Let’s be honest: There’s tons of advice out there about best practices for interviews. From what you should (and shouldn’t) wear to the most strategic ways to prepare, everyone aims to perform at their highest professional level when they’re going for a gig they really want. Once you make it through the first couple of rounds, you’re often sent straight to the top, where the CEO will make or break your invitation to join the company. This can be even more nerve-racking since you hope to impress your could-be manager or boss’s boss. The most effective way to set yourself up for success — and earn that offer letter — is to take it straight from influential leaders themselves.
Here, CEOS who have interviewed hundreds to thousands of applicants shed insight on what catches their attention in an interview:
How you greet them — and leave them
CEO and co-inventor of the Electronic Alchemy Dr. Chance Glenn says he’s not too concerned with appearances, as he is with personality. This starts from the second you walk through the door: How do you greet the people you meet?
“The body language, the confidence, the level of charisma demonstrated. This is an indication of how successful this potential employee will have within a team environment, as well as their ability to move upwards within the organization,” he explains.
And it isn’t only about the foot you start off on, but the one you end on, according to Dr. Glenn. It’s important to him that when you exit the interview, he’s impressed. “Leave the interviewer with something that makes them go ‘hmmm!’,” he adds.
How passionate you are
You hear this keyword a lot when people talk about a career they adore — but what is often forgotten is the actual definition of it. The CEO of Amobee, Kim Perell explains “passion” derives from the Latin root for pain. In other words: someone must be so ignited by something they are willing to suffer for it. This pushes them to go above and beyond to be accomplished.
“Passion is the top quality I look for in individuals that I interview because it often translates into hard work, innovation, and loyalty,” she continues. “Passion is what drives you through times of challenge and allows you to thrive despite adversity and a dynamic environment such as adtech where change is the only constant. Disruption creates enormous opportunity.”
How self-aware and flexible you are
Most of the time, the ability to be constructively critical of yourself comes with age and experience. But this skill set is a top priority for many executives, including the president and founder of Notion Consulting, Christine Andrukonis. When you are confident in yourself and understand your own struggles, you innately become more adaptable, too.
“To be successful, candidates need to be able to maximize their strengths, address their development needs and do it with confidence. We live in an increasingly dynamic world, and professionals really need to be able to have a vision and a point of view but also be able to adjust and adapt that perspective to address each specific situation,” she explains.
How respectful you are
You’ve been instructed to mind your P’s-and-Q’s from the time you could speak — and the Golden Rule is forever trendy. The CEO of Globoforce Eric Mosley explains he values a person’s ability to respect not only others but themselves, too. “In a workplace full of humans, respect is the first step toward social connection and the highest levels of collaboration among colleagues,” he continues.
The first test happens before you open your mouth to introduce yourself, Mosley shares. It begins with being on time and fully prepared for the interview.
“If a person doesn’t have enough self-respect to position themselves for a successful meeting by being on time, informed about the company and position for which they’re applying, can you really expect they’ll operate with the utmost respect for their work or their colleagues?” he shares.
How comfortable you are
In your own skin, in the room, in your ability to perform the job at stake. A strong — yet humble — sense of self goes a long way in the interviewing process, according to the founder of hello products, Craig Dubitsky. It’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but he notes ‘comfortable’ signals a deeper understanding and appreciation for what the candidate can offer.
“They can’t feel truly comfortable unless they’ve done some research on the company, what they feel the company needs, and how they are just the right person to bring the magic. If they aren’t really sure, they’ll never feel comfortable, and then they’re likely not the easiest, smoothest fit,” he continues.
Another aspect of wearing your resume well is in the same advice you’d hear before going on a first date: make eye contact. Dubitsky says this is a clear sign of connection and ease. “If they feel comfortable with themselves, their abilities, their purpose that their potential fit, they want to engage. And the easiest, quickest way is to look someone in the eyes, and really engage,” he shares.
How you answer the “what’s your weakness?” question
It inevitably will come up more than likely — but are you prepared to answer this tried-and-true inquiry. You better be if you want to get on the CEO of 100% Pure Ric Kostick’s good side. This means not giving a cop-out answer, but actually digging deep and being honest.
“If asked about their biggest weakness, an answer might be ‘I work too hard that I forget to take time for myself’ or ‘’I get into the details too much.’ If a candidate cannot find or admit fault within themselves, they will also not be as receptive to criticism on the job,” he explains. “I’m not looking for a perfect person. I’m looking for a person that will take the risk, make mistakes, and be open to constructive criticism to help them grow. A humble person will truly speak to a real weakness.”
How specific you are
While being able to provide succinct yet thoughtful answers is important, the CEO of Care/of, Craig Elbert stresses the importance of details. He doesn’t only want to know what you’ve done from a high level, but the nitty-gritty steps you took to move numbers.
“I notice when candidates speak to specific things they’ve done to execute and actually achieve objectives, rather than just describing theoretical approaches and best practices,” he continues. “There are a lot of smart people out there who know all the answers, but have they actually been able to go out and motivate people to do the work? I want to see them really dig into the minutia of a project in a way that shows they were clearly involved in the results.”