Interviews for Senior Leader Jobs (Part 1)

By | January 15, 2014

[January 15, 2014]  Let’s begin by noting that the purpose of an interview is to determine whether a person is the right person for a leadership job.  However, the search process for a senior leader position begins before any interview and may end well after the final decision is made. 

Does this mean that the “interview” is largely a formality for senior executive leaders? 

The obvious answer is no, the interview still matters.  But the senior leader interview has neither the same form nor purpose as the classic interview. 

Because of the length of this topic, the “Interviews for Senior Leader Jobs,” is broken into a 2-part series.  This first part addresses the general framework for the interview.  The second part, tomorrow, will discuss in detail the content of the interview. 

Part 1: General Framework 

The hiring decision for a senior leader may have already been made before the interview.  The interview, oftentimes, is chiefly a confirmation of that decision.  Warning – during the actual interview, leaders can perform poorly and kill the prospect for being hired. 

To recap from an earlier post on “Senior Leader Interview Questions,” there are four abilities that the hiring authority must know about the prospective senior leader and will be looking to confirm.  Does the senior leader have: 1) the motivation, 2) the skills, 3) the true fit, and 4) the right values.  During the interview, the candidate should ensure to reinforce his/her abilities. 

Smart companies have taken the time to research the reputation of a prospective senior leader hire.  Those that know you will be called, experts in the field will be contacted, other senior leaders, secretaries, and anyone with who you have worked, will be asked to provide input. 

Note that the “interview” goes beyond the bounds of a sit-down dialog.  Many of us hesitate to even call it an interview; the form is more of a discussion.  Everyone you talk to will be evaluating your performance on the four abilities, regardless of their position – janitor to board of trustees’ member. 

I had a good friend of mine recently who was not hired because he did not treat the executive assistance respectfully, despite having an exceptional performance during the interview.  I was not surprised.  Everyone matters; treat everyone with respect and dignity. 

The message here is that both the form and purpose of a senior leader interview is different from the traditional interview.  Those entering senior-level positions should be aware of the pitfalls of extrapolating meaning from the classic worker interview to the senior leader “interview.” 

The practical application of the senior leader’s great communication skills will be on display and ultimately the final determining factor.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.