This CEO headhunter who has conducted over 10,000 interviews shares his secret to successful interviewing

Photo: Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

Interviewing is much like a skill — it gets better with time and practice.

But despite this, we can still often find ourselves slipping up on occasions although we have the experience under our belt.

CEO headhunter, James Citrin, currently leads Spencer Stuart’s CEO Practice and is a noted expert on professional success having written The Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professional along with bestseller, Lessons from the Top, The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers.

In a recent post on Linkedin, Citrin describes interviewing much like an art form with “grace and nuance” but points out that interviews also have their own rituals such as “the welcome, the bridge building, the assessment, the Q&A, the close”.

In his three decades and a half decades of interviewing, Citrin has conducted over 10,000 interviews and helped place 600 top executives as well as over 200 CEOs through his advice.

But according to Citrin, the key to effective interviewing boils down to a surprisingly simple tip:

It turns out that whether you are interviewing for an internship, a public company CEO, or anything in between, the keys to effective interviewing are surprisingly the same. Knowingly or not, first impressions are lasting impressions for many interviewers, so establishing an immediate bridge and having a strong answer to the first question is essential. And that rather than responding literally to the questions that are posed, it’s far better to weave the answers into a narrative that tell a story about who you are and how you can be the solution to the hiring organization’s problems. And being on guard to avoid falling into the trap of thinking an interviewer is just being polite when they ask you at the end, “What questions do you have for me?” This is one of the most important opportunities to show, by having prepared a series of insightful questions beforehand, that you’ve done your homework, that you are strategic, and that you really care about the opportunity.

Citrin who has interviewed with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Boston Consulting Group through to the World Bank and other diversified corporations says that he’s come to see interviewers as “gladiators”.

“They want a conquest. If they decide that you could be the one, they want to win you over.

“The more that you understand how interviewers think and what you can do to influence the process, the better the chances are that you can be in the position to make the most important decision — whether this is the right job for you.”

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