Tips from recruiters & decision makers

We asked Executive Search Consultants & CEOs, “What should executives especially pay attention to during the job interview?” Most of the answers we received were very similar. In order to demonstrate the importance of the theoretically obvious answers, we have opted for enlisting almost all of them. In no particular order:

“The relationship between the candidate and the headhunter is one of mutual responsibility. The headhunter represents the candidate. The candidate represents the headhunter. We often ask ourselves, ‘Do I want to be responsible for this executive?’. Junior consultants approach that process often too “by the book” inquiring artificially about strengths and weaknesses, etc. On the other hand executives forget to adapt their corporate slang to their audience. […] I’ve been doing my job for 15 years, the best advice I can give an executive for an interview is to be themselves,” Piotr Kępka, Senior Consultant, Hubert Mozes & Partners.

“Be confident, but not arrogant. We sometimes hear from our candidates: why should I even meet with you? I want to meet directly with your client. It is important for them to remember that we are the first touch point. They should trust us,” Danieł Łupiński, Country Manager & Board Member Poland, Devonshire.

“It might seem too obvious, but experienced managers do not put enough emphasis on it: 1) Adequate auto-presentation as a mature and reliable manager, 2) Being well-prepared, and able to share not only information about their own experience, but common knowledge of the market, business sector, or organizational processes they are involved in, 3) Good communication skills and honesty while speaking about their goals and expectations when it comes to their future position,” shares Beata Bukowska, Partner, Inwenta.

“I look for coherence and integrity. Does the candidate really walk their talk? I look for the skill of admitting their own mistakes. I look for structure in the answers. I look for business acumen,” Katarzyna Grzybowska-Tomaszek, Managing Director, Human 2 Business.

“That might sound silly, but the chemistry starts with a firm handshake. Be honest. Be very wellprepared,” recommends Żaneta Berus, CEO & Managing Director, Warszawskie Centrum ExpoXXI.

“I try to keep the first meeting rather informal. Have a chat over coffee. That gives me a good context to dig deep and inquire about the underlying motivation of the candidate. A new job is like a puppy. It’s not only for Christmas,” compares Mark Hamill, Global Managing Director, SpenglerFox.

“Listen to the questions and answer them precisely giving concrete examples. Be authentic. Have an honest goal and motives,” Andrzej Kensbok, Principal, Kienbaum.

“Answer the questions you are asked. Be concrete. Be honest, because a professional consultant will be able to easily decipher a candidate’s real nature or motives,” Albina Woźniak-Fyda, Partner, Nelson Lamartine.

“Although there is so much information on the Internet on that topic, candidates are not able to prepare themselves properly for an interview: they cannot discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Prepare! Get to know to the potential employer. Be honest, because bending reality does not help in the longterm,” Sylwia Rzemieniewska, Managing Director, Target Executive Search.

“The most inappropriate approach during an interview is the “I deserve this job”-attitude. I have also observed that executives have challenges having to talk about themselves, their achievements and key competences. Some feel uncomfortable when being in the weaker position while negotiating,” Kalina Karwańska, CEO & Managing Partner, HR Solutions.

“Be yourself. There is no need to exaggerate or play or pretend. Sooner or later the truth always comes out. Present the most important elements. The worst thing a candidate can do is, often wrongly, assume what the headhunter is looking for in an executive. That leads to a misrepresentation of themselves. Depending on the market and the company we might be searching for a democratic or an autocratic leader,” Ewa Adamczyk, Chief Executive Officer & Head of Banking, Finance & Legal Services, NAJ International.

“The phrase “sell yourself” has a negative connotation, but I mean it in the most positive possible sense. Be yourself. Be authentic. Be confident, but do not overdo it. You might be the only candidate, but you might be one of 20. Answer the questions sticking to the most important thread. Be wellprepared,” Anonymous Source.

“Important elements are: dress code, clear communication, attention to detail. My philosophy is: expect nothing and never assume anything. At a certain level of executives hard skills are not as relevant as character, maturity, views and perceptions,” Seamus Pentony, Regional Managing Partner, Headcount Solutions.

“First and foremost is the ability to communicate. If an executive is unable to establish a relationship with the headhunter, he or she will not be able to do that with the employer either. Be confident and pay attention to details as eye contact, where you sit, and a firm hand shake. Remember that the interview is not an inquisition but a dialogue between partners,” Magdalena Bucka, Managing Director Europe, Edison Morgan.

“Talk about your achievements and not about your tasks. If you currently do not work, do not allow your desperation to show. And above all else, be honest,” Artur Skiba, Managing Director Poland, Antal International.

“Try to get into the shoes of the interviewer. What answers would you like to hear? Stick to the topics that are relevant. Run interview simulations,” Jerzy Potocki, CEO & Managing Partner, AIMS International Poland.

“Number one: be very honest. Number two: talk about your achievements and failures, because somebody who can’t talk about his failures and what he learned from them is not always a valid candidate. Number three: be well-prepared. Number four: focus and talk about what is relevant.

Number five: answer the questions that are being asked,” Corinne Klajda, Senior Partner & Head of the Consumer Goods & Retail Practice Group, Accord ECE. The biggest three faux-pas:
#1 Over-confidence bordering with arrogance
#2 Lack of preparation
#3 Doesn’t listen

Joanna Sztandur, Founder, Successful HR, observes the following on gender differences, “During interviews, women are often more modest than men in presenting their achievements and highlighting their qualifications and skills. Women also ask more questions about the culture of their potential new employer, composition of teams, and offered benefits. Whereas men seem to be more interested in the levels of independence they would have, strategic plans of the firm and internal competition they may have.”

What tips or insights do you have?