• Estimated read time: 7 mins
  • Date posted:11/03/2019
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We’re all familiar with interviews. For many candidates, executives included, they are the necessary evil that stands between them and their dream job.

The good news is that, by now, you’ll be relatively familiar with the interview process. But don’t let complacency fool you into a false sense of confidence. Success at interview hinges on two factors; 1) your preparation prior to interview and 2) your performance on the day.

For candidates, the hiring process begins on application, but for the hiring team, the process began several weeks prior. They identified a need for the job opening, drew up and signed off a job specification, advertised the role, sifted through hundreds of applications and shortlisted several candidates for interview, you included. Now they will pitch you against your peers through a series of interviews, typically 3-5 for executive-level roles, before appointing the candidate who best matches the role requirements (technical fit), company culture (cultural fit) and team dynamics (DNA fit).

Along the journey, you might be asked to prepare and deliver a presentation, be dropped into a simulated stressful environment or even taken out for lunch. No matter what shape or form the interview takes, remember you are being accessed from the minute you make contact with the hiring team.

In this insight, we explore the seven types of job interview that you are likely to encounter when applying for a senior management or executive position, not only in the life sciences, but any highly skilled discipline. While we attempt to lay out the executive job interview types in chronological order, you might be on the receiving end of all seven interviews, or just one or two. Whatever the outcome, you will be thoroughly prepared to give it your all.

The telephone interview

The telephone interview is generally the first stage in the executive interview process. They are fact-checking exercises designed to ensure:

  1. Candidates meet the minimum requirements of the role, for example, whether they have a visa to work in the country.
  2. Candidates meet the preferred qualifications of the role – for example, whether they have experience in the desired area.

As such, questions asked during the telephone interview are likely to focus on your skills, experience, and competencies.

During the call, the hiring manager will likely talk more about the role; it’s remit and fit within the organisational hierarchy. Listen attentively and ask questions. Not only will this demonstrate your enthusiasm, but it will put you in good stead for preparing for second stage, formal interviews. Bear in mind that this will likely be your first contact with the hiring team; all they know of you thus far is the information you submitted with your application – your cover letter, CV and LinkedIn profile. First impressions count, so ensure you come across as a genuine, courteous professional.

Telephone interview cheat sheet:
Type: Telephone Interview
Duration: 30-60 minutes
Preparation: Research the organisation, it’s mission and values.
Find out more about your interviewer(s). What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Rehearse your responses to competency-based questions. Use the STAR technique to help you.
Ensure you are in a quiet, distraction-free environment to receive the telephone call.
Ensure you have good network signal. Alternatively, use a landline or web-based call software like Skype.
Conduct: If you’re unsure, clarify the question. It buys you some extra time and helps you articulate your response.
Aim to keep the hiring manager engaged throughout the video interview.
Always state your assumptions and ask for extra details if required.
Ask questions about the role, the organisation; it’s mission and values.
Enquire what the next steps in the interview process will be.

The video interview

A 21st century take on the humble telephone interview, video is quickly establishing itself as the channel of choice for conducting first stage executive interviews. Similar in scope and format to the telephone interview but with the added benefit that hiring manager and candidate can see one another, video interviews have a certain air of importance and professionalism about them.

Direct line of sight between hiring manager and candidate removes the temptation for either party to multi-task during interview. It also means that body language enters the equation. Head the advice given for conducting telephone interviews, but pay close attention to your appearance and posture. Actions can speak louder than words, and this is particularly the case on video.

In certain circumstances, particularly where candidate and hiring manager are separated by considerable distance, video interviews may substitute a later-stage, formal interview.

Video interview cheat sheet:
Type: Video Interview
Duration: 30-60 minutes
Preparation: Research the organisation, it’s mission and values.
Find out more about your interviewer(s). What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Rehearse your responses to competency-based questions. Use the STAR technique to help you.
Ensure you are in a quiet, distraction-free environment to receive the video call.
Pay attention to your background! Ensure it is free of clutter.
Install, setup, update and test any software prior to the video interview.
Dress to impress! The hiring manager can see you.
Conduct: If you’re unsure, clarify the question. It buys you some extra time and helps you articulate your response.
Aim to keep the hiring manager engaged throughout the video interview.
Always state your assumptions and ask for extra details if required.
Ask questions about the role, the organisation; it’s mission and values.
Enquire what the next steps in the interview process will be.

