ever been conducted, ask yourself if you’d like to be interviewed by lots of different people, potentially from 193 countries, broadcast live to the world and with wild-card video questions from random individuals who have an interest in who gets the job.  Mind you, this particular interview is for the next Secretary General of the United Nations…

James Dunne, exec-appointments.com

* These were: Undercover Reporter, Reed.co.uk, Orchard.co.uk, a Linkedin Pulse article, CheatSheet, Career Builder, Michael Page, Recruiter.com, The golden girl blog, The Muse, The Guardian, Prospects, Business Insider, Indeed, Money, JobSearch, Robert Half, Forbes, My World of Work, Monster, another Linkedin Pulse article.

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