Solutions Snapshot - Oct 2010

QUESTION: How can I best prepare to interview for an executive-level risk or security position?

J. David Quilter, CFE, Emeritus Faculty, Security Executive Council: If you are in the private sector, the task of interviewing for a senior leadership position is less scary because you have most likely done it to get your current job. However, if you are transitioning from the public to the private sector, you have your work cut out for you.

A key part of success is how you market yourself. It is essential to have two things: the right job skills and the aptitude to promote yourself.
It is vital to practice interviews with folks who will be honest with you. Create a story focused on why you are the ideal candidate for this opportunity.

It is crucial to know the business culture and to know if you will be a good fit. Research the business in-depth (K-8 & K-10s are great) and the industry in general. Demonstrate that you are a lifelong learner who is interested in growing the business.

Jerry Brennan, Subject Matter Expert Faculty, Security Executive Council; President, SMR Group: Beyond understanding the organization and the value you could bring to it, you must understand who you will need to build relationships with in the organization. They are looking for competency, but they are also looking for compatibility - not only with themselves, but with other members of the team who you may not be interviewing with.

They want to get a sense of your style and approach - meaning you will really have to know yourself. Recognize the importance of chemistry in the interaction: be aware of non-verbal communication cues and use active listening. But be comfortable and be yourself, because they will know if you are just practicing the rote interview process you read about in a leadership book.

An often-overlooked tip: Understand how much time is planned for the interview and tailor your answers accordingly. If the CEO has scheduled 40 minutes and he asks you a question that has either a 3-minute or a 10-minute answer, think quickly and choose wisely.

Mike Howard, General Manager, Global Security, Microsoft; member, Security Executive Council: Recognize that you are interviewing for an executive-level position vs. a "security" or "risk" position. You have a solid background in security or risk, and that gets you in the door, but this interview will concern itself with overall business issues that go beyond security and risk.

Approach the interview like a business professional. You are a businessperson first - your business just happens to be risk and/or security.

Learn everything you can about the company: its history, senior executives, Board of Directors, main lines of business, its competition, footprint (international, domestic or both). Study the company's 10K for that year. It details the company's activities, as well as its risks.

Think strategically when approaching the interview. Come prepared to discuss how you have built strategic programs in your career. What is the value you can add to the company's bottom line?
Preparation and strategic, business-focused thinking will spell success.

Chris Berg, Senior Director, Corporate Security & Safety, Symantec Corporation, member, Security Executive Council: Understand your audience. Do your homework on the company and the executives you will be interviewing with. Use publicly available sources and the company's Web site. I'd highly suggest that you work your network and find a connection "inside" that can help you probe for valuable insight on the company, the position and the executive(s).

Remember, you are dealing with busy executives who are inclined to see issues from 40,000 feet. Be concise, clear and to the point, and try to have an idea of what you want to present and to whom.

Remember their perspective - if it is the CFO you are interviewing with, tailor your answers to issues that would appeal to him or her. If it is the General Counsel, obviously the reference points would be different.

Your resumeā€š may have gotten you in the door, but this interview is your opportunity to sell yourself, your expertise and experience.

Next Month's Question: What can companies do to improve protection of employees as economic pressures raise concerns about increased rates of workplace violence?

For more information about the Security Executive Council, please visit The information in this article is copyrighted by the SEC and reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.