Tips to ace your C-suite job interview

Here’s how you can own this daunting part of the job hunting process, get your foot in the door and land that corner office. By Priya Prakasan

The competition in the CIO job market is fierce, and networking, connections, and a stellar resume can only get you so far. It will finally come down to how you perform at the job interview. It’s a critical step where you have to convey your value to several people or groups interviewing you. To nail this step, thorough preparation is key. Here are some tips to help make the interview process run smoothly.

1. Truly understand your strengths and weaknesses
We cannot overemphasise the importance of being prepared for an interview. Your degree of preparation can increase your confidence, help you give articulate answers and ask pertinent questions. But the first step to acing an interview is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Just like before any project, you adopt a structured method that evaluates strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; basically you need to do a personal SWOT analysis. These various factors help you gain a better understanding of yourself, how you function, and what you can bring to the able. This way you are better prepared to answer/ask questions, and know the points to bring up or gloss over during the interview. It will help you stabilise the professional interaction. Self-knowledge is a powerful tool that you can use to make a positive impression and land the job.

2. Do your research
Now that you’ve analysed yourself, you need to do the same for the job your interviewing for. Find out as much as you can about the job, its responsibilities and challenges, its previous occupants, the company objectives/vision, its competitors, and other similarly crucial data. This preparation is key for a successful interview. Do a comparative analysis, study the closest competitors, find out about their strategies, future plans, etc. All of this will equip with all the details required to gain the upper hand during the interview.

3. Be judicious in articulating your accomplishments
While talking about yourself and your professional accomplishments be judicious about how much knowledge you impart and how you demonstrate it. Put across your leadership abilities, strategy, execution, and transformation in a clear and structured way. Answer questions in a succinct manner, while providing relevant details so as to give the interviewer an opportunity to assess your performance. When being tested on your knowledge, avoid rattling off numerous facts and figures about your business, rather apply your knowledge to show your understanding of the company and the challenges it faces.

4. Tackle hot-button interview questions
There are bound to be uncomfortable questions during an interview, questions meant to get you to slip up. So be prepared to deal with them head on. Do a mock interview with an industry confidant; practice your answers to some of these hot-button questions. For instance, when asked about a situation where you did not get along with a superior, do not say that you’ve never had such a situation. That’s because it is very common to have a difference of opinion, so when you reply in the negative about such an experience, the interviewer will question your integrity. Instead of denying it, answer that you’ve tackled such situations by calmly presenting your reasons during conflicts and actively listening to the other opinions offered. The idea is to showcase that you’re able to tackle conflict in a professional manner without making it personal. Also, when asked about failed projects, share a brief episode with specific illustrations and do not forget to conclude it on a positive note. When asked about your successes, you can always be candid and mention observations other people have made about your strengths. This way you will not come across as arrogant.

5. Master your body language
Body language is an important tool of communication. During an interview you need to ensure what you’re saying is mirrored in your body language as well. Often certain mannerisms reveal when we’re lying or how nervous/anxious we are. Paying attention to these details so as to exhibit energy, positivity and enthusiasm. Start off an interview with a firm handshake to demonstrate confidence. Maintain good eye contact with your interviewer so as to convey that you are paying attention, are confident, not avoiding the question, etc. However, ensure you aren’t overly persistent with eye contact, otherwise it might come across as an attempt at intimidation. Also, slouching is a big no-no. Use your hands— gesture with open palms—and body movement to emphasise your opinions and include everyone on the panel. Do not let anxiety control you; steer clear of leg shaking, pen clicking or scratching while you speak.

Photograph: Ijeab – 

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