6 ways to impress in your next senior interview
Preparing for a managerial interview? Learn how to stand out with these top tips from our recruitment experts.
Interviewing for senior or managerial positions is very different to mid-weight or junior roles. Not only are expectations higher, the process itself is often longer and more intensive.
Managerial interviews are typically conducted in multiple stages, with two, three or sometimes four rounds of interviews. You could meet a range of individuals, from line and hiring managers to senior stakeholders and even members of the team you hope to take on.
To help you prepare, we’ve asked some of our recruitment experts to share their insider knowledge in time for your next managerial interview.
1. Prepare for scenario-style questions
Your success in any interview process is based on your ability to offer detailed examples of the skills laid out in your CV.
Questions that require candidates to apply past experience to new situations are common when interviewing for a managerial post. These might touch upon your leadership skills, management style or even potential issues within your team or work environment, enabling the hiring manager to gauge your ability to adapt your current skillset to meet the requirements of the role.
Leoni Simpson, senior manager in HR & business support at Robert Walters Australia, advises: “As a recruiter, I would focus very particularly on the candidate’s CV, zooming in on certain projects they have led. This would help me assess their people management and conflict management skills and enable me to really understand the depth of their experience.
“A strong candidate should also have the ability to be specific when it comes to deliverables. They should be able to give detailed examples of what they were targeted on and how they achieved it.”
2. Own your mistakes
When interviewing, it’s natural to try to focus the discussion on your successes, talking up your most impressive achievements and skirting around those you are less proud of.
However, talking about the difficulties you’ve faced might actually make you a more desirable candidate than someone who appears to have had an easy ride.
Sammie Sam, director at Robert Walters Malaysia, talks about how overselling yourself might cause interviewers to doubt your experience.
“I always like a candidate who has the confidence to acknowledge their previous mistakes or failures and talk about how they managed to bounce back from or overcome these setbacks,” she says.
“Resilience and a positive attitude are important in today’s disruptive market. A candidate who is forthcoming in showing his or her vulnerability and ability to survive in this fast-moving world would convince a hiring manager to hire them over someone who sells themselves as the perfect candidate.”
3. Have confidence in your managerial strategy
When hiring for a managerial post, interviewers are looking for someone who can lead as well as work well with others.
A desirable managerial candidate should be able to demonstrate a passion for people and a proven ability to lead and grow a team, bringing different experiences or a new approach that might add value to, or accelerate business operations.
Leoni advises: “Expect questions around leadership style and be able to give examples, like how you might approach coming into a management role in a new business. Coming in as an external hire is quite a different experience from being hired from within the business, so put some thought into how you would manage that with a new team or with new stakeholders in a business".
“Another common question for managerial roles is what would you do in your first month, your first two months and your first three. That doesn’t have to be a really detailed strategy, but it’s good to be prepared. For example: ‘in the first month I would assess the team, see where the strengths and the downfalls are. In the second month I would delve further into that, meet with all the team etc’.”
4. Ask the right questions
While asking questions during an interview shows a healthy level of interest, there are some lines of questioning that cause a hiring manger to lose confidence in your motivation for the role.
Sammie offers examples of good questions for candidates to ask, and some that might be seen as warning signs.
“Asking about the organisation’s culture, or whether the interviewer can describe a time when people from different departments worked together on a project or to solve an issue, demonstrates your interest in the company and the role that you’re applying for.
Meanwhile, questions about career progression in the organisation might demonstrate a progressive mindset. However, Sammie warns: “Candidates should avoid focusing all their questions on employee benefits. These are things you can learn about later but should never be seen as a motivation in the interview process as it could indicate a lack of interest in the role.”
5. Don’t make it all about you
When presenting yourself as a desirable managerial candidate it is import to remember that while you’ll be keen to push the value of your own achievements, you mustn’t let this detract from your passion and ability as a leader.
Leoni explains how a candidate’s use of language might let them down in an interview.
“One of the most important distinctions I look for in a managerial candidate compared with a lower-level team member, is the ability to be selfless in their achievements and this can be quite telling in the way they talk about their past successes.
“If a candidate continually uses ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ when discussing a project that was a team effort, this may indicate that the candidate is not a team player. A candidate who gives him/herself all the credit for group efforts will never be considered as a people-focused manager.”
6. Go the extra mile
One of the most significant differentiators of a managerial interview is having the time to present your ideas and offer new direction.
With so much competition for senior roles, it’s becoming increasingly important for candidates to go the extra mile in articulating and presenting how they might add value to the role.
“I once had a senior candidate who came prepared with presentation slides and put in a few key initiatives that might work for the organisation,” explains Sammie.
“While not all ideas may be welcomed after interview stage, this level of preparation shows a high level of interest in the job. In particular, the critical thinking and creativity this candidate was able to share, along with relevant project experiences, the mistakes he’d learnt from and how he would use these experiences to ensure effective implementation in the future was most impressive in demonstrating his strategic approach to the role.”