If you have ever been on a job interview the odds are you were asked this open-ended, break-the-ice question, which is often the first one asked. Now if you worked with a resume writer/job coach like me, inwardly you would be jumping for joy because the exercises used to prepare your resume also prepared you to knock this out of the park.
However as a recruiter and hiring authority I was shocked at how many people were caught off guard when asked this question and how many struck out in my evaluation of them before the interview even started. After all, this question is a slow pitch lobbed right over the heart of the plate and I expected them to hit a home run, or at the very least to make contact and get on base.
OK I admit it, I am a huge baseball fan and the division playoffs begin this week.
So now that I got my baseball metaphors out of my system my advice to all of you is “expect to be asked this question and be fully prepared to offer the proper response.” After all this is not really a question, it is a request for information and your reply will set the tone for the balance of the interview.
How do you reply?
1: First off keep your reply as brief as possible, not less than 60 seconds but no more than 2 minutes. Remember this is generally the beginning of an interview so you have ample opportunity to present relevant information later on.
2. Write your answer out and rehearse it until it comes out sounding natural and unrehearsed.
3. Be aware of your body language. Keen interviewers judge you by eyeballing you as well as listening to what you have to say.
4: Your reply must offer the following personality traits that employers look for no matter what level job you’re applying for: intelligence, enthusiasm, confidence and professionalism.
5: Present yourself in a positive yet humble way and by all means avoid sounding negative, cocky or braggadocios.
6: If you ever heard a politician or professional interviewed in person, on TV or the radio you will know that most reply with the same opening line, and you may want to adapt it in your response by saying, “That’s a very good question, where should I start,” and then go into your prepared spiel.
7: When you are done, politely throw the ball back into the interviewer’s court in a way that puts you on a more equal footing as the interview moves forward.
What do interviewers want to hear?
When you prepare your response weave the following information (in any order) into your response.
1: A brief introduction of your experience and education.
2: Your key strengths as they relate to the position you’re interviewing for.
3. Relevant past accomplishments that demonstrate your understanding of what needs to be accomplished in the position you’re applying for and your track record of success in this area.
4. How you see yourself contributing in the position you’re applying for.
Here is a sample response:
That’s a great question and I am glad you asked it. To begin I earned my Bachelors in Computer Science from CUNY Baruch College cum laude and I have an MBA with a concentration in Business Management from Hofstra University.
In terms of business I have 4 years experience as a programmer/analyst, 2 years experience as a senior business analyst, and for the past 18 months I was a project manager at your main competitor, JJ Kindle.
However the most important thing I think you need to know about me is that I pride myself on my ability to face every business challenge head on – and I thoroughly examine all options and seek the opinion of my peers and superiors before I decide on a solution. An example of this is a project I recently completed where the budget was cut midway through the project. I was able to complete the project on time and slightly under the new budget by revaluating the project’s priorities, renegotiating our outside consulting costs and bringing some tasks in house at a lower cost, and I got stakeholder buy in to scale the project down by eliminating some costly enhancements that were mostly cosmetic and would not be missed.
I also think it’s important to mention that I thrive when working in a fast paced turn around environment like the one I would be working in here at Best and Company, and I can contribute valuable insights on how to achieve the efficiency and cost savings you are seeking to achieve over the next 24 months.
The final thing I think you should know about me is that I am a hands-on manager, and I have been told I have great communication skills; and at my previous position I was very successful in building productive teams and getting the most out of each team member by creating a positive work environment, mentoring the team members, and making everyone on the team understand their role and how important they are to the company’s success.
I know my skills and work experience will make me an asset here at Best and Company and I know I can deliver the results you are seeking from the new hire in this position.
Now is there anything you would like me to address in greater detail?
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