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The Senior-Level Interview: the Pitfalls and Red Herrings

August 15 2015 - Recruiting a new employee is not always easy, and it's made even more difficult if the company is looking to fill senior roles such as finance jobs like these from exec-appointments. It's not only important for recruiters to know what to look for but also for interviewees to know what they can expect from a senior-level interview. To help you avoid those pitfalls and red herrings you might encounter while facing your potential employer, we're discussing seven ways to avoid any hidden traps during your interview.

Do your research

This might sound patronising, especially if you've already held several senior-level roles, but this point cannot be emphasised enough. According to Changeboard, one in four people come to an interview unprepared and without knowing anything about the company they're trying to get a job with.

Know why you're there

It's not just interviewers for graduate positions who will ask "Why are you here?". Be prepared for this question, and think about how you can carefully balance your answer. Touch upon why you left or wish to leave your current position and discuss what you could bring to the new company.

Work hard but stay humble

Even if you've been working day, night and weekends, never forget that you still might not be successful in your interview as you simply might not be what the company is looking for. Sylvie di Giusto, founder of Executive Image Consulting, explains: "I spent my 20s in corporate environments, and I remember them for working nights and weekends. Sweat, hassle, pain, as well as diligence, perseverance, and an enormous amount of effort and energy characterise my career at this point. I've learned that there are very little short cuts when it comes to career success. Success doesn't 'just happen.' Never." The best you can do is to keep on trying and stay professional at all times.

Show that you're willing to learn and adapt

This doesn't mean that you have to completely give up on your principles - after all, you want to feel comfortable in your new surroundings. However, you should make it clear that, despite having worked for other companies and on different projects, you're looking forward to contributing and learning more from the people in the new company.

Show that you can take responsibility

Sometimes being a leader can be lonely. Kate McKeon, founder of Prepwise and Prepwise Games, says: "[M]ost of your employees will be nothing like you. That has to be factored into your plans if you really want to grow, so you can plan realistically. Your version of 'take initiative' won't be replicated by your staff." Let the recruiter know that you understand how every person is different and that in order to plan well, one needs to understand the team and be able to take responsibility.

Seek help when necessary

You can't be an expert in everything and it's important that when working with a team, you seek the help of others, who might know more about a particular subject than you. Isa Adney, author of Community College Success, explains: "Too often we think we have to sell ourselves as this know-it-all hot-shot to get a job, but I have found the best way to build relationships with people whom you'd like to work with (or for) is to start by being vulnerable, sharing your admiration for their work, and asking for advice."

Of course, when applying for a senior position, you should know what you're doing but showing the sentiment that you're willing to learn from others can score you some plus points during your interview.

Problem solving and decision making

In a senior position, you're very likely to be expected to make decisions and solve problems on a daily basis. Your recruiter will therefore probably ask you about how you've tackled certain issues in the past. Make sure you have a well-thought-out answer prepared.

Senior-level interviews can be challenging for recruiters and interviewees alike. The main thing is that you stay motivated and professional at all times and that you prepare for every job interview just like you did for your very first one.


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