Five ways to ace an interview when the requirements are unclear
As an executive recruiter working in the digital space, navigating the waters of what a client wants is always a fabulous challenge.
Frequently, I’m faced with companies who use the departure of a well-respected colleague to review their digital or ecommerce strategy. They may identify what they’d like to improve upon, yet still struggle to articulate what the new position and accompanying deliverables should be.
Part of this is due to digital not being a “one size fits all” function and, even in competing businesses, departments, teams and positions can all look very different from one firm to the next.
At a senior level in this sector job descriptions don’t always exist, and if you’re a candidate attending interview it can be quite daunting preparing for an interview where there are a number of unknowns. To help you ace an interview when the hiring company isn’t clear on what they want, I’ve put together my top five recommendations on how to approach it.
Leadership is always a non-negotiable skill
Whether the business insources or outsources, is top heavy or under resourced, it really doesn’t matter. What you need to demonstrate is how you lead, how you develop people and how you bring individuals who think and act very differently together as a unified team. HR Directors tell me that many candidates fall down by talking about how they’ve done this theoretically. The best way to showcase your leadership skills is make your examples come to life. Talk to them about specific individuals whose careers you have turned around or propelled and ways in which you have evaluated their development.
Be clear on what successful outcomes should be
Even seemingly modern businesses can struggle to understand how success should be evaluated, and with metrics ranging from CPM to NPS many business leaders aren’t always sure what to prioritise. There are two key metrics that should never be ignored: profitability and customer satisfaction. CEOs and Managing Directors have boards, financiers and stakeholders to appease and you need to play to their commercial side. If you can describe how you and your team(s) contribute and influence these areas – precisely the ways in which you do this – and why it is significant in increasing brand value then you’ll be taken much more seriously.
Know your figures
Following on from point 2 I cannot stress clearly enough how important it is to know your figures. If you can’t recall revenue, margin, CRO or whatever it is that’s important in your business, you won’t be taken seriously no matter how you dress it up.
Show that you don’t just fail fast – you learn even faster
We all know that businesses are bringing new features and functionality to market faster than ever, and in the race to be first to market things can sometimes go wrong. Businesses are more accepting of this now, as long as the rationale behind the decision made sense at the time. Too frequently, senior leaders fail to demonstrate what the learnings are and how they address them going forward. Take a leaf from military personnel who de-brief after every mission and analyse their tactics so they don’t make the same mistake again. Today it’s too easy to hide career failings through a number of successive, short tenure positions but remember a great interviewer will probe into this in more detail than you might expect.
Utilise your negotiation and coaching skills
As a senior business leader you should have built up an array of coaching and negotiating skills throughout your career and now is the time to use them. What is the real challenge here? What else? If you say yes to this course of action, what must you say no to? Whatever your go to questions – now is the time to use them. Ask and listen and by no means try to close them at this point. As much as a conversation may seem disjointed or it may appear that the interviewer is unclear in what they want you to deliver, make sure that all of your answers and experience relate to the challenges they have. Remember to explain clearly how you’ve done this previously. Show them how you’d help them remove the obstacles that are in their way and be clear in where you’re best utilised.