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Human Resources successful at interview

Published on June 25th, 2014 | by Chloe Watts


Interims: How to Have a Successful Interview

You are going for a senior interim role and you want to make sure you impress and outshine the other candidates at interview. Other than prepare and look smart – what else will they expect from you? Here are some tips for how to have a successful interview. 

Tips for a Successful Interview

A good way to tackle these interviews is to think about what you would look for if you were the client. There are certain skills which are expected of a senior executive, including the ability to drive change and deliver business improvement, and the interviewer will be looking for fluent examples evidencing your capabilities in these areas. Clients may be direct or subtle in their questioning and you must read all the cues in order to portray yourself in the best possible light but also to find out if you are the right choice for the assignment. In my experience, if you can evidence the following elements in your interview, you’ll have a good chance of success:

Ability to Handle Pressure

This is a key skill for an interim as you will be expected to hit the road running. The interviewer will try to determine whether you can handle pressure and make decisions quickly and efficiently. They will also want to know that you can deal with conflict and criticism. It may be asked indirectly through a tough question to see if you remain calm or show signs of stress. Alternatively you may wish to share examples of previous challenges which demonstrate your ability to handle pressure. A senior interim role requires a calm, positive attitude and the interviewer will want to make sure you have the right approach.

Open and Honest

The interviewer will look at signs that they can trust you to be discreet and sensitive with information. In any senior role, you are likely to be party to confidential data. For an organisation looking to take on an interim for a short period of time, it is imperative that they can trust you. Demonstrate that you treat confidentiality seriously by not being drawn into sharing anything sensitive or proprietary about your previous assignments.

Vision and Goals

The interviewer will want to know that your goals are in line with those of the company. You should be confident of what the vision and goals of the organisation are and what your own professional goals are. The two should align and you should show that you have given thought to the strategic impact of the assignment. Ensure you do the basics: research the organisation’s visions, goals and strategy, speak to people who know the company and senior management team get a feel for the market and what they want to achieve.

Business Acumen

Interim managers are regarded as experts in their field, as such you will need to show strong business acumen. The interviewer will look for qualities such as commercial awareness, leadership skills, ability to make improvements and show returns. Think about any achievements you have accomplished during your working career and be prepared to back these up with hard evidence including financial metrics.

Ability to Build Relationships

You should be able to show that you have the ability to quickly build relationships and fit in well with the culture of the organisation. Interims have a limited time to do this, yet good relationships are essential for a smooth running engagement. Demonstrate that you have the emotional intelligence to pick up on the unspoken cues and the antenna to navigate your way through an organisation.  However, don’t assume too much and it’s important to discuss the level of support that they will need to show you to set you up for success.  Clients who want to abdicate responsibility to you without positioning you in the organisation should raise an alarm bell about their commitment to the assignment deliverables.  It is important to contract early on this point to assure the success of the assignment.

Remembering these basics at interview should steer you towards your next assignment.

What is your experience of interviews for a senior interim role? Have you found them tough or have you always been offered the job? We would like to hear your experiences and opinions on this subject and your tips for a successful interview.

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About the Author

As part of her HR Practice responsibilities, Chloe plays a key role in the development of the active HR community at Alium holding a number of events for HR Directors and senior HR Interims. She works with a diverse portfolio of clients placing senior executive roles across a breadth of management disciplines and across commercial sectors.

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