If you ask any experienced manager, they will tell you that employees are the most valued asset of a company. As Bill Gates once noted: “It does not matter if you have a perfect product, production plan, and marketing pitch; you’ll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.”
Therefore, even though Adcore is a public company, with five offices around the globe, it’s still important to me to interview every single person who wishes to join our team.
Over the years, I had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of candidates, and I must say – It is a profound learning experience which I continue learning from constantly.
I thought it would be a good idea to share my point of view from the other side of the table and to offer insights into the dos and don’ts of your next CEO interview. A lot of candidates mistakenly give too much credit to the interview questions and answers, but a good CEO will always read between the lines. So how can you ace your next interview?
If you made it to the CEO interview this means that enough people in the company liked your qualities and believe you can be a good addition to the team.
Know that from the 100’s of CV’s we receive, only 1%-2% make it to the final interview with the CEO, so, give yourself some credit.
Never underestimate your opponent
Indeed, by making it to the final interview, you already made a great impression on the other team members. At this point be careful not to get too cocky, thinking that the position is yours.
Some candidates tend to act vainly and forget that they are in yet another stage of the recruitment process, the most crucial one. To put things in perspective, at Adcore, only 1 out of 3 candidates typically passes the CEO interview, meaning that the odds are still against you.
Thus, my first tip is to project modesty.
Never overestimate your opponent
The opposite of being too vain is projecting fear or anxiety. These characteristics won’t do you any favors and you will end up presenting a “frightened, introverted” version of yourself to the CEO, harming your chances.
Even if it’s your dream job or your most desired workplace, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Mentally prepare yourself and try coming cool as a cucumber.
Show up. Don’t be late.
You will be surprised to hear how many candidates arrive late to their interviews or even worse – don’t show up at all. The last thing you want is your interviewer waiting for you.
Excuses like ‘I was stuck in traffic for 30 min’ or ‘I was looking for parking’ will not fly and are not the best starting point for your interview to say the least.
As trivial as it sounds – show up and don’t be late.
Many candidates mistakenly assume that the CEO has not been informed about their previous interviews with the team. Prior to your interview with the CEO, the team leaders and direct managers report on you, so make sure to be consistent with your previous statements.
For example, saying in an early interview that your annual salary expectations are $65,000 and in the CEO interview $70,000 will come up as being inconsistent.
Always make sure to tell a coherent story with no unexpected turns.
Everyone likes to be courted and complimented from time to time, and the CEO interviewing you is no exception.
You can earn extra points by showing that you are excited to join the company and enthusiastic about the position.
Do not hesitate complimenting on the workspace, the company, or the environment in the office.
In the end of the day, your interviewers would like to know that you really want the job so try expressing this authentically.
Your excitement is a good indicator that you are motivated, and there is a good chance you’ll be happy at your new workplace.
Put yourself in the company’s shoes
A common mistake that candidates unintentionally make is centering on themselves during the whole interview: getting the job, leaving a good impression, showing their inner motivation and so on.
They forget about the other side of the coin, the company’s motivation for the recruitment.
Ask yourself these important questions: Why did the company open this position in the first place? What are the company’s expectations from the candidates for this position? What can the company gain from my skills?
By providing answers to these questions, you can ace your interview. As important as you are, it’s not all about you – being empathetic to the company’s needs will go a long way.
Do your research and come prepared
You can earn multiple points by demonstrating your knowledge about the company and the position.
Always come prepared for your interviews and confidently show the CEO that you have read the job description, you understand the department’s responsibilities, you know what the company’s products or services are, you read the company’s latest press release, news, etc.
The same goes when you are asked to prepare a presentation or an assignment: show your interviewer that you invested time and effort in it. There is no such thing as over-preparing. All these will signal that you are a thorough and reliable candidate.
Remember you will only get one chance to shine, so make the most of it.
Less is more
Oftentimes, especially when candidates feel a bit too comfortable or defensive, they tend to talk too much, providing long and complicated answers.
Be careful not to dig yourself a hole that you cannot get out of, ending up talking your way right out of the job.
Leave your interviewer something to the imagination and try to keep your answers short and sweet.
The Vertigo effect
This tip is useful to candidates who like always being in control.
These candidates nail the interview as long as it goes exactly the way they planned while they are anticipating the majority of the questions. But then an unexpected question will push them totally off-balance, or even worse – when they tell themselves that their answer wasn’t good enough.
Farewell self-confidence and hello Vertigo, as the candidate feels like the carpet was pulled from underneath, eventually losing a grip in one moment. At this point the interview divides into two: before and after the Vertigo effect.
Let me tell you a secret, entering a state of Vertigo will cause much greater harm to your interview than any lousy answer ever will.
My tip to you is this: no matter what, even if you are caught off guard or even if your answer was terrible – keep calm and carry on.
Probably the most difficult tip to bring into force. Remember that the company’s final goal is to evaluate your professional level and your personality.
Therefore, if you present a fake image of yourself, the company will hire the “fake you” and everyone will end up disappointed.
Just as you expect the company to present itself and the position in an honest way, the company will expect nothing less from you.
My tip to you: instead of worrying if you gave the right answer, worry if you didn’t present yourself as who you truly are. After all, there is no such thing as a wrong answer as long it was truthful and authentic.
One bonus tip: make sure to stand out
Interviews are a lot like dating; both sides are looking for chemistry and are searching for good qualities in each other that will set the foundations for a long-term relationship.
The key to success is being as authentic as possible by bringing a unique perspective or a memorable story that will differentiate you from other candidates.
Unfold stories about yourself that will put you in a notable light such as big challenges you overcame in your life, outstanding achievements you are proud of in sports, studies, volunteering, or any other special story which will make you stand out from the crowd.
Finally, as difficult as it sounds, try to have fun! And take your CEO interview as a learning experience.