As professionals move up the corporate ladder, interviews become more rigorous and dependent on the psychology of the conversation. Rather than discussing skills and abilities, interviews for upper-level positions flow like a conversation that dives into the opportunities, experience, and goals of both parties.

To gain insight or prepare for a promotion, here are a few strategies and things to avoid that are specific to senior-level interviews:

Senior-Level Interview Tips:

  • Be a Good Storyteller

Interviewing for a senior-level position means you have the skills and experience necessary to do the job, so this most likely won’t be a topic of conversation. What you need to be prepared for is reflecting on your past career choices in a valuable, yet concise manner. Think of a multitude of fully engaging stories that can be applied to any prompt, and dive deep into the situations centered around some of the best successes you’ve had in your career.

“After three sentences of explanation, people’s eyes glaze over” -George Lois

It’s important to prepare your responses so that they quickly address the main points and explain what you’ve learned from the experience, however, it is important for these thoughts to spur conversation and not seem rehearsed. Staying concise with your answers shows confidence and keeps the conversation going without losing the interviewer’s attention. Include only the necessary specifics of the experience, then highlight the successes and address useful hindsight.

  • Personalize Responses

Your responses should be specific and create a mental image of yourself as part of the team. Be sure to reflect the values of the company in your conduct, and use the name of the company and title of the position in your responses. Be prepared to emphasize how you would succeed in the role and make it your own.

  • Prepare for the Interview

As with interviews at any level, it’s essential to prepare for the interview.  It is vital to research the company before the interview in order to have in-depth conversations with the hiring manager and give insight during the interview. Being familiar with the company’s structure and processes is necessary for creating specific and relevant responses to key questions.

  • Prepare a 90-day Plan

Some interviews for senior-level positions require a 90-day plan, but even if they don’t, it is a great way to nail-down the expectations of success. Incorporating the plan into the interview bridges the cognitive gap, for both parties, from interviewing to actually working in the role. Prepare what you would accomplish in the first 90 days on the job and how you would define and measure success.

  • Have Enthusiasm and Passion

One of the most important distinguishing factors for candidates in senior-level interviews can be passion and enthusiasm. For more on the reasons and psychology behind this read our recent article about passion and enthusiasm.

Senior-Level Interview Pitfalls:

  • Being Defensive

To accurately assess your temperament, interviewers may ask some tough questions about weaknesses or failures, or even bring up questionable information they’ve learned from a background or reference check, or gaps on your resume. Reacting defensively is a sign of someone who can’t receive criticism well. Instead, humanize yourself by taking responsibility and emphasizing how you recovered from past mistakes. It’s important to keep in mind that those who make hiring decisions are humans themselves, and no human can relate to being perfect and never making a mistake.

  • Avoiding Your Weaknesses

When prompted, opening up about your own downfalls is necessary to create a relatable view of yourself. Especially in a senior-level position that may be leading a team, being self-aware and having the ability to make up for those downfalls is critical. Keep in mind, though, to still be strategic with how weaknesses are presented—being too honest without addressing how you’re working on those weaknesses could come off as a lack of awareness.

  • Blaming Your Boss

The inevitable “why you left” questions should never be used as an invitation to discredit your past coworkers. Even if the people you worked with were your main reason for leaving, don’t directly say so. Instead, highlight the value in your own skills that weren’t being challenged or properly utilized in your previous role.

Professionals going into senior-level interviews should be completely confident in their ability to be successful in the position. The confidence required to sell yourself to a hiring manager will result from hours of preparation, research, and rehearsal.

In Conclusion

Professionals interviewing for a senior-level position are expected to be on the top of their game, so any small mistake could reflect negatively on their ability to prepare and prioritize responsibilities. Hours of rehearsal paired with professionalism and a positive attitude are the keys to success when interviewing for a senior-level position.