Expert job search advice.

5 Common Executive Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Climbing the corporate ladder and landing an executive position is no easy feat. It requires not just years of experience but also the ability to navigate the often intimidating executive interview process. While your resume may get you in the door, your performance in the interview is what will seal the deal. Avoid these top five executive interview mistakes to ensure you present yourself as the standout candidate you truly are.

executive interview mistake to avoid

Common Interview Mistake #1: Failing to Prepare

Preparation is key, yet many executives underestimate the importance of thorough preparation for a significant executive interview. They may overestimate their ability to improvise and fail to invest sufficient time in preparing and memorizing STAR stories to navigate a rigorous interview successfully.

Before you step into the interview room, you must have a deep understanding of the company, its culture, and the industry it operates in. Candidates often underestimate the amount of research needed for an executive-level interview.

My average executive client dedicates between 12-15 hours to preparing for an executive interview. At the senior level, the stakes are higher, but so is the potential payoff.

Salary negotiation coach Kate Dixon says it’s crucial to maximize your brain’s processing power in interview situations. By having well-rehearsed and fluent examples, you can free up extra brain power to focus on visual and auditory cues. Preparing could “make the difference between closing the deal, and… not!”

Executive Interview Mistake #2: Neglecting to Emphasize Results

When it comes to sharing STAR stories, executives often demonstrate their prowess in articulating the situation and actions undertaken individually or by their team. However, it is not uncommon for them to inadvertently neglect the crucial aspect of highlighting the RESULTS that were accomplished. Emphasizing the outcomes achieved is essential in showcasing the true impact and effectiveness of the team’s efforts.

Align Results with the Job Description

When reviewing the job description, carefully consider the results that the company is aiming to achieve with its new hire. Make sure to prepare STAR stories that align with their goals and demonstrate similar accomplishments that you have achieved throughout your career.

Common Mistake #3: Misaligning Credit for Success

Many executives face challenges when discussing success. Some tend to take excessive credit for their team’s work, while others forget to take responsibility for their own actions in contributing to the team’s success.

Be prepared to give examples of how you have successfully led teams, managed conflicts, and contributed to a positive company culture.

Executive Interview Mistake #4: Neglecting to be Likeable

Many job seekers forget that “likability” carries as much weight as being well-qualified when it comes to job offers. They don’t take the time to engage with every person during the interview process or use humor to build rapport.

Research has shown that when job candidates have similar backgrounds and skills, the individual perceived as more likable is hired nearly 90% of the time.

In response to a LinkedIn post about common interview mistakes, Cade Proulx commented that he has noticed some executives tend to overlook the opportunity to showcase their human side during interviews. “Sharing personal anecdotes or passions that align with the company’s culture can really make [a candidate] stand out. It’s not just about what you’ve achieved but who you are beyond the resume.”

Take time to research the people who will be interviewing you. Try to find commonalities that may lend themselves to small talk and personal connections.

Common Interview Mistake #5: Underestimating the Final Interview

Dismissing the importance of the final interview can have detrimental consequences. When executives are told that meeting with one last person, such as the Board Chair or CFO, is merely a formality, they sometimes fail to recognize that this impression matters just as much as that of the hiring manager. It is crucial not to trust the hiring manager when they say, “At this point, it’s just a box that needs to be checked.”

Many executives have learned the hard way that the opinion of the final decision-maker can significantly impact their candidacy. I have spoken to numerous executives who have been burned in that last interview. The impression you make on the final decision-maker is just as important as the opinion your hiring manager has of you.

Executive Career Coach, Gina Riley cautions job seekers against approaching the final interview too casually. “It’s all an evaluation and a test as to your relatability and ability to read each room,” says Riley.

Send a Thoughtful Follow-Up

The interview process doesn’t end when you leave the room. A timely and well-crafted follow-up can keep you top of mind and demonstrate your professionalism and interest in the position. Within 24 hours, send a personalized thank you email that reinforces your interest in the role and the value you can bring to the company.

Avoid Common Executive Interview Mistakes

By steering clear of these common mistakes, you’ll be in a strong position to make a lasting impression. Remember, the executive interview is your opportunity to demonstrate not just your qualifications but also your strategic vision and leadership capabilities. Prepare diligently and approach the interview with confidence and poise.



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