Pitfalls of the Senior-Level Interview

Joe Turner, the "Job Search Guy"

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As the current credit crisis continues to deepen, global markets are reeling, prompting the universal question, "When will it end?"  Since no one knows the answer, we soldier on with the knowledge that it will end sometime.

According to Brian Sullivan, the CEO of the executive search firm CTPartners, "Hiring will be especially competitive and selective in 2009."  In its recently released 2009 annual list of hot executive jobs, he indicated that there will be a shift away from volume hiring to a more strategic hiring approach for senior executives in 2009 as the continued credit crisis grips world markets. "Opportunities still exist for talented individuals with innovative ideas," Sullivan adds.

So what does this mean for those executives who are chosen to interview for these senior-level positions?  Since the competition has increased, there is less room for the usual mistakes that senior-level candidates typically make in these interviews.

As a candidate, you will typically interview and need to pass muster with a higher number of interviewers, at all levels. According to Dave Knutson, a senior retained search recruiter and owner of the Knutson Group in Phoenix, most senior-level candidates make the mistake of brushing off the individual and group interviews with the midlevel employees. They apparently think these interviews are less important than the "real" meeting with the CEO and upper management team.

Knutson warns this is a big mistake, as the midlevel players will have more input on the final choice than candidates often think. He advises all senior-level candidates to get themselves up to speed on the company, its stats and other details, especially for the midlevel meeting with the managers and directors. You will be expected to demonstrate your knowledge of the company for which you are interviewing.

An even bigger problem is the "Presidential Pitfall."  This is based on years of observation from Neil McNulty, principal recruiter with the McNulty Management Group, a military placement and career management group out of Norfolk, Va. McNulty noted that too often, senior candidates walk into an interview cautious and reserved, and try to "act presidential." As a result, they are not paying attention to what the person who would be their boss is looking for in an employee.

McNulty has seen dozens of senior-level candidates make this major mistake. While they may be highly accomplished, they walk into an interview expecting the company to recruit them rather than feeling the need to sell themselves to the employer.

As McNulty sees it, the big mistake high-level candidates make is that they don't want to appear hungry. They want to appear "presidential," as he calls it. That means they don't want to lower themselves to ask about needs.

McNulty says many of his senior-level interviewees have done a poor job of determining what the employer needs. They have failed to demonstrate how experience from their own past can address those needs. If you don't hit those hot buttons, you won't get hired.

Too many high-end executives are acting as if this is still the "go-go" '80s and '90s. They act with the attitude that the company needs them rather than the opposite reality. The truth is that this dynamic seldom works, as it is the rare individual today who has that unique ability or skill set that the company must absolutely acquire.

This takes us to the core of the problem: High-level candidates often seem to have a hard time selling themselves. The advice from Knutson is to get over this, and ask for the job. This is especially necessary in today's depressing economic climate. In the words of McNulty, "You gotta sell during the interview or you won't get hired."  

As a recruiter, Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Author of "Job Search Secrets Unlocked" and "Paycheck 911," Turner has been interviewed on radio talk shows and offers free insider job-search secrets at: http://www.jobchangesecrets.com.



Last Updated: 26/02/2009 - 2:08 PM


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