Do’s and Don’ts for the Senior Level Job Interview

What’s the best way to excel in your senior executive job search? It’s simple: understand the perspective of senior-level recruiters, headhunters and hiring managers and use these insights to position yourself as the candidate that best meets their needs.

executive connexions dos and donts for the senior level job interview

That’s why we’ve been working with top recruitment firm Executive Headhunters to bring you job search tips and recruitment insights from senior level headhunters. Over the past three months, we’ve spoken with headhunters who specialise in accountancy and finance; public transport and aviation markets; retail, construction and health industries and in this article we’ll share their best advice for succeeding in your next senior level job interview.

But first, here’s a little about the headhunters…

peter mosely Peter Moseley has been headhunting across a number of sectors for over eight years, primarily placing senior management to board-level candidates in the retail, construction and health industries. He has personally placed over 120 candidates in both retained headhunt and mid-market projects.
laura banks Laura Banks is a mid-market and senior to executive level Accountancy and Finance specialist headhunter with over 18 years recruitment experience in and around these vertical markets. She has worked both the practice and industry markets and has a strong knowledge of both sectors and the different needs within them.
paul fitzsimmons Paul Fitzsimmons brought his comprehensive industry knowledge and expertise into the Executive Search arena after 15 successful years as a Senior Operations Manager in the aviation and rail sectors. Throughout his career, he has hired people in countless managerial and operational roles and has always loved discovering talent from unexpected sources was one of the most rewarding aspects.

What job interview advice do you offer senior level candidates?


Laura: Keep it real

Research and understand as much about the company as you can. Why would you want to work for an organisation when you know little about them? How can you get passionate about a role when you don’t know if you are what they are looking for in terms of personality fit? Think about your personal business plan and how your career objectives fit the future growth and needs of the business you are interviewing for. Thinking about these things will help you buy into the business and vice versa.”

Peter: Practice your storytelling

As more and more recruiters adopt competency-based interviewing, you’ll no doubt be asked to reflect on a past experience in your interview. Have a few killers up your sleeve that emphasise your key skills, be articulate and use ERH (Example, Result & in Hindsight) technique for answering.”

Paul: Use the ‘STAR’ methodology

List your 20 best achievements from your career and develop a compelling story around each using the following ‘STAR’ methodology (an approach shared by a number of the UK’s biggest companies). This process will make your answers more credible and it’s much easier for hiring managers/recruiters to unearth the evidence in your answer and score your response higher than your competitors:

  • Situation: No more than one sentence, for example, I was asked to implement a new CRM system across our UK operation.
  • Task: A summary of what you had to do, how did you go about establishing the outputs of the task? What would success look like and what were the first steps you needed to take towards delivery.
  • Action: What hurdles did you have to overcome? What resistance did you face? What did you have to compromise on?
  • Results: What were the outcomes? Did you achieve your goal? Did you miss your goal? It’s no bad thing to tell a story about how you missed a target, as long as you can demonstrate your learning and how you have / will deal with the same problem again.”

Laura: Remember ‘People buy people’

You have to be the right personality for their business. Be prepared, talk about them and use their company name during the interview, make it personal, make it real and make a good first impression. By doing so they often mirror this approach and before you know it you feel like you could imagine yourself working in that role, in that department and in that company. When you get to that stage, the battle is almost over and you’re close to securing the role.”

Peter: Prepare questions

In-depth questions about the specific role, company or team you are applying to be a part of always goes down well. If you’ve already covered all of the bases just say something along the lines of, ‘This has been a very detailed discussion – my questions have been answered but can I come back to you if I think of anything else?’”

Paul: Plan. Prepare. Practice.

Whether you are filling in an application form, researching a target company, talking to a headhunter or going to an interview, the candidates who get jobs will be the ones who have done their homework, 100%. A lack of interview preparation is the underlying reason why most, potentially suitable, candidates fail. This preparation sounds like hard work and might take you several evenings, but once you’ve undertaken the STAR exercise make sure you record and save your competencies and continue to build on the list as you progress through your career. I promise you’ll reap the benefits.”


Peter: Get defensive

Senior level interviews are designed to probe and test you, after all, you’ve had a successful career so it’s more difficult to find flaws. Stay positive and take responsibility as it will humanise you and go down much better with your interviewers. People make mistakes so take advantage of the situation by explaining how you recovered.

Say you’re a ‘perfectionist’

When asked for a weakness, this won’t wash. Interviewers aren’t looking for perfectionism, they’re after self-awareness so admit areas where you could improve and how you are going about doing so.

Dwell on reasons for leaving

You’ll inevitably get asked why you left previous roles. Never say your last role was boring or that you didn’t get along with your boss. Quickly spin the situation and explain why you didn’t find the role challenging enough with reasons why the role you are applying for suits you more.”

Laura: Interview for a job you don’t want

Don’t do me any favours by turning up to a job interview that you don’t want as it is a waste of your time, my time and the client’s time. If I have done my job properly then you will only be turning up to the interview because you have done enough research on the company and opportunity to know that you are attending the interview because you want that job offer. By working closely with me, you know that I will always listen to your needs as well as the client’s needs and if I secure you an interview it’s because I have understood what you are looking for in terms of your next career move and I will do everything possible to ensure that the client-candidate match is right.”

You’ll find more job search tips and specific industry insights with Peter Moseley, Laura Banks, and Paul Fitzsimmons on our website.

Executive Connexions Career Coaching-logoWe specialise in providing personable and flexible career management services, exclusively for Senior Executives. Want to accelerate your job search success? Visit our website to find out how we can help you to land your next (and best) senior level role, faster.

Experteer uses cookies. Information on data protection