Odgers berndtson
Location and language United States | EN

Client Interview: Be the one who stands out in person and online - Career Strategies Series #6

You’ve been selected for Client Interview. Structure your preparation so you’re confident, articulate and leave a lasting impression.

The blurred boundaries between working from home and ‘living’ in the office are forcing many to embrace their digital image onscreen during a multitude of videocalls.

BUT... how many of us have taken the time to think about how effectively we have managed our personal brand’s transition into the virtual office environment?

Give yourself the advantage of encyclopedic content preparation

You have the experience, the company is the one you want to work for and you really want the job on offer. Next, it’s time to ace the interview be it in person or online. How best to prepare?

Decide how much time you think you need to give to content preparation. Then double it. It’s vital to cover every angle that could be relevant.

  • Do your research. Investigate everything about the organization; not just the facts, figures, history and direction of the company, but its ethos, ambitions, dreams and learning lessons. Who does it want to be?
  • Who are you meeting? Know all you can about their motivations and business interests. What’s their communication style? Can you learn anything by looking at their network?
  • Fully understand the job specification & the driving need. How can you solve that challenge?
  • Prepare a precise summary of your career as it specifically relates to this role – your ‘elevator pitch’. Rehearse it to within five minutes.
  • Think about the core competencies that the role requires and find out about the company’s core values. Use the STAR-ER format to prepare examples of your experience and its relevance to the role.
    Use examples that give a sense of the situation you were in, the task you were assigned, the actions you took and the results you achieved. Demonstrate that you have evaluated what you did and reflected on what you learned.
  • What do you want to leave the panel thinking? How can you persuade the members to see you taking charge of the role you’re interviewing for?
  • Seek affirmation and feedback.
  • Do give depth, but in a focussed, sharp way. Don’t wander.

Stick to the brief

Review over and over again the brief for the role. Like watching a film for the third time, there will be little nuances you’ve missed previously. Fully understand the context, job description and person specification. Carefully think through how these translate into the competencies and behavioral characteristics needed. What will be expected of you?

(We qualify this by knowing that not every successful candidate ticks every box on paper. Your individual set of experiences and personal abilities could be just what this company wants to see. Promote yourself passionately in the best light possible and believe you’re right for this role.)

Showcase how your experience can apply to this role

Prepare to recount specific, relevant situations you’ve managed or that show your strengths as fully as possible. Showcase how you successfully addressed problems or performed above expectations. Include failed initiatives or setbacks that show resilience, adapted thinking and an ability to respond to change or challenge with agility.

Your interviewer or panel will want to assess how you’ll behave when faced with the various challenges you’ll deal with in your new position. In a short time they want to test run the kind of critical responsibilities and decisions involved in the role you want to be trusted with. Their questions are designed to explore your abilities to do so.

They are likely to explore your past experience in developing strategies, building a high performance team, influencing stakeholders and achieving targets. Describe any of your achievements or developed skills that can you can translate into specific assets in reaching the goals your employers have. Keep your examples relevant to this role and company.

Use real-life, convincing examples

When you know or sense your panel’s interest, give more detail on how you approached certain tasks or experiences, outlining the context, challenges and outcomes. Real business experiences are worth a hundred hypothetical examples.

Along with interest in your successes, you may be asked also about failures and mistakes. Having reached an insightful understanding of the behaviors or circumstances that led to these and the subsequent learning will show openness, strength and a commitment to ongoing development. Expect questions exploring
these situations.

Some typical questions:

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

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

‘Can you give us an example that would illustrate how you got buy-in to your proposals where there were opposing views.’

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

Make it easy for the interviewer(s) to gather evidence on your strengths and abilities. Structure your examples in logical, step by step points. E.g., task or objective, challenges, actions, pivoting if relevant and outcome/results.

Online Interviews – the new normal?

Put yourself at ease with good technical preparation

Online meetings are now part of corporate culture. Technical proficiency with applications and equipment for remote communication has become the norm. Don’t let this be where you let yourself down. Master the technology, be prepared for all eventualities and think through what to expect during your interview ahead of time.

  • Prepare your environment to be interruption free.
  • Do some practice runs with us or a friend.
  • Ensure you have enough battery power so your laptop lasts the duration of the interview.
  • Have your correct name on your Zoom/Teams screen.
  • Use a Zoom/Teams view that allows you to see the whole panel. Read the room, i.e., pick up on visual clues that may indicate you’re talking too much or haven’t engaged a particular panel member. This takes more astute tuning in than when in the same room.
  • Camera level is paramount – having it center screen at eye level is key to ensuring an engaged conversation. Use a riser/stand/books to raise up your laptop. It helps to move the on-screen tile/video image of the interviewer (Zoom only) so that it is close to your camera. It may be worth investing in a separate camera. There are relatively inexpensive choices and it adds to the professionalism of your presentation.
  • Your home office space is your studio. Think about your environment, lighting and background. Position yourself so light is facing towards you. Alternatively, ring lights are great.
  • Remove all distractions, including people/alerts/mobile phones, pets etc. Try to ensure no-one is due to call to your door.
  • Ask other household members not to use the internet for the duration of your interview.
  • Dress as if you were meeting in person.

It’s showtime – online!

It's interview day and your interview is online. In addition to all of the advice above, and while you may be well used to online meetings, online interviews can be completely different. After 18 months of managing online interview processes and advising clients and candidates on best practice, here are our top tips:

  • ‘Commute’ to your interview. Leave your desk and go for a walk beforehand, even if it’s around the block. This psychological trick really works to help you ‘show up’ as you might for an in-person interview.
  • Take time to settle into your chosen location for the interview.
  • Build rapport – focus on the introductions, refer to the interviewers by name. Names should be on the screen.
  • Remember to practice good eye-contact and about the position of the camera.
  • Project energy and enthusiasm – you want this job!
  • Listen, speak slowly and take care to avoid excessive or distracting movement but at the same time, command the “Zoom” – don’t be afraid of that. Does standing help?
  • Maintain a good posture and nod and smile as appropriate to the conversation; it will give a sense of engagement.
  • Use notes as you might if you were physically present at an interview. You will look distracted if you repeatedly look away, so prepare well and refer to them minimally.
  • Can you give the panel a sense of what they would read from you if they were in the same room?
  • Focus well. Give sharp, detailed answers. Keep on point. Don’t wander. And stay human.

Check out the other insightful articles in our Career Strategies series. 

To shorten the odds of landing the executive position you want, start your search now and check out our advertised opportunities here.

Strategies for an Intentional and Successful Career Move Booklet 2022

In this Career Strategies Series, we take you through all the essential elements you need in planning your next move.

Download now


Find a consultant [[ Scroll to top ]]