In the sometimes-complex world of job hunting and interviewing, there are a whole host of obstacles that can lodge themselves in your job search path. These obstacles can include everything from getting close to a job offer that suddenly never comes to fruition, having a job interview that ends in disaster, or even, in this economy, having a job offer rescinded. No matter the challenge, it’s hard to remain hopeful and optimistic in a tough situation. But when those challenges do come your way, what is the best way to overcome them?
One of the toughest challenges in a job search can be handling tough or obscure interview questions. Sometimes the question is too vague and the interviewer herself is unknowingly making it harder for you to respond. But sometimes, there’s no problem with the question and you’re simply stumped. What do you do?
An example of an innocuous interview question that can really challenge you to think on your feet might be something like, “Describe the first three things you would do on the job if you were hired for this position.” Seems easy enough, but your answer could mean the difference between getting the job or not. What the interviewer may be looking for here is your approach to how you’d do a few things: (1) add immediate value, (2) make someone else’s job easier, and (3) save or make the company money. So therefore, any response to this sort of question should hit on those three concepts.
1 – Add Immediate Value
Job interviewers want to know what unique value you would bring to the table if hired. Unfortunately it’s just not enough to be qualified for a job. Rather, job candidates need to be able to articulately explain why they’re qualified. So, in response to the question described earlier, one might say, “The first thing I would do in my first month is jumpstart that xyz project. I worked on a similar project in my last job, and this is how I got it completed…” This sort of response is better than simply responding with a vague explanation of how you’d get started in the early days of a job. It gets at the heart of explaining to the interviewer how you’d bring value to the company, but also provides an example that will help the interviewer see that there’s a good match between your skills and experience and the needs of the job they’re trying to fill.
2 – Make Someone Else’s Job Easier
Some interviewers are not just looking for someone who will add value to the broader organization, but who will also help to lighten their workload. In this instance, it’s important to convey to the interviewer how you can make their job easier and not harder. This might be done by explaining how your work background would allow you to come on board with minimal or no training required, by explaining how you could help with other tasks or projects beyond the core focus of the position, or how you’re an expert multi-tasker who is able to work long hours. The key is to convince the interviewer how relieved they’ll be when you finally come on board – because you will be helping them as well as the Company.
3 – Save or Make Money for the Company
As has always been the case, companies are interested in anything or anyone that can help them preserve cash or make more of it. So when responding to a question about what things you’d do in your first month on the job, one of those things should include a specific action you would take to help the company reduce expenses or increase revenue. For example, for a project management function, it might make sense to explain how you’d review projected expenses for a key initiative and reduce costs in a particular area by replacing or changing the scope of work for a certain supplier. Or, for example, if you’re interviewing for a sales position, it might be helpful to explain how you could generate revenue from an unexplored market area or customer base.
The most important thing in describing the actions you’d take upon getting the job, is to clearly convey to the company all that they would gain by hiring you, and what they would potentially lose by not hiring you.
by Melanie Haniph