Executives often have to endure lengthy rounds of interviews before the final nod is given, but you’re not the only one in the spotlight. When you are ready to move into a different position at a new firm, the interview process is also an excellent opportunity for you to size up the most significant person in your future work life – the person you’ll report to. As a C-suite executive, deciding whether your immediate superior is right for you is perhaps even more important than considerations about your job title or the company you’ll be working for.

Choosing your superior can be compared to selecting your life partner – it’s a relationship that’s going to have a huge impact on your life, as well as that of your family. You’ll be spending most of your waking hours with this person, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. I always find it astounding that executive candidates can make up their minds about this crucial aspect of their new careers based only on a two-hour interview – when they’re signing up for a ‘commitment’ to this person for at least three to five years.

We recommend that you pay close attention to the person you’ll be reporting to and try to spend some time with them in the workplace. Important questions to consider are:

  • Are they self-aware? Do they understand their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Can they help me get where I want to in my career?
  • What is their track record of getting people promoted?
  • Can I learn from them?
  • Are they approachable, and do they listen attentively?
  • Do they deliver on promises made?
  • Are they respected in the organisation and in the industry?

Do your own due diligence to try and eliminate as much risk as possible before signing on the dotted line. Use your own network and ask around – obtain information from other professionals in the field, but also from company suppliers, and industry associations and institutes. And of course, make use of search engines like Google and social media sites. If your first interview is with a human resources director, use this opportunity to find out as much as possible about your future superiors.

Remember that the ‘public persona’ (as portrayed in the media) of a company CEO, for example, may be very different from the person you’ll be working with every day. So beware if all you’re getting is positive information. Everyone has shadows and weaknesses, and you want to be able to make an informed decision with all the relevant facts – good and not so good – at your fingertips.

In the final instance, trust your gut instinct. As in the case of meeting a potential partner, you should be able to determine fairly quickly whether or not there will be chemistry and a connection. Then do as much homework and background checks as possible before making that final decision.

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