What is the toughest interview question you have ever been asked? I always ask someone that I am interviewing- why you? Why are you the one that I should have join our team over someone else? I always love the look on their face when I ask, the looks range from bewildered to relieved that I finally asked them someone where they can sell themselves. Recently, my other half was conducting interviews in his company and we were talking about the process and this question. He asked me how I would answer that same question. I was taken aback. Here began a process for me to figure out how I would answer.
My initial response to that is that I am awesome, that is why, obviously, and this made me chuckle, clearly being what I want to say.
In all seriousness, this is a hard question to answer, I now think back to those I was interviewing that provided an answer with such ease and grace and I am even more impressed. I am not great at selling myself or tooting my own horn, this does not come naturally. In my career there have been times of frustration because I have felt like my performance should speak for itself and I should not have to sell myself and this could not be further from reality. Here are some questions I asked myself in this process and I the idea for this blog post came to life thinking someone out there may be like me and struggling to find the answer to that question themselves.
1- What is your differentiator? What sets you apart from the others? The market it full of people just like you or that offer the same services you excel in. There has to be something that makes you special. I know for me, it is that I am very competitive but I don’t take myself very seriously. I will produce the results because that is what drives me. However, I can laugh at myself and recognize when I did something really dumb. I think this sets me apart. I recognize that I am not always the best and can eat humble pie, not always easy but I can do it. I can also sit back and laugh at the mistake or situation and find ways to learn from it.
2- How is your experience relevant to the specific company or role? This one seems easy, but in reality it is the most complex. We work so hard to get to a certain level in our careers and have a ton of experience that in most cases we are proud of but what part of your experience is relevant to the person/company you are interviewing with? I have union experience at one of the toughest hotels and I wear it like a badge of honor because I was successful in a really tough environment but what if, I am interviewing with a property that is non-union, why would I see this is as a selling point or want to mention it. This is where your research comes in, there may be experience that you have that you downplay that may be key to the company or role in your dream job. Research and discovery is key to answering this one.
3- How do you edge out the competition? You have no clue who you are competing against for the role in which you are interviewing. I always said, if I had a crystal ball to see who I was up against I would surely annihilate them and get the offer (see competitive side is really showing). In all actuality, you don’t need to annihilate anyone, you just need to have an ever so slight edge over someone else, really that is it. Sounds simple right? It is, really it is, if you knew who your competition is and how you can mention how you are the better choice. Ahhh, but you go into this blind. A tip for me here is to, in a healthy way, cyber stalk the company, LinkedIn is great for this, see who they have hired recently and what they are like to see if there is a trend. Read articles about the C-level leaders in the company and what is important to them. This will provide you that edge.
In the end, you have to be the right fit, and really, if you put effort into what you want and put your best foot forward, you will get what you want. Sometimes, I think candidates are going through the interview process thinking I hope they think they are the right fit for the role. Many times, a candidate is really good and the organization is thinking that they hope the person thinks the organization is the right fit for the individual. Great candidates that are the right fit somehow end up with the organization selling themselves to you versus you selling yourself to them and it fells natural.
This all sounds so easy, right? I put you at ease and you are ready to go out there an answer that question? I certainly hope so. I will leave you with a parting thought. I am true believer in that it has to feel right, when it does, it will happen, it was meant to be.
Happy interviewing (deep breaths)…