Greg de la Cruz works in the tech industry and is the author of two published titles on Amazon.
Preparing for your final job interview is not a trivial matter. While you might think of it as a step that’s considered a mere formality—especially when the previous interviewer or the recruiter says it is—the last interview, sometimes called the executive interview, makes or breaks your chances of landing the job.
Whenever the thought of belittling the final interview crosses your mind, just remember that the person waiting to get the chance to talk to you has the ultimate say. And that person doesn’t have to answer to anyone if they don’t see you as a good fit.
Granted, there are many things beyond your control in the application process, such as when they’ll call you for a follow-up, how much they’re willing to offer you, and if and when they’ll reach out to send you an offer sheet. But when you have ample time to get ready for your final interview, make the most of this part of the process that you can control. Seize it as your finale.
You’ve gotten this far where many applicants have failed. Some were ignored, their resumes skipped from the pile. But you were chosen with care, and unlike them, you get to make your pitch to the one in charge.
In this article, you’ll get a chance to review seven tips to help show the best version of you on your big day.
Preparing for Your Final Interview
Memorizing a list of answers can be overwhelming. And having a choreographed set of responses to "act out" when a certain question is thrown out can come across as pretentious. To show a more natural disposition, I suggest taking these seven tips with you on your final interview:
- Use simple words and speak in short sentences.
- Confirm you’re the best person for the job.
- Show your emotional intelligence and maturity.
- Be consistent with your answers from the previous interviews.
- Know their performance expectations.
- Gather more information about the company.
- Ask yourself if the job is right for you.
1. Use Simple Words and Speak in Short Sentences
The executive or the deciding panel will tend to approach the interview as a means to look for a reason not to hire you. They’ve already heard so much about you from either the screener or from the ones who have already interviewed you. What you’d want to do is to speak concisely because this accomplishes at least three things:
- It will show that you can organize your thoughts clearly and quickly.
- It will send the message that you also value their time, as they are usually very busy.
- And it will give a preview of how you communicate, especially when they confront you with an issue or a difficult ask.
I’ve had troublesome experiences of saying more than I needed to, and it’s safe to say that I botched these interviews. I soon learned how to compose my thoughts better, and I appreciated the value of using simple words.
Trying to impress the boss or the executive panel with flowery words and long sentences can easily backfire. Your interviewers can either miss your point or lose their own attention altogether. Enunciate your words carefully, and get to your key message asap.
2. Confirm You’re the Best Person for the Job
In some portions of the interview, you need to be proactive. While you have to give way for the interviewer to take the discussion wherever it needs to go, you have to make it your priority to confirm that you’re the best fit.
They’re going to ask questions, whether directly or indirectly, to gauge just how well you integrate within the team or the organization. And they’re also looking to see if you’re going to be someone who will add value not just in the work you’re assigned but also for the company as a whole.
This is where you run through your wins and your major career accomplishments. While in previous interviews, you may have already proven your competencies and abilities, in this interview with the big boss, you’d want to explain your philosophy.
Knowing the big picture, the underlying purpose of your wins and understanding how they benefited the company you worked for—these are the things they wish to uncover from you. You might find it exhausting to showcase your highlights once again, but keep in mind that it’s likely they’re considering your accomplishments against those of another candidate. With or without their own biases of preferring you over others, they want to come out of the interview with a logical view of why you should get the job.
3. Show Your Emotional Intelligence and Maturity
You might never find a job worth taking that doesn’t involve stressful situations. HR managers know this, and the people doing your final interview are likely the ones who deal with it more frequently. The interviewer may or may not ask this question directly, but they want to find out if you can handle stress and if you take measures in your personal life to manage it.
This may be the reason why they might ask you what you do in your spare time, what your hobbies are, and what other non-work activities you enjoy. They prefer for you to "lead a healthy lifestyle" or make efforts to achieve work-life balance. At the same time, they also want to know how you interact while in these stressful situations. Will you tend to sweep disagreements under the rug? Or will you do the mature thing by taking part in professional discourse, even if things get heated?
Here, you’d want to prove your emotional intelligence and maturity. Achieve this by proactively sharing your process of building relationships in the workplace.
Walk them through a short story of conflict resolution between you and a colleague. What’s important is not the end result of resolving the issue—rather, it’s how you resolved it and, in particular, your thought process. How did you empathize? What were your assumptions? Why did you take that action or speak in those terms? Woo them while still being sincere about it.
