Author Topic: Big interview - how to prepare?  (Read 2886 times)


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Big interview - how to prepare?
« on: January 07, 2016, 08:11:13 PM »
I have an interview next week for a new job. The interview will be with the executive selection committee, and the job is a step-up from my current position. (The job is at an entirely new organization for me.) I currently work relatively low-level at my current job, but the organization is a behemoth, whereas the new organization is much smaller. So, the number of people I would be responsible for is about the same, but some of the tasks at the executive level would be new/expanded to me. In other words, the job is a little bit of a stretch. However, my resume  got me through to an interview - so I look good enough on paper to get an interview.

I really really really want this job. I am feeling a bit anxious about it. I haven't had to formally interview for a job since sometime in college - like 20+ years ago, and it was a much less significant job (basically selling carpet). My other jobs have come from network connections and internal promotions, or other fairly informal means.

I have done research, and will be doing more, on the organization to really bone up on the details. I have the detailed job description and my answers to the qualifying questions (like essay answers that had to be written demonstrating particular experience or skills) - and will be reviewing all that material in detail before the interview.

So advice on skillful interviewing would be most welcome! How do I keep my cool? How might an interview with an executive selection committee be different than a "regular" interview?


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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2016, 08:22:27 PM »
Good luck!!! You will do great :)

I am going to guess than an executive selection committee will ask more in-depth questions and maybe more experience related questions.

My suggestions:
- Stay positive. Even slightly negative or sarcastic comments could be misconstrued (unfortunately).
- Stay enthusiastic/upbeat. It could just be my personality/field but I strongly gravitate towards people with welcoming, cheerful personalities. People who smile a lot.
- Elaborate, give examples, provide detail. When I do interviews and ask questions sometimes I get one-word or 1 sentence answers. That tells me nothing.
- Have good questions for them. At the most basic level, something like, "What did a typical day look like for the person who previously held this position?" "What does the ideal candidate look like to you?" (kind of tricky because it may reveal you are not qualified for the position, on the plus side you will know the reasoning) I also like to ask what happened to the person who held the position previously - they way they answer can give you a lot of insight ;)

Again, good luck! Deep breaths!!


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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2016, 09:22:04 PM »
How do I keep my cool?
One way to do this is you can tell someone (not necessarily the exec committee, maybe whoever greets you at the door) that you have nerves. Also, take a pause before answering, which not only gives time to collect thoughts, but also overcomes the "nervously rushed answer".

How might an interview with an executive selection committee be different than a "regular" interview?
I don't know how senior your position is, but most line manager and below interviews will have different people asking different types of questions.

Example for an engineering interview: Committee made up of 1 HR person, 1 technical SME, and people manager. HR person may be there to ask generic questions, technical SME will test you with design scenarios, and the people manager will likely ask behavioural / culture fit questions.

A couple of tips from Ramit Sethi:
-Bring something with you of value (his Briefcase Technique): it's a great piece of showmanship if you get asked a question, and are able to go "actually, I created something similar recently" then pull it out your folder and hand it to them (be wary of confidentiality of course)
-Fully support lbmustache's good questions tip: what is the biggest pain that this role must solve in the next 3 months? What is the office culture like? How is the role / team's performance measured? The closer you can make it sound like you're pretty much already working there, the better.


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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2016, 09:37:33 PM »
Ever heard of "Behavioural interviewing" techniques?

Its all the rage in large corporations now

So what is BI?.. When you hear the question "tell me about a time when you...." or "Give me an example where YOU were you disagreed with your boss.. what did you do etc".. you know its a BI.

That last example is a classic BI question.

The great thing about BI's is they are dead easy to prepare for... Go on line and Google "behavioural interviewing questions"

You will find pages of them.. Learn the responses to 3 or 4.. dream up great examples of where you actually did dissagree with your boss and you negotiated to a sucessful outcome.

You only need to learn the answers to about 3 questions, and you can modify them to fit just about any question they can throw at you.

Also remember to not try to be perfect.. Another classic BIQ is "tell us about one of your weakenesses and how you manage it (sucessfully) in the workplace".

