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5 mistakes you can't afford to make when interviewing for an executive job at another company

This could’ve been your big break - one of the factors affecting the career development of any manager looking to advance.


You were called in for an interview at another company for a fabulous position - a job that would’ve been considered a major promotion at your current organization.


All excited (and a little nervous), you prepared yourself for the interview, making sure to find out key data about the company and brushing up on presenting your experience and qualifications.


At the interview, things seemed to go well as you explained about yourself and demonstrated your eagerness for the job. As the interview came to a close, you all shook hands. You were optimistic as you left the interview room.


But unfortunately, a few days later, you received an email stating that though the hiring committee was impressed with your background, they were still hesitant about your lack of experience in executive management. On a positive note, they’d be happy to hire you at your current managerial level.


A bummer. You were not only disappointed with the rejection, but also you were insulted at the thought of being offered to move to another company to do the same job you’re doing now. Following the initial shock, you began to wonder what caused the hiring committee to reject you. After all, they’d called you in for an interview. They must’ve thought that you had at least some chance of being hired. Was the interview conducted in good faith?


The good news is yes, you were interviewed in good faith. Companies don’t have time to conduct bogus interviews. But the unfortunate news is that  during your interview, doubts began to arise regarding your ability to be an effective executive manager - one of the major factors affecting career development. As the interview began, you were basically a gamble for the hiring committee - and therefore a heavy risk to the company. And as the interview progressed, the committee never got the feeling that it would be worth their placing their bets on you.


So what caused this opportunity of a lifetime to crash and burn? Read on to find out the 5 most common mistakes external candidates make when vying for a job at a higher level.


1.    You never saw the gap.

Never mind minding the gap. You didn’t even look for it. As an executive wanna be applying from outside the company, you’re just not going to have everything the company thinks it needs. Your job is to first and foremost acknowledge this gap, ensuring, as much as possible, that you know what’s expected versus what you can realistically bring to the table.


2.    You never bridged the gap.

Maybe at some point you realized that what you could offer might not completely fit the bill. But as a strategy, you thought it would be a good idea to ignore such “minor details” and just concentrate on what you could offer. Bad move. As you rambled on and on about your experience, the parts you strategically ignored were forming a huge elephant in the room. And the fact that you never tried to compensate for your shortcomings doubled the size of the elephant - and knocked you off the shortlist.


3.    You widened the gap.

While you were recounting your qualifications and experience, you failed to realize that your canned speech had little relevance to the issues the company was actually facing. The polite smiles you received were not because you were impressing the socks off the committee. They were just polite smiles...waiting for you to end your monologue.


4.    You fell into the gap.


This job opportunity was pretty much a long shot. Between us, we know you’d applied for a similar position at your current organization and were rejected. So when you actually landed the interview for this job, you had to ask yourself if they’d possibly made a mistake. But you were still excited about the opportunity, even though the chances of success were slim. Well, it’s exactly this approach to the interview that caused you to get swallowed into the gap. If you’d prepared diligently for the interview, as if you’d been hungry...no...STARVING for the job, then you wouldn’t have fallen into the gap. Instead, you spent energy convincing yourself that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you didn’t get the job. And by doing so, you convinced the hiring committee of the same thing.


5.    You missed the gap.


You never really told the hiring committee one thing: why you. Just like when you market a product or service, you have to know how to position yourself for your particular target market. But you failed to do your market research and therefore see how you were going to satisfy the company’s needs better than anyone else.


Hopefully, you’ll have another crack at a dream job...and you’ll do it right. The most important lesson to learn is that all of these mistakes result from one thing: lack of productive preparation. So before pursuing your next dream job, make sure you do the following:


1.    Find out why the company is interviewing external candidates instead of or in addition to internal ones. What qualities might there be lacking in the internal candidates? Knowing this will help you position yourself as something attractive the company will want to pursue.


2.    Research what the company is succeeding at and what challenges it is facing. This will help you know which parts of you to emphasize. As a result, the hiring committee will know it can count on you to both maintain its success and tackle its challenges.


3.    Prepare your pitch - and not a generic one either. Make sure it addresses all of the 5 mistakes mentioned above. At the end of your pitch, the hiring committee should feel that you know the company and its needs inside and out - and that you’re the right person to satisfy them.


Pursuing a higher level job outside your current organization can be a great challenge - as it takes both you and the hiring committee out of your comfort zones. But with the right research and preparation, it can create a win-win for everyone.


Good luck.


And always remember:


Great managers are made. Not born.


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