The competency-based interview

Also known as structured interviews, competency-based interviews are the go-to formal interview technique used to access senior management and executive-level candidates.

Competency-based interviews, as their name implies, consist of a series of structured questions designed to test your knowledge, skills and attitude, with each question designed to test one or more specific skills. The premise is that past performance is a reliable indicator of future ability, so the questions address particular aspects of past performance and typically begin with:

“Tell me about a time when….”
“Give me an example of….”
“Tell me what approach you took to….”

The answer you give are then compared to predetermined criteria and graded accordingly. Prior to interview, the hiring team decide which types of answers are deemed positive and which are negative. Marks are then awarded depending on the extent to which the candidate’s answer matches those negative and positive indicators, with bad responses receiving a score of zero.

For more competency-based interview tips, read our insight: How To Ace Competency-Based Interviews For Senior Life Science Roles.

Competency-based interview cheat sheet:
Type: Competency-based interview
Duration: 60-180 minutes
Preparation: Research the organisation, it’s mission and values.
Find out more about your interviewer(s). What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Rehearse your responses to competency-based questions. Use the STAR technique to help you.
Make travel arrangements well in advance. How will you get there? How long does the journey take?
Dress to impress. Interviews are formal occasions no matter their format or setting.
Be punctual. Aim to arrive 15 minutes prior to the designated time.
Conduct: If you’re unsure, clarify the question. It buys you some extra time and helps you articulate your response.
Always state your assumptions and ask for extra details if required.
Take control of your environment; stand up, walk around or use props as needed.
Ask questions about the role, the organisation; it’s mission and values.
Enquire what the next steps in the interview process will be.


RELATED: Looking for Senior Management and Executive opportunities in the life sciences?
View our latest life science jobs!


The Strength-based interview

Strength-based interviews are gaining in popularity, especially in multi-stage interview processes commonly used to assess senior management and executive-level candidates.

Rather than focusing on your knowledge, skills and attitude, strength-based interviews are designed to explore what you enjoy doing.  The logic, backed by positive psychology, is that by identifying your strengths and matching them to the job specification, the hiring team can gain a better understanding of ‘DNA fit’; the more you enjoy your work, the better you perform. 

Typical strength based interview questions include:

  • What are you good at?
  • What things give you energy?
  • Do you prefer to start tasks or to finish them?

Strength-based interviews will uncover your passion for your preferred discipline and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role. When preparing for strength-based interviews, think about how your answers fit with the job specification and the culture of the organisation. The more your answers align with the organisation’s culture, the better your chance of success.

Strength-based interview cheat sheet:
Type: Strength-based interview
Duration: 60-180 minutes
Preparation: Research the organisation, it’s mission and values.
Find out more about your interviewer(s). What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Rehearse your responses to strength-based questions. Use the STAR technique to help you.
Make travel arrangements well in advance. How will you get there? How long does the journey take?
Dress to impress. Interviews are formal occasions no matter their format or setting.
Be punctual. Aim to arrive 15 minutes prior to the designated time.
Conduct: If you’re unsure, clarify the question. It buys you some extra time and helps you articulate your response.
Always state your assumptions and ask for extra details if required.
Take control of your environment; stand up, walk around or use props as needed.
Ask questions about the role, the organisation; it’s mission and values.
Enquire what the next steps in the interview process will be.

The panel interview

The panel interview is the same as a competency-based or strength-based interview, but with two or more interviewers present. Typically, these interviewers will represent different functions within the organisation, with each panel member bringing a separate area of expertise and perspective to the table. You might even be interviewed by team members who will report into you.

Some candidates view the panel interview with trepidation, but for the hiring manager, it’s the golden opportunity to see how candidates perform under pressure. Moreover, with multiple interviewers present, panel interviews increase the accuracy of accessing a candidates’ technical, culture and DNA fit while helping eliminate personal bias from entering the candidate selection phase.