My last job I told them my greatest weakness was my humitlity...:).. Its OK, you have a sense of humour, they like that.

Good luck

Papa bear

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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2016, 09:53:05 PM »
Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are you.  This should be a 2 way conversation, not a question and answer period.  You need to know exactly what you are getting yourself into.  This is your time to know everything. Ask about the position for things that aren't normally asked. What have been the challenges in filling? Why is the position open, and where did the old person go?  What could they have done better? What are the performance expectations? What particularly about your resume did they like that made them bring you in?  Find out about the team dynamic and what your team expects of you as a manager and leader.

Come prepared with a basic 30/60/90 day plan for change.  "I'll meet with members 1 on 1 during the first 30, prepare a plan and discuss with key members at 60, implement the changes at 90" etc.

Basically, this all adds up to being confident enough in yourself to ask these things and making it about getting the best possible fit for all parties involved.

Good luck!

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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2016, 09:20:52 AM »
What kind of direction have you been given on what format the interview will take? The last two management positions I have interviewed for the HR person gave pretty clear instructions on how the interview would be formatted and what type of questions would be asked. I have only ever had behavioral interview questions and when I interview people, either as college students or to fill a position I have opened myself, I use behavioral questions and then might follow up with more technical questions to elaborate on a story a candidate told.

The way I prepare for interviews is as follows:
  • I keep an on-going list of key stories/accomplishments from the last several years at work
  • I take time to succinctly write out each story in the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, Result
  • I practice telling these stories out loud to myself (in the car, an empty room, whatever) so I know the details and can tell the story easily. Be sure to focus on the actions that you specifically did and what resulted from those actions
  • Review my resume to make sure it is current and I can talk coherently about everything on it

I have attached a bunch of sample behavioral interview questions that you might want to review. Personally I have found that if you have a handful of strong stories that illustrate how you can lead a team, communicate well, solve problems, etc. then you can usually twist them a bit to answer the questions asked. Note: this goes for a normal behavioral-based interview, not the trick questions like "if you were an animal, what would you be?" or some gotcha mind puzzle.

Good luck.


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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2016, 06:48:08 PM »
Thank you all for your replies! ysette9 - the download is great - thank you!

I have time set aside this weekend for prepping. I also have a coworker who used to work at the place I am interviewing and I will be picking her brain. She does not know the executive level people who will be interviewing me, but can give me a lot of insight into the organization. (She worked at the level that I would be in charge of if hired for this position.)

I was called by someone on the selection committee (one level above the level at which I'd work). I did not hear from HR. HR may not be involved in the interview and selection process beyond the initial screening/review of resumes.

I know that the current person is retiring from the position.


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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2016, 08:51:55 PM »
I am also doing a big interview next week; the difference for me is, I've been moving through their selection "phases" by answering questions over email for 2 months. I feel like a number of the usual "interview questions" (behavioral, etc.) have been answered in email, so I'm having trouble preparing for this interview, because I feel like they already know me decently well based on written responses.

Another difference for me is this is a remote position, and it seems that all of the interviewing is done via email + video chat. My interview will be done over the computer with someone in another state (or more than 1 person? not sure yet).

I believe this interview is to confirm that I live up to what I've written so far, to finally gauge a bit of "in person" repoire, and to help them differentiate their top candidates so they can choose someone. The email I received to schedule the interview said this is the "final round" - whatever that means ;)

TLDR: does anyone have any advice for a remote interview where I've already answered a lot of questions over email?


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Re: Big interview - how to prepare?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2016, 01:35:10 PM »
digito - I regularly meet with people via VTC. I think from what you are describing the interview might be one of those "lets make sure this person isn't crazy" type of situations. I do interview a lot of people each year (in person) for doctoral internships. In my experience, meeting people face to face, even via video, tells you much that the emails and extensive applications leave out. Often people look very good on paper and then behave in some sort of way face to face that makes them less attractive as an applicant. What makes them "weird" can vary widely from how they dress to degree of "nerves" and bad manners in some way. I would approach a video interview as if it were in person and assume they will ask you some of the same questions as they did via email.