Sunday, November 22, 2009

Know Thyself

In preparing clients for interviews, I emphasize that if they can answer three key questions, they will set themselves apart from their competition. These questions are asked in some shape, manner or form of all candidates in almost every job interview:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your management/leadership style?
  • What is your greatest strength?

Your responses to these three questions demonstrate self knowledge. They show that you know what it is you do and how you do it. If you can articulate this, you’re far ahead of your competition. Most of us have difficulty with these questions. We don’t think about our value to an organization; we just do our job. The problem is, if we can’t articulate what it is we do well, how can we expect a prospective employer to figure it out? Or our current employer? They don’t have time to figure out how you can fit in their organization. It’s your primary job to be able to articulate your value to them. And yet, most of us wrestle with these questions.

So, how do you respond to these questions? The secret is in knowing what interviewers really want to know when they ask them; why they are asking these questions to begin with. They want to know what makes you unique; why they should hire you rather than the next candidate.

Tell me about yourself is usually the first thing that comes up in an interview. It’s your opportunity to set the tone; it’s your opening statement. You have the opportunity to let the interviewer know who you are and what you do best. Hint: It has nothing to do with your family, hobbies, or when or where you were born. It has everything to do with your value to the organization. So, it behooves you to know what they’re looking for and how you fit.

What is your management style? This refers to how you do what you do. Are you a collaborative leader? An “open door” manager? A hand’s on manager? How do you manage your team? You should know. You should also know, that regardless of your management style, the interviewer is really interested in knowing if you can make decisions. Can you step up and make the necessary decisions to keep things moving forward? This is a key factor in managing a team.

What is your greatest strength? This shows what makes you unique; what it is that separates you from everyone else. Sital Ruparelia, one of my favorite career writers, has a recent post, on Career Hub. He provides a guide for determining your unique talent (your natural abilities and your unique way of expressing them). You need to know your strengths and how they positively impact an organization. This is not necessarily about being organized or detail-oriented or honest or a having a strong work ethic. Lots of folks have these attributes. Your greatest strength – your unique talent – is about bringing value. What you do and how you do it that sets you apart from everyone else. Are you someone who can quickly sort through the details to recognize the heart of a complex issue and marshal the resources necessary to successfully address and resolve that issue? If so, that sets you apart from other, equally talented candidates.

So, as the Oracle at Delphi advised, “Know Thyself.” Know what you bring to an organization that sets you apart from everyone else and be able to articulate it clearly and concisely. Tell your story.

1 comment:

  1. Scott,
    Thanks for the simplicity in bringing clarity to my look in the mirror. I find this a great exercise in 'prepping' for interviews, of which I have used twice already this week.

    I look forward to future posts!