Imagine this, you’ve got through to the last interview to become a senior partner in a big 4 firm. The last interview is with the CEO of the big 4 firm. How would you prepare for this interview? This was the question that arrived in my inbox this morning. Here is a longer version of the advice I gave.

It is not about your technical ability

At this stage of the interview process your technical ability will have already been checked. Either via a headhunter or a quality/technical interview. If you have got this far, then it would be unusual for the CEO or Managing Partner to quiz you about technically related matters.

Do you belong as a member of the club?

The final interview is always about checking your personal and emotional fit with the rest of the partnership. After all no partnership wants to willingly take on board a new partner who will charge around upsetting other partners. Whilst many of us may think that our partners thrive on discord and conflict, this is never the best way for a firm to function. It can be very tempting to approach this interview deciding to be a chameleon, i.e. being whoever the CEO wants you to be. This is a fools game. Remember that the interview process needs to be two-way. You are checking them out for fit as much as they are checking you out for fit. If you are not authentic and honest it will show. Two things will then happen. Either you will struggle to build rapport with the CEO, and not get offered the job. Or you will find you don’t fit in as the real ‘you’ if you get offered the job. There is only one thing worse than not getting the job and that is getting it and hating it because you don’t fit in to the partnership. The best way of helping the conversation get onto the right foot from the word go is to find out as much as possible about the CEO in advance. This will give you lots of conversation starters and potential areas in which to build rapport.

Be prepared to justify your business case

Sometimes this last interview is used to once again check that the facts and assumptions in the business case really do stack up. After all, it is an expensive business hiring in a partner just for them to woefully fail to bring in work. Before your interview, think about:

  • worst case scenario, how many clients will follow you to the new firm?
  • how many senior level decision makers in your network, can you count on to be open to conversations with partners in your new firm?
  • if the economy took a down turn in the next 12-24 months how much would your client portfolio be impacted?
  • how many of your current (or recent) clients would be interested in other services from your potential new firm?

How committed are you to the new firm?

Most firms don’t want to hire a new partner for only a few years. They want to bring in a partner who will grow and leave a legacy within the firm. Consequently, be prepared for some probing within your final interview on the following:

  • where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
  • what has prompted you to want to move firms?
  • why did our firm stand out for you?

How would you prepare for this interview?

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