As a senior executive preparing for an interview, it’s essential that you make time to prepare for potential questions asked by your recruitment consultant. It’s unlikely you would turn up to a major internal presentation or negotiation unprepared, so naturally, we advise you to do that same prep-work to boost your chances at an interview.
In the case of executive-level roles, we are interested in seeing evidence from candidates of the positive outcomes they have had in their previous roles: from communication and interpersonal skills to decision making and problem-solving abilities through to leadership, critical thinking and collaboration effectiveness, we look at the complete picture.
Interview preparation: Shine bright. Be prepared.
A great interview preparation tool to help plan answers to consultants’ questions is to use the STAR model interview response technique.
STAR is an acronym that describes a specific type of behavioural questioning based on four key concepts - Situation, Task, Action, Result. This way of breaking down your approach to a specific situation can help you to provide tangible examples and proof points to your consultant, that you have the experience and skillset to match the role you’ve applied for.
Here’s an overview of how to apply STAR thinking during your pre-interview reflection back on the achievements you’ve outlined for us in your resume.
- Situation: Focus on describing the overall context of the interview question in relation to a specific workplace, project, role or circumstance.
- Task: What was your individual involvement or responsibility in that situation? Be clear and concise
- Action: Tell us how you faced or responded to the challenge or situation. Focus specifically on your contribution, not other members of the team.
- Result: Be clear in explaining the outcome or result from your contribution to the problem or task. Even better, highlight what you learned from the situation.
Practice makes perfect
As the saying goes. But we thought it would be quite helpful if we also pulled together a few sample questions and answers to demonstrate how you can apply the STAR model at interview.
Example Q: What do you think are the most important leadership traits? Do you have an example of when you exhibited these?
I think integrity and resilience are important leadership traits. At ACME Co both these traits were put to the test during a digital transformation project.
Last year, I was the lead on the hosting migration project for our e-commerce website.
In moving to an enhanced, more costly hosting environment, I had engaged a new web supplier so it was vital that I be transparent on the reason for the change with our previous agency while also internally defending the cost-benefit which was ultimately for the future benefit of the business.
The company has since seen a 12% uplift in average order value since the migration which has taught me the importance of remaining agile in an e-commerce environment.
Example Q: When have you been able to challenge stakeholders about something you believe?
We recently launched a new line of products. In the lead up to launch I encountered a challenging issue with the GM of operations. We were on a limited marketing budget, so the photography was done in-house with creative direction coming from Operations.
When I received the photos, the quality was not good enough for our consumer marketing campaign VM.
I made the call to reshoot with an external supplier and directed the shoot in person. The launch creative was different to the original direction which forced an issue with my Ops colleague who took the changes personally. I’m measured on consumer engagement with the brand, so the look was critical to the campaign success.
Focusing on the external expectations of our brand, enabled me to get the approval to run the new creative.
Example Q: Do you have an example of a time when you were able to influence commercial decisions?
Influencing commercial decisions was a daily part of my Partnership Director role at ACME Co.
I think my negotiation with XYZ Co who were the third largest online real estate agency at the time to partner with our masthead and financially contribute to the build of a new online portal on our website, “powered by” their brand. After an initial meeting with their CEO to pitch the high-level concept, I then had to design, write, cost and present the full strategic partnership opportunity to their Marketing Team and obtain their buy-in to the concept.
Being largely content driven, besides the financial negotiation side of the deal, I handled all editorial concepts and approval throughout and ongoing once I had finally converted the deal and the sponsorship was live online nationally.
This commercial partnership was the most significant financial result ever achieved at $XXX for ACME Co at that time.
A final word. While it can sometimes seem appropriate, or easier in an interview situation to use non-related work examples to highlight your ability and skills, always keep awareness in your mind (regardless of the pressure you may be feeling) that your future career will be best served by providing relevant examples that relate directly back to your current real-world achievements.