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The risks of just answering questions at executive interviews

by: Ruaidhri | Posted April 25, 2017


When approaching your interview preparation, it is important to note that an interview is not an oral exam; it is not an inquisition nor is it a cross-examination.

And while it is a competitive process, we very much instil in our executives that their first objective is to position the interview as a meeting – where you and the interviewers are working together to see if there is a good fit between yourself and the organisation.

At the end of the day – your goals are mutually aligned. You are looking to communicate the value you will bring to the new role in the limited time you have at interview – while they are trying to interpret the value you could bring to the new role in the limited time that they have to judge you at interview.

The communication challenge you face is to facilitate this interaction in a way that gives the interviewer as clear a picture as possible of how you plan on helping the organisation to reach its business objectives.


Avoid the Q&A trap

Too often, executive interviews descend into a questions and answers session – where the dynamic mimics an “ask me any question and I will have the answer” situation.

For sure, there are certain core questions that need to be covered – obvious questions and certain questions you don’t necessarily want to be asked – but here are a number of caveats to be taken into consideration, if your interview preparation is solely taking this course.

The “ask me anything” approach can lead to putting yourself under unnecessary pressure as there are far too many possible questions that could be asked for you to prepare them in advance, and this rigid approach can restrict you, if and when unexpected questions arise.


Don’t rely on the interviewing skills of the panel

The “ask me anything” approach also limits your input for the interview.  If you are in questions and answers mode – you are reacting as opposed to being pro-active. This means that you are running the risk of not communicating the full extent of your value as you are relying on the interviewer to extract this value from you; a dangerous course of action when competing against other highly qualified candidates.


Avoid giving the interviewer the sole voice of authority

This potentially positions the interview as the voice of authority when we want to position the interview as a collaborative effort. Our executives go into their interviews with this ‘collaborative’ mind frame – as if it is the first meeting after they have been appointed to the role. This relates back to the idea of creating the shortest mind journey – where the interviewer views you as part of the team – from candidate to colleague; a key technique that is one of the cornerstones of our interview preparation philosophy.


Define your own interview objectives

Having your own specific interview plan about how you are going to communicate your interview objectives as effectively as possible is particularly important for competitive, senior executive positions.

Having real clarity in your about your goals and ambitions for the role will be critical in terms of differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Where the margin between winning and losing at interview can be measured in millimetres, preparation plays a key role in avoiding the situation where the interview turns into a limiting Q and A style session.

We look to seize the opportunity to communicate your value – don’t depend on the interviewers to extract it through their questioning.


Ruaidhrí Finnegan is a communications consultant at Communiqué International where his focus is on executive level job interview preparation. Communiqué International’s tried and tested communication models and frameworks ensure that candidates realise and communicate their full potential when it matters most. Whether you are thinking of starting your job search, have a job interview coming up or simply wish to improve your communications skills in your current role, the team at Communiqué can assist you in realising your business objectives. Tel: +353 1 676 8998 or E-mail:


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