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Candidates Corner

Executive Candidate Interview Tips


One of the most important aspects of the interview occurs before a candidate even walks into the room – homework. Candidates should do thorough research about both the company and the position for which you are being considered.

Your Reaction Search Executive Search Firm Consultant will provide candidates with information about the company and the position for which they are interviewing. But, candidates should do their own research before the interview either online or at the library about the nature of the company and the service they provide to their customers.

Next, prepare a list of questions to ask the person you are interviewing with about the company and the position. Being prepared for the interview with a solid base of knowledge about the company and its business services, along with questions to ask the interviewer, illustrates a candidate’s intelligence, resourcefulness, and interest in the position.

Possible questions could include:
  • Why is this position available? Why did the person previously in this position leave?
  • What are your goals for this position? What are your expectations of someone filling this job?
  • What roadblocks are in store for the candidate filling this position?
  • How will job performance be evaluated? Who will perform the evaluations?
  • What opportunities are there for growth over the next 12 months for someone entering this position? What are the growth opportunities in the next 5 years?
  • What kind of growth do you anticipate for your firm over the next year?


Preparing for the interview

Each interviewer will have their own way of conducting an interview. The questions will vary based on the interviewer, the company, and the position. The Executive Search Firm Consultant will brief you on in the interviewer’s personality, what typically happens during similar interviews, and important questions the interviewer is likely to ask, among others.

Several common interview questions executive candidates should be prepared to answer include:


  • “Tell me about yourself.” Keep your answers in the professional realm only, including information about your previous positions and your standing in the former employers’ companies; education and other forms of training; specialized skills, and any other credentials that may pertain to the position for which you are currently interviewing.
  • “What do you know about our organization?” This is where your research will come in handy.
  • “Why are you interested in this position?” Emphasize any skills or qualifications you have that make you the best candidate for the position. Also, reiterate your desire to work for this employer.
  • “What have been your most significant career accomplishments to date?”


Provide the interviewer with a brief rundown of some of your most recent accomplishments and/or projects. It helps to be specific. (Tip: Keep a short list in your day planner or PDA of significant projects, accomplishments, accolades, etc., while in your current position. This list will help when it comes time to answer this question during future interviews. Also, see our list of tips below.)

  • “Describe a situation in which your work was criticized.” Place your focus not on the criticism itself, but on how you provided a remedy for the situation. Also emphasize what you learned
    from this process.
  • “How would you describe your personality?” Accentuate the positive aspects of your personality.
  • “How do you perform under pressure?” Provide a specific example of how you met a tight deadline.
  • “What have you done to improve yourself over the past year?” Examples could include taking training courses, attending seminars, networking with others in the industry.
  • “What did you like least about your last position?” Stick to examples in which you can illustrate how you overcame this situation or dilemma.
  • “Why are you leaving your current employer?” Answers such as “I’m looking for an opportunity to advance in my career” work best. Accentuate the positive.
  • “What is your ideal working environment?”
  • “How would your co-workers describe you?” Be honest, and be prepared to provide the name of someone who can vouch for what you tell them. Some interviewers may want to contact a co-worker.
  • “What do you think of your boss?” Again, think positive.
  • “Have you ever fired anyone? What was the situation, and how did you handle it?”
  • “What are career goals?” If you’re interested in a long-term position for the company you are interviewing with, tell the interviewer. Provide specifics about what makes the company a good fit for you.
  • “Where do you see yourself in 2 years?” Concentrate on accomplishments you would like to achieve.
  • “Why should we hire you?” This is your opportunity. If you think you’re best suited for the position, say so. And be prepared to tell the interviewer why.
  • “What kind of salary are you looking for?” It doesn’t hurt to aim high, but be realistic. You may have an idea of the salary range from your research. Ask the interviewer what the average salary is for someone in their company with your level of experience and expertise.
  • “What other types of jobs/companies are you considering?”