4. Be Consistent With Your Answers From the Previous Interviews
Here’s another underrated yet effective way to prepare for the final interview—reflect on your answers from the previous interviews. More importantly, recall how you delivered your career narrative. In some cases, you might be tempted to show a different side of yourself or reframe your past experience. The safer route, however, is to try to make sure they have a consistent view of you as a professional.
It’s likely the executive has already drawn his own mental image based on feedback taken from your earlier interviews. They either want to confirm for themselves if those assumptions made about you are true or want to dig even deeper. It’s helpful to conceptualize the entire recruitment process as a destination—take your final interviewer forward on the path of trusting you. Don’t take a detour.
If you’ve mentioned in the previous interview that, for example, you were the lead designer for a team that delivered major projects for the past three years, you don’t need to mention that you had a co-leader if you hadn’t disclosed this fact before. You’re not obligated to add asterisks. And it might come across as if you deliberately hid this just so you could advance.
In your final interview, you can be as honest as possible but hold firm.
5. Know Their Performance Expectations
In a video for HBR Ascend, Tori Dunlap urges applicants to always ask questions at the end of the interview. In How to Succeed in Your Next Job Interview, she says that “job interviews are as much as for you as they are for the company.”
Dunlap recommends that you ask the question, “How do you measure success, particularly for this position?” By asking this question, you get a leg up in planning for your first 30, 60, and 90 days. “You know exactly what you need to succeed in order to stand out,” Dunlap says.
As I went through more and more interviews in my own career journey, I learned that being able to ask a question like this was a skill. When I was a fresher in the job market, I had no idea I could take a peek behind the curtain. What was waiting for me at the job I was applying for? I thought it was wrong for me to pre-emptively throw a question that implied I was going to be the person hired.
Asking for their performance expectations at the final interview accomplishes two things: first, you make them visualize you performing the job (this is a nice trick). Second, you get to look back on the final interview when you’re already working the job. And once you’ve made it there, you can then self-evaluate and ask:
- Did they mislead you in any way?
- Are their demands reasonable?
- Are you hitting your stride?
It’s useful to know what they need you to be as early as possible.
6. Gather More Information About the Company
By the time the executive interview rolls in, you should already have a concrete idea of what the company does and how it operates. Online research is helpful, and so are insights from existing employees and people in your network—but nothing beats firsthand intel. And this is information you’ve gathered based on your previous interviews and your time inside the company’s offices (if you were lucky enough to be invited for an in-person interview).
As emphasized at the beginning of this article, the final interview is not a time to grow complacent. It’s still one of the best stages to gather more information. You might have been won over by the previous interviewers, probably by the hiring manager who couldn’t stop complimenting you. And the HR person might have dangled some perks which caught you by surprise, such as recurring bonuses and lengthy paid vacations.
But it’s possible you may have missed crucial information. Are there any hidden drawbacks? Did they conceal parts of the job that would scare people away? The final interview is an opportunity to ask more questions you either forgot to bring up or didn’t get an answer to. And this leads me to my final piece of advice.
7. Ask Yourself if the Job Is Right for You
This may be your last good chance to second-guess yourself. Unless you have another competing offer in the works, it doesn’t make much sense to turn down a job offer if it’s the only one you have. So even before they get back to you with a decision, you can save them time and effort by letting them know your decision. It’s okay to back out if you don’t think the job is right for you.
From another perspective, the recruitment process is a way for you to spend time learning whether an open role is something you can imagine yourself doing for some time. And it’s hard to see it this way when you’re desperate for your next paycheck. You might also have been worn down by all the hoops you had to jump through just to reach the pinnacle of your job hunt.
You may feel that because you’re near the end that you have to take the job because it’s the only way to rationalize all the effort you’ve put forward. But I remember from my own experience just how lucky I was for not taking a job. I recall a few times where I may have accepted the invitation to come to an executive interview but canceled just a few hours before the scheduled time. I thought to myself, “Why bother coming to the interview even when I don’t really see myself thriving at the job?”
Preparing for the final interview also means preparing yourself to decide not to do it.
Make the Final Interview Count
Whether you succeed and get an offer or fail to get as simple as an email back, applaud yourself for going through the final interview. You were good enough to get in their door (or in their Zoom call). You were one of the top candidates, and that still counts for something. Opportunities to talk to someone in the top ranks don’t come very often, so make the most out of this chance to know what they are looking for—even when they don’t choose you in the end.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Greg de la Cruz