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How to interview like an executive

I hear it all the time. “Somer, I’m a CIO but the search firm / hiring manager is telling me I’m too junior. What am I not saying to these people? What can I be doing better? Let me ask you an honest question, would you put me forward for a CIO job?” I’m using CIO here, but it can be any title.

There are a lot of things you can do to elevate how you present yourself to people who don’t know you. Here’s an easy place to start.

As Simon Sinek says, start with why. Go watch his TED Talk, really.

Here’s the link:

I was heads down for my entire career and somehow never heard of Simon Sinek until I launched my own search firm and had some space to think. I watched his TED Talk and it completely changed how I think and talk about what I do.

Here’s how you can translate this to an interview:

It’s easy on an interview to only talk about “what”, about responsibilities. The more junior a candidate is, the more they only talk about “what”. Make sure you also talk about “why”.

Responsibilities are the day-to-day job, the things you do. You wake up, do things, stop working, repeat. The “why” is a whole other level. Part of it is personal, why you’re inspired by your work. Part of it is thinking bigger than today.

Think about this: let’s say the CEO of your company is introducing you to someone. How would they describe your role? The CEO would likely leave out the day-to-day, and instead talk about how your work is impacting the whole company, the customer, the culture, maybe even disrupting the industry. Talk about yourself that way.

For example, let’s talk about your team:

- Responsibility: The number of people you manage. How your org is structured.

- Impact: Stories of hiring, promoting, developing talent. How you scaled the organization and influenced the culture, and how that affected the overall company and customer experience. Why you did things the way you did. How that plays into the broader picture of who you are.

I could write a book about this (oh wait – I am!). It's slated to be published in May 2022.

As always, more tips on the blog and sign up for the newsletter on my website:


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