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It feels nice to be on the top of a headhunter’s list of an executive position, doesn’t it?
It’s what you deserve, after all – you’ve been doing your work diligently. You’ve met expectations and exceeded them. You’ve made things happen. You had results. You feel like you belong in the 2% of applicants who get to the interview phase.
And naturally, when you get to a meeting with a hiring manager, you have stories to tell. You want them to be smitten by your experience. You want them to see that you’re the best person for the job, the ONLY person they should consider to fill the position.
So you talk. You make sure that nothing you think should be mentioned slips your mind. You give the hiring manager a hundred and one reasons to remember you when the time comes to make the choice.
But they don’t. You don’t get the call saying that you’re the new COO at Company Ltd. And you’re left wondering why.
Here’s the most common reason why: You probably TALKED too much! And did not ASK them enough questions!
Being a person who is in the position to be approached by a hiring manager for an executive position, there are some things you should be aware of. The most significant one is that businesses, at least the good ones, do not use the services of hiring managers to find people for whom they will tailor-make a position. When businesses are looking for new executives, they have a clear agenda. They have a need, and you’re the person they think might fulfill it. That’s what hiring managers are looking for, and that’s what you need to be.
The single most important thing you need to do during the interview is to make sure you come off as a solution for the hiring company’s problems. And for that:
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that you don’t necessarily have to know why the company is looking for a new executive. Maybe the old one retired. Maybe he was fired. Maybe he got promoted to another position. Maybe the company is branching. In some cases, the hiring manager might volunteer that information. In other cases, you might get a vague explanation such as “the company is thinking about taking a new direction.” Or even worse, you might get some meaningless phrases in business-speak thrown at you.
That’s why it’s important that you do your homework before the interview. The interview 101 you knew by heart when you were looking for your first job mentioned it. It’s still relevant – you need to find out as much as you can about the company and why they are looking for a new executive as you can before facing a hiring manager. You can look into the specifics, but you can also become familiar with the recruitment trends in your industry. That will greatly increase your chances to becoming an answer to the question they will never ask directly.
But if you’re not able to do all of that digging, listening and asking questions at the interview could do the trick. So, when the hiring manager asks you something, don’t see that as an opportunity to boast with all of your accomplishments. They know them. They’ve done their homework. Give them an answer to the question they asked, nothing more, nothing less. If you don’t understand something about their questions, or you think they could provide you with information which could help you give them a better answer, ask them. And listen to their answer.
It’s paramount that you and the hiring manager stay on the same page during the whole interview. Some positions, for example, can be held in different kinds of industries. You might have experience working in different industries. You might even be targeted because of your cross-industry experience, as this is one of the tactics advised to employ to get quality talent and facilitate much needed change.
But when a hiring manager comes knocking, make sure you use the same language they are using. Don’t speak about your accomplishments in a tech company if they’re looking to hire someone who worked in the financial sector. Speak about your experiences in the financial sector, even if your most recent employment was in a tech company.
Keep in mind – an interview is not the place for you to display your magnificent ego. It’s not a place where you will have your praises sung. It’s a place where you go to become a solution for a problem. You don’t have to be the best in your field. You have to be what the person in front of you is looking for.
About the Author:
Radu Palamariu is the Practice leader of Morgan Philips Executive Search, specialising in Logistics and Supply Chain executive search in Asia. He has been living for the past 8 years across Singapore, Indonesia, and India, where he managed a spectrum of senior level placements and worked with a myriad of industrial clients. His travels and exposure to diverse cultures helped develop his knowledge in regional labour practices and cross-cultural differences, which makes his initiatives all the more effective.
He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, as well as an article contributor on logistics and executive search trends and developments.
He is currently based in Singapore, but travels across the region for his assignments.
Feel free to connect with him or follow him on LinkedIn.