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9 ways to ace the IT executive interview

Rich Hein | Aug. 13, 2013
Your networking and resume work has paid off. You finally landed an interview for your dream job as an IT executive and you couldn't be more excited. The only thing that stands between you and the executive washroom is the interview itself.

What's your management style? At the executive level you need to know your style, why it works and be able to articulate that well.

What are your biggest strengths? You should try to align your strengths with the company's needs. Be able to articulate career stories that highlight some of these.

What are your biggest weaknesses? Experts warn about this trick question. Simpson suggests selecting a weakness that you have worked to improve. "Ideally it is one that they have essentially turned into a strength through their self-improvement efforts. For example, if a perfectionist has learned to balance the excesses of demanding too much of themselves or others, then the result is a strong quality focus that can be sustained over time. This is a good thing," says Simpson.

While some say the right answer should be a strength disguised as weakness, other says it's OK to have a more realistic weakness as long as you can demonstrate what steps you've taken to improve it and how it's made a positive effect on your performance.

"An honest answer should be provided, though clearly not one that will leave the interviewer wondering if the candidate is competent. Answers like 'I work too hard' are too obvious and disingenuous," says High.

Can you describe an unsuccessful project you were involved in? This is another tricky question that requires some finesse. You don't want to shift blame, but simply outline what went wrong, what you learned and the steps you took to ensure it didn't happen again.

What salary are you looking for? Don't talk about salary unless you have to, according to Schawbel. "This can be the worst question; the reality is if you mention how much you're being paid, it will be harder to negotiate your salary," says Schawbel.

However, sometimes you don't have a choice. In that case, Simpson suggests what she refers to as the "peel the onion" approach. That is, answer tough questions with short, well-thought-out replies that give the interviewer one layer of information at a time without volunteering too much.

"With the salary question, assuming the candidate has completed compensation research in advance, I would start by replying with, 'I appreciate that XYZ Company, like me, doesn't want to waste time on an interview unless we're in the same salary ballpark. If you can share the salary range you typically offer for this position, I would be happy to confirm that I am in that same ballpark.' When the interviewer pushes for details, push gently back with another open question such as, 'My research suggests that your salary range for this position stretches from X to Y. Can you confirm how accurate this is?' If the interviewer intensifies their queries and insists on a firm reply, offer a $10K to $20K range that is 10 percent to 30 percent higher than your salary goal. This will give you negotiations room," says Simpson.


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