The interview process can be stressful and exhausting for candidates who are not adequately prepared, particularly if they are interviewing for senior positions, where the stakes and the scrutiny will be that much higher. It can be even more intimidating if you’re not 100% sure what the person on the other side of the table is looking for in a ‘perfect’ candidate.

It’s perfectly reasonable to expect your potential employer to focus on your experience, education and skill set, but the truth is that they might be more interested in qualities that don’t appear on the job listing.

So, what are employers really looking for in their interview candidates?


If you’ve obviously done your research and have quick and insightful answers prepared then you’re going to come across as someone who is genuinely invested in the role.

Of course, it’s important to deliver these answers in a manner that doesn’t sound rehearsed, so stick  to bullet points over fully rehearsed sentences. If the interview has been set up through an executive recruitment agency, they should be able to help you shed some light on the end of questions that will be asked.

Company knowledge

Motivation might not seem important, but it is. Even at an executive level. An interview is as much about finding out if you’re the right fit for a job as it is weighing up your positive and negative traits.

You’re going to seem like a much more attractive proposition if you display some genuine enthusiasm for the job and the company itself. They don’t want someone who is taking a job because it matches their skills, but someone who is enthused by delivering the company’s mission, and what they do.

Inquisitiveness and initiative

The best interviews are more like conversations that go both ways. If you take the initiative and are prepared with your own questions about the company, the role and the team, then you’ll not only be a more memorable candidate, but you’ll reveal yourself as a pragmatic and confident individual with a lot to offer and a bundle of enthusiasm.

Confident body language

There’s a wide gulf between ‘relaxed’ and ‘lazy’. You want to look like you’re comfortable, but not like you don’t care. It’s a surprisingly difficult middle-ground to find – particularly if you haven’t had to interview for a while.

But generally speaking, remaining calm and collected (tapping your foot, for example, will make you seem anxious or bored), and maintaining eye contact with the interviewer should set you in good stead.

Soft skills

You are more than the sum of your previous jobs and soft skills play a major part in helping interviewers to form a more rounded opinion of a candidate.

From team-building skills and flexibility to empathy, dependability, and problem-solving skills, make sure you’re prepared to sell yourself not only on the virtues of your statistics, and your ‘wins’ but on the skills behind your professional mask.

Of course, we’re not suggesting you should be neglecting the more traditional hard skills and knowledge that have gone hand-in-hand with interviews for decades. So, make sure your CV is  up to date and that you underline the skills and past experiences that you feel will be relevant to the role you’re applying for.

However, it’s just as important to focus on the less obvious qualities, such as those listed above. Because it might be the qualifications and the experience that get you past the gate, but it’s everything else that will get you to the finish line ahead of the competition.