young graduate woman being interviewed for a job

Graham Oates, Chief Executive of Norrie Johnston Recruitment, shares his top tips on being interviewed for executive positions.

Face-to-face interviews are a prime opportunity for a company to find out more about a candidate and their competency. As a candidate, it’s your chance to display the skills, qualities and values you have that go beyond those listed on you CV. Clearly, the more prepared you are, the better the interview will go, so consider these tips as part of your preparation process.

Body language

Your body language can tell an interviewer a lot about you, so get the balance right. You don’t want to appear motionless, but you also want to avoid excessive movement which may make you seem nervous. Focus on sitting up straight and nodding with the conversation to ensure you appear engaged.


Preparation is key and doing your research on the organisation is a must before heading into an interview situation. This will prove your knowledge and understanding of the organisation and help you to answer questions with confidence. It is also important to prepare answers to the questions you expect to be asked about your experience and suitability to the role.

Tell Them About Yourself

When your interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself they genuinely want to hear something interesting about you. Consider your response to this question ahead of time to avoid giving an answer that is generic or focuses too much on your current company or previous role. In essence, you need to give a brief career overview, your relevant experiences and your achievements and how they have made you perfectly placed for the role you’re applying for.  It is particularly important that you focus on what you have achieved in your career – not just what jobs you have done. Then talk about where you want to get to next.

In saying all this don’t be afraid to offer some insight into your interests or your values – or even an unusual skill. These will all demonstrate your personality and help to engage your interviewer.

Maintain eye contact

Smile and catch your interviewer’s eye as you shake hands at the beginning and ensure you maintain this eye contact as they begin to ask you questions. Such contact projects confidence and self esteem as well as showing that you are engaged. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, avoid the temptation to focus on just one of them, try to catch the eye of everyone in the room whilst answering questions.

Delivery is key

Think about the way you structure the answers to questions to ensure you make your point clearly and concisely. Whilst it’s important to answer questions in full, avoid offering long-winded or confusing answers.

Prepare your own questions

Asking questions of your own is a great way to stand out from other candidates. Arrive at your interview armed with 2-3 questions to ask at the end. Asking insightful questions will demonstrate that you have done your research into the company, its team and key stakeholders, and that you are genuinely interested. Consider asking questions like, “what are the biggest challenges the company is currently facing?” or “where are future threats most likely to come from?” It is also a good idea to ask where the person who previously filled the role is now.


Allow for things to go wrong – train delays, trouble parking, roadworks. Rather than cutting it fine give yourself plenty of time, why add stress to an already stressful situation?  At worst, you will be early and will have a spare 30 minutes to spend at a café around the corner, where you can read up on your notes and complete last-minute preparations.

Follow up

The interview process doesn’t end when you leave the room. Be sure to stay at the forefront of the interviewer’s mind by following up afterwards with a note to thank them for their time and the opportunity.

Norrie Johnston Recruitment is a senior executive search and interim management agency. To find out more visit:

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