10 Interview Advice for Senior Professionals to land the job

November 17, 2023

Applying for a big-shot role?

An interview is never set to your advantage. However, your employer knows precisely what attributes they are evaluating you on. Don’t get pulled into the fire of only answering uncomfortable questions. Instead, follow this interview advice. Drive the narrative of your interview, take control of the questions being asked, build a strong impression, and demonstrate all your strengths without amiss. This interviewee's guide for senior professionals is an opportunity to set you up for success.

"Success is where preparation and opportunity meet." - Bobby Unser

Standing against 10 other interview prospects you might be the perfect fit for the job. But if you fail to put your best foot forward in an interview, the next thing you know is someone else’s foot in the door and their name on the wall. That is why, you don’t wait for the interviewer to draw out your strengths; you create your own opportunities. Here’s a few interview advice that can help:

A. Setting your narrative

Before you even step into the interview, you must have your hooks planned out and practiced. Certainly, we don’t know the questions of the interview but we can still figure out a narrative that you can tell to leverage your achievements.

Map your narrative if you want to go above and beyond in your preparation like a true leader.

💡 Bonus 1: Wish to know which interview questions are being asked in that company for that role? Go to this link. Add the position you’re interviewing for. Get a list of interview questions being asked at that company and/or other companies for similar job roles.

B. Mastering your interview flow

1. Introduction to set the tone of the interview

The best time to set the direction of your interview is the beginning. Most of the interviews start with “Tell me about yourself.” That is an opportunity to not only deliver your elevator pitch but also hint at the major accomplishments that count for this role. This is exactly what we mapped with the Interview Narrative Map. Remember?

It is the most obvious question and yet people often forget to prepare for this question, says Career & Interview coach Angela Farmeary.

1. a. Hooking with “Tell me about yourself” answer

How to use:

  • Beginning: Your passion for this field
  • Middle: Provide specific examples to illustrate the passion
  • End: Connect past accomplishments to the potential role.
  • Follow up: “Did I answer your question? Is there an area you’d like to hear more about? I want to make sure I’m answering your question”
  • Don’t take longer than 2 mins to answer this question

Asking clarifying questions conveys that you are detail-oriented and want to optimize time, suggests Marielle Smith, vice president of people at Narvar.

  • “I am currently (or was most recently) the Marketing Manager of a small IT Services business called (insert name of your current or most recent employer) and have 3 direct reports. With 10 years of marketing experience, I have also worked within FMCG and retail.
  • My passion is in developing long-term client relationships where I can drive brand and category growth. In my current role, I have been able to drive double-digit growth in a declining category, through new product development, brand repositioning, and an integrated marketing campaign. I did all of this whilst recruiting and training a new team of 3 marketing assistants.
  • I have worked in 3 different types of industries and this has enabled me to broaden and enhance my marketing knowledge and skills. With my experience and background, I feel I could really add value to your organization and make a difference. I think I would be a great fit for your organization and would love to be part of your continued success.”

Hook: Past experiences with impressive accomplishments, skill domains of your expertise that you can showcase.

  • “I’ve worked in software development for the past decade and have extensive experience in building and deploying mobile apps. In my current position, I led a recent project to launch what has become one of my company’s most successful games on both Android and iOS. Of course it’s been incredibly rewarding to get to participate in software projects that let me stretch my creative muscles, but it’s also felt really great to be growing into my leadership potential. I’ve enjoyed getting to mentor and coach younger developers as I took the reins on guiding some projects to completion. That’s why I’m looking to move into a role with more leadership and management responsibilities.”

Hook: Other mobile apps, success metrics of the latest game launch, creative aspects of the project and input, and how you took charge of the project.

1. b. “Tell me something about yourself that’s not on the resume.”

How to use:

Draw an analogy between your core skills needed at this job with your out-of-work activities.

  • “The past few years, I’ve gotten really into geocaching. I love the challenge of finding caches and spending time outdoors with friends. I like using my problem-solving skills to find the ones that are really well-hidden. Learning how people hide things—and where people are likely to look—has helped me tremendously in my design work. It’s all about learning to see things through someone else’s eyes. In addition to those interests and passions, my professional life is a huge part of who I am, so I'd like to talk a bit about some of the strengths that I would bring to this job.

Hook: Practically you’ve asked the interviewer to let you present your elevator pitch.

