Candid Interview Advice for the Top C-Suite Candidate

Corporate executives face different interview challenges than those lower down on the company hierarchy. While C-suite executives are often recruited and in-demand, this does not mean that candidates looking for work at the most senior level can assume that their interview skills won't make or break their career opportunities. No matter how far up the corporate ladder a candidate has advanced, an interview remains a make-or-break moment when new professional opportunities are being pursued.

When you are interviewing for any C-level position, whether that's chief operating officer, chief executive officer, chief financial officer or a related job, this interview advice can help you to impress the company that is considering hiring you to fill one of their most important positions.  Some of these tips may seem like reminders, but pay special attention to tip #4.  This is huge!

Understand the job specifications:

Companies have a very clear idea of the characteristics and skills they are looking for when hiring someone at the executive level. It is important to have a detailed understanding of what responsibilities are most critical for the organization, what leadership qualities the company values, and what the hiring organization's most important objectives are in hiring a new C-suite exec.

Consider the goals of the interview:

You'll be much more prepared if you understand both what the company is looking for in the interview and what you hope to get out of it. Initial interviews are much different than final interviews after you have moved through the hiring process. You want to consider, from the company's perspective, what the most essential information is to get across so the hiring organization will feel confident they've learned about you as a candidate. You are also interviewing the company to see if the job is a good one, so you'll want to consider in advance what types of information you need to glean from the interview to better determine if the organization is one you wish to work at.

Learn the ins-and-outs of the organization and the position:

You should know exactly what the company does, what it revenue is, what its principal lines of business are, and what types of technology the company employs. A lot of information about corporations is public record, so you can learn financial information about most organizations that you are interviewing with. You also want to find out about who held the position that you are interviewing for and what the outcome of their term-of-service was. It's very helpful if you can find out why the previous executive left, as this can give you insight into both what the company is looking for when hiring as well as whether the organization is actually one that will provide you with a positive working environment.

Tap into your network:

You want to ensure you have as much information as possible about what it would be like to work for the company, both so you can determine if you would be a good fit for the organization and so you can demonstrate in your interview how you would be an asset to the corporate culture. Reach out to colleagues, friends, and industry-leaders to learn more about what working for the organization would be like. Try to determine the company's core competencies; it's challenges; its brand identity as an employer and service or product provider; and how the executives both work together and work with board members.

Prep for common interview questions:

Executives are asked different questions than rank-and-file employees, but there are common trends among the questions that are generally asked. You can expect to be asked, for example, to explain past career successes and to explain why you want to be a part of the organization. Think through answers in advance for the high-level interview questions that you are likely to be asked so you can prepare well-crafted, detailed answers that are rich in specifics and quantifiable details.

Practice positive body language:

Non-verbal communication can matter in an interview. You want to come across as poised and confident, especially since executives are often the public face of the company.  Practice the types of body language that convey self-assurance and interest in the position. This includes looking the interviewer in the eye; giving the interviewer a firm handshake; sitting upright and leaning forward to show interest during the interview; and speaking slowly and confidently.