As you climb the corporate ladder and your career evolves, so does the interview process. The kinds of questions you’ll face in interviews for executive-level accounting and finance positions will be much different — and tougher — than those you encountered earlier in your career.
No matter the depth of your professional experience, it’s important to prepare rigorously for the executive-level interview process. Following are a few quick tips that can help you to meet, or even exceed, hiring managers' high expectations when interviewing for executive-level accounting and finance jobs.
Be prepared to expand on every answer
During the interview process, you'll likely need to respond to some situational questions that present hypothetical scenarios. That line of questioning helps the interviewer to gauge how you might react to challenges once you’re on the job. Many hiring managers will also ask for real-world examples of how you handled various situations in previous positions.
Even if you’re just answering standard questions about decisions you made on a previous project, most hiring managers will expect you to expand on your responses to provide more details and context. And if an employer asks you to describe a project that didn’t go according to plan, recognize that it's not a “gotcha” question but a way to get you to describe your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Know how to highlight your interpersonal skills
Hiring managers care quite a bit about making sure the people they bring into executive roles mesh well with the existing corporate culture. Therefore, you can expect a significant portion of the interview process to be devoted to determining whether you are a good match for the company. Hiring managers will want to assess more than your technical skills and expertise so they can get an overall sense of your leadership traits and other qualities.
Today’s work environments, by and large, are highly collaborative — and that extends to the executive level in an organization. To collaborate effectively, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have strong interpersonal skills, like communication abilities. (Note: Communication is one of the top areas many employees think their managers need to improve, according to research by our company.) How you carry yourself in the interview process will help to showcase those skills, of course. But you should also make a point to provide examples of how you've applied those types of skills to drive positive outcomes from specific work situations in the past.
Be ready to play the role of interviewer
The hiring process for an executive-level position can take weeks. You also will likely need to meet with many people from different departments. So, it’s important to stay engaged and energized through every phase. You should also make a sincere effort to get to know the people you meet. These people could prove to be valuable contacts for your professional network, even if you don’t end up working for their organization.
During interviews, try to glean additional insight into leadership issues or specific challenges that the company may be facing. In short, be prepared to do some interviewing of your own during these meetings, when appropriate. Gathering important details about the company during interviews (and before applying for the job, too) is a smart strategy. It will enable you to provide thoughtful, solutions-focused responses — the kind of answers that can help you get hired — as you move through each step of the executive-level interview process.
This blog post was originally published in May 2014 and has been updated to reflect more current information.
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