Jeremy Schifeling, principal product marketing manager at edtech nonprofit Khan Academy, says when you introduce yourself right the next 25 minutes of the interview will go into “collecting evidence to confirm what I’ve already decided.”

2. Failed to hook at the introduction?

Don’t fret! You still have multiple opportunities. Here are techniques and some interview advice that you can use to gain control in the middle. Following these you can create opportunities with answers that beg for follow-up

2. a. When asked about skill A but your interlinking core strength is B.

Why use this?

Hooking to Core Strength

Questions sample:

Do you have managerial experience?

How to use:

“Here’s my experience doing A. I also think B is critically important in this role.”

Or

“Here’s how I applied A for the task. However, that task facilitated a major learning about B.”

  • …this was my limited managerial experience, but I was allowed to take the lead on various projects where I delegated tasks to other co-workers and received specified results. If I could obtain these specified results then I’m sure I can effectively manage a team here and am willing to learn from those above me.”

Hook: Core strength leadership and past projects

The follow-up:

Can you elaborate on what was the project and what was your approach towards leading the team?

2. b. “How will you do this?” type of questions

Why use this:

Hooking to Core Achievements

Question sample:

How do you handle resistance to your projects or ideas?

How do you plan on increasing the company’s revenue?

How do you strategize to meet your set goals?

How to use:

I had done the same for ABC and XYZ. I can use these skills to quickly learn and perform analysis of company debt structures as well.

  • I will bring my unique visioning ability to your company. I am experienced in many areas related to this company’s current goals, including expanding international sales. For example, I helped improve international sales at a previous company by over 25%. My sales background and my planning ability will help to facilitate that growth. Besides the revenue, this was the first time I was directly involved in decision-making alongside the senior management.”

Hooks: Projects ABC and XYZ. Your first experience in a key skill necessary for the role [covered in next Hook topic].

Follow-up:

What are the major challenges you faced/ success metrics you used for projects ABC and XYZ.

When asked:

You can demonstrate the expertise used in both these projects and add twists in the middle like: Back then, little did I know that a connection built/task performed during ABC and XYZ will lead me to [great opportunity in your career/milestone].

2. c. Questions involving decision-making, or soft skills that grow with experience.

Why to use:

Hooking to Strategies Developed/Pillar of truth that you’ve developed to guide your course of action with your unique experiences.

Question sample:

What was your contribution to decision-making?

How to use:

(Taking an example from previous flow)  You can easily drive a narrative starting from your first experience to your latest experience in [decision-making or Strength area], leading to your growth over the years. Beginning… The middle: Given my involvement in the decision-making process, I realized that sometimes having a standard strategy/framework/mental model eases the process significantly….the end.

  • "In that project, I worked with a team that was in the last week of the project deadline. A team member suddenly fell ill and did not show up the entire last week. We still had the last phase of the software incomplete. Rather than a single person working on the project, I assigned parts of the work to each team member, ensuring we completed the last phase sooner than expected. This way, we delivered the project per expectation and successfully fulfilled the client's request. This was only one experience, over the years I have encountered greater challenges but I’ve put a strategy in place that helps me crack even the toughest decisions with logic."

Hook: standard strategy/framework/mental model

Follow up:

What kind of strategies are we talking about?

When asked:

Given the framework of the strategy, where it comes from, use cases, and what have been the positive results of using the strategy/framework/mental model.

2. d. “Have you done this before?” type of questions

Why use it:

Hooking to another strength you would want to showcase right after this skill.

Question sample:

What is your leadership style like?

Describe a time when you had to take charge?

How to teach new concepts to team members unfamiliar with them?

How to use:

When demonstrating skill with past experience.

In 2020, I was/we were working on [this project] when [a challenge] happened. My  [strength area 1] & [skill in question] were challenged because (the novelty of the challenge). Sticking to [skill in question]…..

  • "In my previous role, I worked as a marketing specialist, and I had to teach new members white-hat search engine optimisation techniques to attract new leads. I recall two team members having a conflict, and that served as another challenge for me. However, coming back to the project…despite the technical jargon associated, I used examples to make the learning process easy. I tried to explain to them the concept by optimising the current website. Due to this, the employees asked attentive questions about SEO techniques so that they could implement them in their upcoming projects. I use my ability to empathise with others to help them understand complex concepts."

Hook: Conflict resolution, empathy.

Follow up:

What was the conflict about? Did you manage to resolve it?

