Around half of your performance is driven by the way you behave. So, increasingly, you can expect interview questions designed to explore how you might behave when faced with the leadership responsibilities critical to the role for which you are being considered. Here are a few insights into the interview process and how to be better prepared.

The interviewer wants to find out how you have executed particular responsibilities or tasks or achieved specific goals. They will focus on those which are relevant to what is required for the role you are targeting. For example, developing a strategy, building a high-performing team, influencing stakeholders, and so on.

Interviewers will explore specific examples of “how” you approached certain tasks or experiences in the past, asking about the context, challenges and outcomes. They are less interested in generalities or hypothetical situations, it is all about the real business experience.

So, you’ll be asked for examples of where you have been successful, and be asked to reflect on failures and mistakes too. This will help interviewers understand the behaviours that led to those outcomes, and what you learned from the experience. Depending on your response, you may have to answer supplementary questions.

Here are some typical questions:

‘Talk me through how you have contributed to shaping future corporate strategy.’

‘Tell me how you have built talent and raised engagement within your area of responsibility.’

‘Talk me through an example that would illustrate how you got buy-in to your proposals where there were opposing views.’

‘Tell me about the business plan you sponsored that failed to deliver what was required.’

Preparation time

Your preparation should include, firstly, a proper review of the brief for the role you are targeting. If you understand the context, job description and person specification, then you will know the competencies and behavioural characteristics required. In other words, what is likely to be expected of you.

Then, take time to reflect on specific situations you have dealt with in the past that would be relevant. Make sure these demonstrate your key strengths as fully as possible.

Always think about where you have failed to deliver on initiatives or experienced setbacks. Be clear about the outcome. Reflect on what you learned from the experience and how you might have applied these insights in new situations.

Prepare good, factual examples that showcase how you have successfully solved problems or performed above expectations.

Finally, always make it easy for the interviewer to capture evidence. So structure your examples in a logical, step-by-step way. For example, the task/objective you needed to achieve, followed by the challenges you faced, then the actions you took, and, finally, the results/outcome.

We hope this guide has been useful and helpful in preparing for your interview.

Find out more about our current executive opportunities.

And look out for our guidance on Leadership Profiling Questionnaires.

Elizabeth Stewart

Elizabeth (Liz) has over 30 years as a business consultant, working for global professional services firms, and in the last 15 years focused on advising on Boards, CEOs, the C-Suite and their pipel...

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