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Interview Role Play

#1 Interview Role Play
16/11/2009 21:14


Got an interview in a couple of weeks and I've been given a heads-up by someone already working there that the interview will involve some role play and I should prepare for "how you would handle a meeting with a CIO who is challenged to come up with innovative ideas to return a failing multi-national organisation to profit."

I'm thinking: listen to his pain, suggest things he could do such as new service offerings or new technology to change the way they do things.

Any other ideas on what kinds of things I should be doing/saying? Any help would be much appreciated. Of course I could be opening myself up to ridicule here!

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#2 RE: Interview Role Play
17/11/2009 09:40

Max Mosley to WWW (#1)

Two things to remember in role plays.

1) Make sure everybody knows the Safe Word.

2) Close the curtains.

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#3 RE: Interview Role Play
17/11/2009 10:12

Mr Cool to WWW (#1)


No ridicule, but if you do not know how to do this, why will it be in the interview? Are you punching above your weight? Or is this part of the interview to test your ability to grow into business development. Think about it. No point getting a job you can’t do. That said, bluffing can get you far……..

First you need to understand the role play – is this an elevator pitch, (you’ve met a CXO in a social setting/conference/etc and have 2 minutes to make an impression) or is this an invited meeting (he’s given you 20 minutes) or is this an opportunity to extend an existing business relationship (your firm already works for his, but perhaps not for him personally). I’ll presume it’s option 2 or 3.

It’s not a bad idea to ask these questions of the interviewer. It shows you are QUALIFYING the opportunity and understanding the background. If it is option 3 it’s also worth pointing out that outside of an interview role play, you’d never go in cold to such a meeting, but would catch up with the engagement leaders working for the client already. They would give valuable background and perhaps an insight into the CXO’c role/reputation/etc.

Second – it is unrealistic to respond to a CXO who is senior, experienced and knows his business inside out, by thinking for a few moments and then suggesting some immediate solutions. In the real world it is more likely that you would listen, listen, listen and then pick out two or three areas (NEVER one – if you choose just one and it’ doesn’t resonate, you’ve shot your bolt). DON’T present them as “this is what I think statements” – again if you do not resonate with the CXO, you have made a statement that he does not agree with – not good. Instead present your ideas in the form of open questions, e.g. “Do you think your finance dept understand which sections of your customers are generating your core profits?” Listen to his response – if he says “Oh yes, that’s really not the problem” then move seamlessly to your next area (you’ll see they need to be connected in a way). “Good, that sounds like a solid base. And would you say that understanding flows through to the product development guys – is there a good link there?” Keep going through the client’s value chain at a very high level, using nice open questions to stimulate the conversation. Ideally the CXO should be doing most of the talking. You won’t impress him by talking – you’ll impress him by listening and then asking clarifying questions – it is these questions which will show that you understand the nub of the issue. If you are lucky he will respond to one of these questions with “You’ve hit the nail on the head…” and go off on a bit of a rant. Rant’s are emotional and people only get emotional when their barriers are down – which only happens when they have developed some trust with you – a good sign that you should be able to open up a sales opportunity.

(If you think this is pie-in-the-sky, I get a “rant” of some sort out of at least 50% of pitch meetings).

Once you have identified the area where the CXO feels there is an issue, the third stage is to connect that issue back to a service that your firm offers. You do not want to suggest just one service – again do not risk alienating by nailing your colours to just one mast. Let’s assume you’ve identifying that finance is fine, prod dev is fine, but getting products from dev to production is proving difficult. You need to give two or three examples of where you’re company has dealt with similar challenges but in very different ways. E.g. “Mercedes had a similar challenge – when we worked with them we found that the issue was poor communication between prod dev and production – we ended up helping them build a knowledge management system to help forward planning. At Renault however, the issue was that prod could not buy in new materials quickly enough to support new products – we did business process transformation exercise using Lean, with their procurement department, and came up with a super-fast way to buy in non-standard materials for new product launches. There might also be some interesting lessons outside your industry – for example at Sony we helped them set up a collaboration program with five universities around the world that now act as both idea factories and overspill for when the prod dev guys need some extra resources.” I would hope to spark some interest from one or more of these case stories.

Once you have the CXO’s agreement on the problem and the potential high level solution, the “close” depends on the relationship with the client and the way your firm does business. Some firms demand a paid engagement straight away, others will happily fund a few workshops as part of business development (particularly for existing clients or where the client has long term potential). It all depends on the client potential, the consulting firm’s reputation, etc. However, whether the first engagement is paid or not, my standard approach would be to sell a three phase solution. First phase is to properly scope the problem, second phase is design the solution, third phase is build and implement the solution. Again, its depends on what you firm does – you may not pitch for all three boxes, but if you firm only does box 1 and 2, you need to show that someone else will be able to box 3 (good ideas are worthless unless executed)

Easy, eh!

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#4 RE: Interview Role Play
17/11/2009 10:23

anon to Mr Cool (#3)

Without wanting to be a jobsworth, I'd advise the CIO to remind the person who tasked him with finding innovative ideas to return a failing multi-national organisation to profit of the CIO's remit. That's like asking HR to advise on opportunities for acquisition targets.

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#5 RE: Interview Role Play
17/11/2009 20:36

WWW to anon (#4)

Many thanks Mr Cool for those top tips!

In answer to your questions, it is part of a test to see if I can grow in to BD and I'm pretty sure it's option 2 or 3.

Many thanks again!

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#6 RE: Interview Role Play
18/11/2009 11:56

Mr Cool to WWW (#5)

You are welcome.

Of course a slightly less verbose summary is - don't fall into the trap of suggesting specific solutions, but apply a process that will show how your firm's approach and experience will eventually find the solution (and bill endless days along the way) in a way that other firms could not.

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