For the interview:
  • Arrive 15 minutes early. Being late is never acceptable
  • Be sure you answer the questions the interviewer asks
  • Ask the interviewer to describe the position and specific responsibilities early in the conversation so you can relate your skills and background to the position throughout the course of the interview.
  • Discuss your qualifications, and stress the accomplishments that are most pertinent to this position.
  • Conduct yourself professionally. Be aware of what your body language is saying. Smile, make eye contact, don’t slouch, and maintain your composure.
  • Anticipate difficult questions about your chosen career path and prepare in advance so you can turn apparent weaknesses into strengths.
  • Dress appropriately. Make your first impression on a prospective employer a professional one.
  • Ask questions throughout the interview. An interview should be a mutual exchange of information, not a one-sided conversation.
  • Listen. By focusing not only on the interviewer’s words, but also on their tone and body language, you will be able to pick up on their style. Form your answers accordingly. This will also enable you to establish a personal rapport with the interviewer.


Don’ts …
  • Answer vague questions. Rather than trying to answer an unclear question, ask the interviewer
    to more specific.
  • Interrupt the interviewer. If you don’t have time to listen, then neither does the person conducting the interview.
  • Smoke, chew gum, or place anything on the interviewer’s desk.
  • Be overly familiar, even if the interviewer is.
  • Wear heavy perfume or cologne.
  • Ramble. Long answers can make you sound apologetic or indecisive. On the other hand, don’t answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no.” Explain yourself in detail when possible
  • Lie. Answer questions as truthfully as possible.
  • Make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers or companies. This could
    have a negative effect on the interviewer’s perception of you.


Closing the interview

If candidates are prepared for the interview, there is no need to doubt your answers after the interview. If you feel that the interview went well and you would like to continue the interview process, express your interest to the interviewer. For example, “After hearing more about your company, the position and the responsibilities at hand, I am certain that I possess the qualities that you are looking for in the (title) position. Based on our conversation and my qualifications, are there any issues or concerns that you have that would lead you to believe otherwise?”

You have a right to be assertive. This is a great closing question because it opens the door for the interviewer to be honest with you about his or her feelings concerning your qualifications for the position. If concerns do exist, this is the opportunity to address them.

A few things to remember during the closing process

Make sure you answer the following two questions: “Why are you interested in the company?” and “What can you offer?”

  • Don’t be discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will likely want to communicate with a superior or interview other applicants before making a decision.
  • Express thanks for the interviewer’s time and consideration.
  • Ask for the interviewer’s business card so you can write a thank you letter.

Don’t be discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will likely want to communicate with a superior or interview other applicants before making a decision.
Express thanks for the interviewer’s time and consideration.
Ask for the interviewer’s business card so you can write a thank you letter.

Following up after the interview

After leaving the interview, take a few minutes to write down key issues that were raised during the interview, such as specific qualifications for the position, your strengths in meeting these needs, areas of concern and how to address them, etc.

Then, call your Executive Search Firm Consultant. Follow-up at this stage is critical.

Finally, write a thank you letter no later than 24 hours after the interview.

If you do add a references section, make sure it says more than “References available upon request.” And, be sure to verify current contact numbers with your references beforehand. It’s also good to let them know to expect a call and to provide them information concerning the position for which you are applying.

This is also a good place to include information about any specialized skills or training you have, such as languages spoken, proficiencies with computer software or hardware, and other pertinent information. Other possibilities include professional training, appointments, and licenses. However, candidates should never include hobbies or a list of personal interests anywhere on a resume.

Twelve tips from RSI Executive Search Firm

Our executive search team has highlighted 12 of the career accomplishments that most interest employers. Think of how you might incorporate them into your resume. Approach each one from the viewpoint of an Executive Search Firm Consultant: How can this past accomplishment benefit a potential employer?

  • Increased revenues – be specific.
  • Saved money.
  • Increased efficiency.
  • You were directly responsible for cutting overhead.
  • Increased sales – again, be specific.
  • Improved workplace safety.
  • Purchasing accomplishments.
  • Implemented new products or lines.
  • Improved record-keeping process.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Successful advertising campaigns you’ve been involved in.
  • Effective budgeting.

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