By: Rick Mohrman

Executive Recruiter Rick Mohrman has over eighteen years’ experience at Brooke Chase Associates in retained search placement of executives, where the firm works extensively with clients and candidates to structure and prepare for the interviewing process.

In part one of this series, we looked at the need for companies to thoroughly prepare for Executive Interview.  Now we’ll discuss the candidate’s preparation.  Remember that we used the analogy of courtship – you’re seriously exploring a potential partnership and the “fit” – compatibility, unity of purpose, and commitment.  And again, we’ll highlight the advantages of working with an executive recruiter.

The Need to Prepare

Just as it’s ill-advised for a company’s interviewers to “wing it” in an executive interview, preparation by the candidate is critical to a successful outcome.  Only through careful thought and planning will you arrive at the interview confident that you will not only communicate clearly, intelligently, and effectively, but learn what you need to know to make informed responses and decisions.

Remember, you are the product being promoted – not just your skill set but your personal “brand” and reputation as a professional.

Candidate Prep

Do Your Homework

The candidate must demonstrate that they’ve taken the process seriously and have thoroughly researched the company – its people, product, market, culture, and the objectives of the role.  Online resources abound, but don’t overlook the simple step of actually looking at the product and talking to a salesperson.

Of course, working with an executive recruiter who has established a working relationship with the company is most helpful in gaining insight into the stated objectives, the reporting structure, and the culture.

Prepare Your Questions

You can’t learn everything you need to know through research beforehand, but asking great questions in the interview demonstrates your ability as much as the answers you give.  The specific role and opportunity will guide you in formulating your questions, some of a technical nature and some regarding the company’s structure and culture.

Just as you would if meeting with a potential client, ask what the company’s needs are, what the role’s objectives are, and most importantly, how success in this role will be measured.

Don’t be afraid to ask this question toward the end of the interview, “Is there anything in my background or anything we’ve discussed today that would prevent us from moving forward?”  This is your opportunity to overcome objections, or simply to clarify misunderstandings.  In any case, the interviewer will respect your willingness to address issues.

Prepare Your Presentation

Create a brief presentation summarizing your background, experience, and your fit for the role.  Outline how you would “hit the ground running” with a 30-60-90-day plan.  Demonstrate that you are thinking as a true business partner and not just a functionary.  Don’t make it too complicated or lengthy – ask if you will have the opportunity to make your presentation and be flexible to fit the format and agenda of the interviewer(s).  Having something that you can leave behind is a good option.

Be Prepared to:

Establish Rapport

Just as interviewers should set the tone of welcoming, relaxed professionalism, the candidate should meet that with a personable, outgoing approach to everyone they meet.  Smile, make eye contact, and look for common ground to connect with people.

Answer Questions

Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your experience, not least of which is “Why are you interested in this opportunity?”  Your motivation is important, certainly not your dissatisfaction with your current position or, “I need a job,” but “This is what excites me about your firm and this opportunity, this is what you’re looking to accomplish, and I can do it for you.”

Anticipate questions about not only the hard skills needed, but the leadership, management of others, relationship building, and cross-functional interaction, both within the organization and with customers and/or vendors.

Be direct in answering questions and don’t digress into long-winded stories.  Be prepared to use specific examples, including metrics wherever appropriate.  Make sure your answers and the examples you use fit the question being asked.  “This was the situation, this was the course of action, these were the results.”

If relocation is involved, be prepared to discuss what would be involved, in particular any family considerations that would affect the move.

Go with the Flow

Be prepared to be flexible if the schedule and/or agenda is adjusted on the fly.  Be aware of the interviewer’s manner, style, and priorities and adapt.  If you’re working with a recruiter, it may be possible to have an agenda beforehand.

Focus on Opportunity, Not Compensation

While compensation is important, your primary focus should be on the opportunity and your fit for the role.  If an interviewer asks for your expectations, you can simply state that if you are their chosen candidate for the position, you will consider any appropriate offer.  By the way, the advantage of working with an executive recruiter is that he/she will act as an intermediary, establishing compensation expectations up front.

Discuss Relo

If applicable, you should be prepared to discuss relocation, including your knowledge of or questions about the area, family considerations, plans to sell and buy a home, and timeline.  Of course, the details of relo plans become more relevant the further along you are in the interviewing process.

Be a Closer

Ask if there is anything in your background that would prevent you from moving forward in consideration.  Be prepared to clarify and address any questions or concerns.

Thank the interviewer, express your appreciation and excitement for the opportunity, and ask what the next steps are.  Exchange contact info where appropriate and remember to send a follow-up “thank you” email.


 The executive interview is a company’s investment of time and money in you.  Make sure that you are well prepared to demonstrate that it was a worthwhile investment.  Don’t be a “tire kicker”!  This is also your investment in your career and future growth.  The well prepared candidate will come away from the interview, whatever the outcome, having established good rapport and relationships with the interviewers, having learned what they need to know to make sound decisions, and having promoted their personal “brand” as a professional.