When asked:

This is why it was a challenge. This is how I resolved it. It helped me shape my people-management style/ideals/philosophies/etc. (a Placing Hook 2)

2. e. Hooking Using Analogies

When to use:

Works well with hobby or sports-related analogies. Use only when you have a complete grasp of the topic area. Let’s assume you’ve found out that your interviewer is a golf player and you’d like to bring up a common interest, suggest so in your answer.

How to use:

Golf can easily be interlinked with goal setting, risk-taking, farsighted strategy building, etc.

Hook: Sport, hobby, area of expertise

3. Pivot: Handling uncomfortable questions from your past experience or potential challenge

Why use it:

Unlike hooking, this technique is used to bounce off the question asked. You don’t have a strong foundation for answering that specific question, however, there is relevant expertise you can showcase.

Question sample:

I see you made $75,000 in your last job. Would you be comfortable taking a pay cut to work here?

Why did you leave your job at Company X after only six months?

How to use:

Take a spin on the question.

This technique is proposed by J. Maureen Henderson, a Forbes journalist, entrepreneur, and marketing firm founder. In her article “How to take control of your next job interview?” she remarks that interviewees can follow what politicians have been doing for ages: “ spin the bland enquiry to your strength”. You can add further context to suit your strength and then demonstrate your expertise or you could shoot a counter-question.

  • “I believe my past salary reflected the real value that I brought to the organization, particularly my proven ability to solicit individual and corporate donations.
  • I’m flexible, within reason, when it comes to salary. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. I think it’s more important to explore how fundraising skills could help Nonprofit X. Can I tell you more about the work I did at Nonprofit Y and how it might apply to your situation here?”

C: Breaking the flow when the interviewer is too rigid to catch hooks

1. “Speaking of…” Questions to break the flow

💡 Bonus 1: What do you do when the interviewer is rigid on the question flow and the hooks don’t work?

Nance Rosen says, you must stop playing defensively and go on the offensive. Ask questions!

When to use:

When you’ve done quality research and you already know the answer.

How to use:

Let’s say you’re a Director of IT. For a career jump opportunity, you’re interviewing with a public company that stated in its last 10Q that they plan on growing 25% per year.

Ask: “Speaking of the IT department, if your President predicts 25% annual growth, how does that affect IT systems? Are your internal systems prepared to handle that growth? What implications does that growth have on IT, on IT security?”

Since you had anticipated the response, you’d already excelled in the coming step:

Respond: “Oh that’s interesting, I solved that problem at Company X by doing Y”.

2. Follow-up questions in your answer (STARLF METHOD)

💡 Bonus 2: Structuring your answer like a STAR!

STAR is a speech technique that allows you construct an appealing answer to interview questions.

When to use:

When answering any long-form question.

How to use: Don’t stop at STAR technique, instead add key learning (L) and follow-up (F) questions to build a strong impression while also taking the lead in the interview.

3. The ultimate interview advice: Don’t only get interviewed. Interview!

💡 Bonus 3: Stay one step ahead by identifying what your interviewer is looking for. Here’s a guide to help you prepare from the interviewer’s perspective.

An interview is your face-to-face opportunity to determine whether this job is for you or not. Hence, don’t only get interviewed, but also interview why the company is the right fit for you. Let the interviewee sell the job while you sit with the upper hand. Here are a few questions that Forbes magazine suggests a leading prospect should ask the company in an interview:

1. What is the single largest problem facing your staff?

Conveyed impression: Engaged team member.

2. What have you enjoyed most about working here?

Insights collected: How satisfied the company’s employees really are!

3. What constitutes success in this position & at this organization?

Insights collected: How to get ahead!

4. Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?

Conveyed impression: Confidence, open to criticism.

5. Do you offer professional training and education opportunities for staff?

Conveyed impression: Willing to learn and grow.

6. What can you tell me about new products or plans coming in place?

Important note: Already know the answer before asking this as a tailor-made question. Once answered, respond with your input.

7. What deemed it difficult for the former holder of this position to continue?

Insights collected: Look for red flags in the reaction, and body language of the interviewer while s/he responds.

8. What is the next step in the process?

Conveyed impression: Shows your proactive stance.

An interview for a senior leadership role is a dialogue, not a monologue. While you are communicating, demonstrating, asking questions and even challenging the interviewer to a degree, remember that you are here to build a relationship. Follow these 10 Interview Advice for Senior Professionals to land the job. Lead with the mindset of the TOP 2% of professionals like Sparklehood community members and your career jump will seek you in no time.

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