Panel interview cheat sheet:
Type: Panel interview
Duration: 60-180 minutes
Preparation: Research the organisation, it’s mission and values.
Find out more about your interviewer(s). What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Rehearse your responses to competency and strength-based questions. Use the STAR technique to help you.
Make travel arrangements well in advance. How will you get there? How long does the journey take?
Dress to impress. Interviews are formal occasions no matter their format or setting.
Be punctual. Aim to arrive 15 minutes prior to the designated time.
Conduct: If you’re unsure, clarify the question. It buys you some extra time and helps you articulate your response.
Always state your assumptions and ask for extra details if required.
Take control of your environment; stand up, walk around or use props as needed.
Ask questions about the role, the organisation; it’s mission and values.
Enquire what the next steps in the interview process will be.

The stress test interview

While the panel interview offers a glimpse of how a candidate performs under pressure, the stress test interview takes this to a whole new level. Here, candidates are interrogated by a hostile, intimidating and disinterred interviewer whose sole purpose is to place the candidate on the defensive and see how they react in awkward and uncomfortable situations.

These interviews can be conducted one-on-one or as part of a panel, with one interviewer taking the lead as the interrogator. Sometimes, a series of interviews are conducted back-to-back.

Examples of stress test interview questions include:

  1. Was the stress of a previous position too much for you? Why do you think this job will be any different?
  2. Is that all you can come up with? Let’s move on.
  3. How do you like me so far?

When confronted with a demon interviewer, remember they’re likely playing bad cop. Stay calm, collected and above all, professional in your delivery.

Stress test interview cheat sheet:
Type: Stress-test interview
Duration: 60-180 minutes
Preparation: Research the organisation, it’s mission and values.
Find out more about your interviewer(s). What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Rehearse your responses to stress-test type questions. Use the STAR technique to help you.
Make travel arrangements well in advance. How will you get there? How long does the journey take?
Dress to impress. Interviews are formal occasions no matter their format or setting.
Be punctual. Aim to arrive 15 minutes prior to the designated time.
Conduct: If you’re unsure, clarify the question. It buys you some extra time and helps you articulate your response.
Always state your assumptions and ask for extra details if required.
Keep calm and stay focused; deliver your answers to one panel member if it helps.
Take control of your environment; stand up, walk around or use props as needed.
Be open, honest and direct, but never come across as intimidated or offended.
Don’t take it personally; the interviewer is only playing bad cop.

The lunch interview

The lunch-based executive job interview is quickly rising up the agenda due to its ability to unearth candidate characteristics suppressed by more mainstream interview formats. It traditionally occurs later in the interviewing process when the hiring manager is trying to decide between one or two candidates to bring onboard, though this is not always the case.

Lunch-based interviews are designed to see how you would fit in with the team dynamic as well as offering insight into your manners, patience, interactions and overall emotional intelligence (EQ). They are also a good indication of how you might ‘wine and dine’ key stakeholders, accounts and clients, should the need arise.

The informal nature of the interview lends itself to a more Q&A approach, so don’t be afraid to engage in conversation. But don’t let flowing wine lull you into a false sense of security.

Lunch interview cheat sheet
Type: Lunch interview
Duration: 60-180 minutes
Preparation: Find out more about your interviewer. What do they do? What is their background?
Analyse the job specification and prepare key points you wish to convey during conversation.
Prepare any questions you would like to put to the hiring manager in advance. You can’t take notes!
Get a feeling for the restaurant environment ? How busy is it? Ambient noise levels? Traditional clientele?
Make travel arrangements well in advance. How will you get there? How long does the journey take?
Dress to impress. You are here on business, it just happens to be over dinner.
Be punctual. Aim to arrive 15 minutes prior to the designated time.
Conduct: Aim to establish a rapport with the hiring manager and other guests.
Remember your manners and be curious, not just to the hiring manger and interviews, but restaurant staff too.
Choose something light, clean and easy to eat and avoid alcohol.
Engage in 2-way conversation, though let the hiring manager set the tone.
Do not become too casual in conversation and avoid going off topic.
Don’t let your guard down; you are still being accessed.

Conclusion

The seven different types of executive interview explored above help hiring managers and HR access a candidates’ technical, cultural and DNA fit. Every interview, regardless of its type, is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have the skillset, experience and competencies necessary to succeed in the role while differentiating yourself from the competition.

But behind every successful interview performance, whatever guise it may take, lies thorough preparation and rehearsal. Never, ever wing it. Use this article to familiarise yourself with the interview format and prepare and rehearse accordingly. That way, when interview day comes, you can enter the room with the confidence to give it everything you’ve got. Best of luck!


For more job search advice tailored to senior managers and executives…

* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.