Building Executive Presence and Why It Is Important

Written By: Jen Porcelli, Gartner Campus Recruiter

As a Campus Recruiter, I spend most of my time searching for top talent. I attend career fairs and other campus events, source through resumes, and interview countless prospective candidates. I look for specific skill sets based on the requirements of the role and try to identify top traits we look for in candidates such as drive or coachability. I’m lucky enough to meet a great number of students who are not only interested in Gartner but do also possess some of the characteristics we look for. While having too many qualified candidates is a good problem to have, we can’t hire everyone. With a limited number of positions available, we need to look beyond tangible skills and work experience and instead pinpoint what makes a candidate stand out from the rest.

So what makes a candidate unique? What characteristics give a candidate that “It” factor? It’s called “executive presence,” and it just may be the key to distinguishing yourself.

Executive presence is a blend of temperament, competencies and skills that sends all the right signals. Leaders know they must embody executive presence to get ahead, influence others and drive results. Leadership development professionals know they must help their executives develop it. It is often this missing link between merit and success. Executive presence goes far beyond strong communication skills or other measurable abilities. It’s about how you are perceived and your personal brand.

According to research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, executive presence is a combination of the following three components:

  1. Gravitas
  2. Communication
  3. Appearance

When I broach the topic of executive presence to students on campus, I am always met with a barrage of questions. The most common I receive are the following:

  1. If I have the skills required for the job, do I really need executive presence?
  2. Is executive presence something you just have, or can it be learned?

While possessing a specific skill set or commensurate experience a job requires is essential, demonstrating executive presence, especially during an interview, can tip the scales and ultimately make you stand out as a candidate. And while executive presence may not be something taught in school, it can certainly be cultivated. Below are some tips and tricks to help you fine-tune your executive presence, and get you ready to crush your next interview with confidence!

Deploy emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is your ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Someone with emotional intelligence is able to be completely self-aware of how they are feeling and think before they act. They are empathic; they listen, and they are also intrinsically motivated by what’s important to them.
An example of using emotional intelligence during an interview would be recognizing you are nervous, but instead of panicking, using that nervous energy to fuel your or demonstrate your passion for the role.  Additionally, using emotional intelligence means you actively listen just as much as you are talking. Remember: A little empathy can go a long way.

Ask for feedback

Both asking for feedback as well as utilizing feedback to acknowledge others is an effective way to develop your executive presence. Requesting feedback, whether after an interview or as an employee, shows you are someone who values development. If you are able to implement the feedback you receive, it also demonstrates your ability to not only listen, but to accept being coached.

Communication is key

Both written and verbal communication are key components of developing executive presence. Being able to articulate yourself with clarity and consideration to managers and peers will allow you to develop stronger relationships, work more efficiently, and develop a positive brand for yourself. If you feel you struggle with being able to communicate effectively, there are lots of tools  you can utilize to help you develop this skill.

Take a public-speaking class, participate in mock interviews or compile feedback from classroom presentations to identify both your communication strengths and areas for opportunities. If you feel you struggle with written communication, there are resources out there for you, too! There are great free courses and templates available online to help with writing that focus on topics, from being concise in an email, proper written business acumen or simply grammar.

 Look the part

First impressions are everything and how you present yourself to a potential employer can have a great impact on hiring decisions. It’s important to remember your appearance is not limited to the way you dress. Dressing appropriately for the role you want and ensuring you are not unkempt is important, of course, but there are other things to keep in mind.

Carry yourself with confidence — stand tall, have a firm handshake, and make eye contact. Even if you are feeling like a bundle of nerves (insert emotional intelligence here!), make sure to smile and be approachable. When you are interviewing, you want to show you are fully present and fully engaged. Body language can speak volumes!

As you begin your job search or start a new career, think about the kind of employee you want to become. Do you want to be recognized as a leader? Do you want to stand out among your peers? Do you just want to be able to communicate effectively? Whatever your aspirations may be, developing your executive presence early on can help get you there.

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