In my line of work as an executive coach, one of the areas clients come for coaching is to prepare them for transition into executive roles. During my three decades of career in leadership development, I have also had a front-row seat to the evaluation and onboarding of executives. While leaders have built capability and competence in what they do, the capacity to cope with the complexity and challenges of the new role does trigger some anxiety in them. There are several selection hoops to cross. Often, the trickiest of these is facing a panel of interviewers. I have witnessed very smart and competent people, become a bundle of nerves, during interviews. The stakes are high and the pressure gets to them.
Here are three tips to excel at the interview by staying calm and focused:
1)Affirmation is ammunition against anxiety – After four decades of research, psychologists have found affirmations to be beneficial practices. ( Source – Psychology Today). Affirmations are short statements that can be memorized and repeated mentally or loudly, depending on circumstances. Affirmations trigger heightened brain activity and improve self-efficacy, self-control and superior academic performance. In interviews, affirmations can be a valuable aid to maintaining high energy and confidence throughout the interview. Replacing limiting beliefs with empowering thoughts is the goal. For example, your brain screams, “You will not be successful, other candidates are better than you. You are not good enough.” An inner dialogue of this nature robs your resourcefulness just before the meeting. To address such instances, think of one constructive dialogue you can have with yourself. A positive affirmation can be a handy tool and reminder of your calibre. You could frame an affirmation that works for you and mentally repeat it several times till your brain internalizes it. Here is an example of an empowering affirmation – “I am competent, even-minded and calm. I will do my best.” You must design your affirmation and it should be brief, realistic and relatable. Vague false positivity statements do not work. Repeating affirmations helps you censor the negative narrative inside, switch on your sense of agency, help you muster your energy and lean into your strengths better.
2)Present your persona powerfully – You are capable and competent which is why they considered you for the position. There are many dimensions to your leadership. You have strengths, weaknesses and room for improvement on other fronts. Presenting a balanced persona instils confidence and reflects your competence and potential. Strategy and execution, customer proximity and business knowledge, task focus while growing relationships, employee recognition as well as challenging under-performance, planning rigour and spontaneity in decision making, process adherence as well as nurturing innovation and more need expression in an executive. It is helpful to recollect anecdotes and examples with numbers and outcomes that illustrate your readiness, capacity and vision for the role. I recommend that leaders take time to identify the requirements of the new role and write out illustrative examples that reflect their strengths and potential to succeed in the role. This exercise helps you structure your thoughts better and lends more depth and flow to your responses.
3)Begin and conclude compellingly – Start with a powerful introduction of yourself and share your vision for the role. This move helps in pitching yourself as a deserving executive. There is this classic opening question, “Tell us about yourself.” It is broad and vague as an invitation. However, you can make a solid pitch for your candidature with this question. Many interviewees flounder and lose the plot. They start to ramble through their education and career history. It is an utter waste of time and opportunity to repeat your resume, which ideally they would have already read. Instead, you could set the tone and create a solid first impression by opening with something unique and authentic about you that makes you stand out as a deserving candidate for the role.
Equally important is how you close the conversation. Be ready with a meaningful question to ask that can strengthen your case and leave a lasting impression. It helps you build a strong perception through these elevated conversations that create a lasting impression. You leave the discussion with the panellists rooting for your success.
When you give your hundred per cent by focusing on your preparation, content, packaging and regulating your internal atmosphere, you have significantly stepped up your game and probability of success. ‘Luck is when preparation meets the opportunity.’
Best wishes on your executive endeavour!
Latha Emmatty Gupta is an Executive and Life Coach (ICF, PCC). She writes from her experiences as a former executive with global corporations responsible for the selection of boards and executives. In her work as a coach, she works extensively with clients preparing for partner roles at leading consulting firms and Big Fours. She is a renowned yoga and meditation teacher trainer who teaches globally credentialed courses for yoga and meditation teachers. This blend of experience and mastery of tools lends a practical approach to her writing. Write to her at Latha@odmantra.com