At the interview

  • Help the panel in deciding if you are the right match. Don’t just go on about yourself, but, as per your application, show that you understand what the organisation needs now and how you can help. Self- knowledge, knowledge of the organisation and the relationship between your understanding of yourself and the organisation: this is the key territory. Remember that the panel are not the people running the place on a day-to-day basis and they may even not have a great deal more handle on the strategic issues than you have, after your research. So do show you have some kind of interpretation of these and where you would take the organisation. Even if it’s not quite right, it shows the level you’re operating at.
  • You must answer every question. A frontrunner I once interviewed lost the job because he said he did not have enough information for a question on the financial risks facing the organisation. There will be a finance question, possibly around risk. If you are not a finance specialist, get someone to read the accounts with you in advance and give you the headlines. Then retain the information and answer the question. This is a key chief executive skill. Opting out of a key aspect of the operation will lose you the job.
  • You will almost certainly be asked a question on managing people, in some form. They will want to know if you can “flex” your style, being prepared to be tough or collaborative as needed. Have examples ready. It might be the moment for self-deprecation but don’t end your remarks on a negative about yourself. Here’s an answer showing self-knowledge and the ability to flex styles: ‘My natural style is probably around coaching and encouragement. At the same time I guess I can come over as a bit of a taskmaster at points – I can certainly be tough, but I hope my colleagues see this happens around urgent and agreed business needs at that time, not on my whims. Then the coaching and encouragement side can reappear’. Or indeed the reverse, if that is true and what is needed.