In an executive interview, it’s important to prepare for questions which will allow you to showcase your functional as well as your management and leadership skills.
In fact, your ability to articulate your management and leadership capabilities clearly, can make or break your performance in an interview, according to Executive Interview Coaching founder Richard Elstone.
“These skills are highly important as an executive,” said Richard. “One of the main reasons you’re being hired is for your leadership expertise and not just your functional experience.
“And the truth is, most people don’t prepare their answers around their leadership capability very well.”
So, how should you articulate your leadership capabilities effectively? A good place to start is to consider your soft skills.
WHAT ARE SOFT SKILLS?
Soft skills are personality traits and behaviours, rather than technical or functional skills. They don’t necessarily come from formal training but are able to be developed. Examples include flexibility, creativity, integrity and conflict resolution.
There are three soft skills that are particularly important for strong leaders.
1. Communication and relationship-building
One of the most in-demand soft skills for any leader is strong communication and stakeholder management expertise. You often see these skills referred to in job descriptions and most people just glance over it, but really they are key attributes in an executive. Leaders need to be able to keep staff engaged and productive, stakeholders happy and other parties such as suppliers on board.
“The ability to communicate, develop relationships and engage effectively with your team and external stakeholders is the difference between an executive being able to do their job successfully or not being able to do their job,” said Richard.
“So you need to be giving examples of how you have built or transformed relationships.
“Showcase your war stories; explain how you’ve turned around a team or department. At the end of the day, the vast majority of organisations are facing mission critical problems and issues and if you dig a little, you’ll find most of them are people-related.”
2. Problem-solving ability
As a leader, another key part of your role is to tackle unfamiliar situations or problems and propose solutions. Prospective employers will want to know how you used your analytical problem-solving skills effectively in your previous roles.
“Normally when companies go out to hire new leaders, they generally have a problem somewhere,” said Richard. “This again comes down to communication. If you can showcase how you have communicated with others, whether internally or externally, to solve a problem, that will resonate clearly with the interviewer.”
Richard said if you can prepare answers around some of the issues your prospective employer may currently be facing – even better!
“Most people don’t prepare answers to questions around problem solving. They’ll attempt to undertake a deep dive investigation into an organisation, but they don’t take the time to think about the problems and issues the hiring company could be facing.”
Effective leaders show empathy. Empathy helps you to relate to others and connect with them, thereby fostering loyal relationships and a strong company culture.
If you are able to showcase how you demonstrate empathy through your leadership (for example by listening to your staff and building solid relationships), this will hold you in good stead during the interview.
“The importance of stakeholder management and the ability to communicate with empathy to your staff, customers and suppliers is often the difference between performing well and not performing well in your role,” said Richard.
“An interview is a great place to showcase your ability to turn around a relationship with a supplier, a customer or internally.”
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR LEADERSHIP CAPABILITY ANSWERS
Richard suggests having three types of examples prepared when showcasing your soft skills and leadership capabilities:
External (how you have dealt with a supplier, for example)
Internal (your team)
Customer-based (how you have turned a customer around).
NEED EXPERT ADVICE?
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