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Don't Blow the First Interview Question

Don't screw this one up.  It's often the first question in a job interview and it sets the tone for the entire interview.  How you answer can set you on a path to either boring or engaging the employer.

I recommend using a strategy used by many good conversationalists:  give a menu of topics.  Just one benefit is that you can help the hiring decision maker. Many have no training in conducting job interviews, so you can help to steer them to what's most important.

You've probably seen people do something similar at parties. When some people are asked what's going on, they'll say, "Not much" or "same old same old."  This gives you no help in having a conversation with them.  On the other hand, a good conversationalist might say, "It's been quite a week. I'm doing an interesting social media project at work, that big windstorm dropped a tree on my mother's garage, we just saw that great new movie, and my kid got a major part in the school play."

Follow the lead of the good conversationalist in job interviews, but do it strategically.  Your menu is about how you provide value to employers. Your menu is focused on the things you do best-succinctly stated in short phrases so there is a clear list.  Here's how this might work:

Step 1:  Give a Menu

After a short lead-in about your background, you might say, "Some of the things that employers have most appreciated about me are my abilities to..."

·Manage projects with global cross functional teams
Research symptoms to find and fix root problems
Ensure everyone has the information they need to do their jobs
Bridge the communication gap between technical and business people

Step 2  Ask what they would like to hear about

Next, ask them, "What would you like to hear about?" Or "Which of these is most interesting?"  Just like in a normal conversation, you don't want to just start talking at someone.  Instead, tailor what you say to their interests.

This approach also wakes them up. Sometimes employers ask you to talk about yourself, then tune out. They start thinking about what to eat for lunch--while you go on and on about your background.  Asking a question forces them to pay attention.

Step 3  Tell a Story

Come prepared with a number of short, well-crafted PAR (problem/action/results) stories that you can use to illustrate your menu items.  These PAR stories show you at your best.  Stories should be about one minute long, walking a fine line between not giving the person enough information to understand what you did and boring them with too much information.  If they're intrigued, they'll ask you to elaborate.

Caution:  if you're in a technical field, be prepared to talk to your peers in your technical language, but also to speak in plain English.  Don't lose the interview by assaulting some poor Human Resources person with a barrage of technical jargon that leaves them with eyes glazed over. 

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Step 4 Ask a question

Next, ask a broad-brush question to get the employer talking.  Good salespeople don't talk your ear off; they listen to what your needs are.  Find out what the employer really wants.

How would that (the menu item they asked about) be useful here?
How satisfied are you with what's going on in your department now?
How would you like to improve the department?
What would you want me to accomplish in the first six months?

By following these steps, you've started an interactive conversation and laid a solid foundation for a successful job interview.

If you can't afford to let a great opportunity slip through your fingers, let me help you prepare:  847 673 0339



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