So you brushed up on the company and prepared for every conceivable question they seemed likely to ask. After breezing through questions 1 – 5, the interviewer says, “Next question. Impress me.”
What’s your immediate reaction? The one you’re having right now. Some readers relish such an opportunity to impress the interviewer while others might be experiencing anxiety and outright panic. Those two words have no boundaries, no structure. Impress the interviewer? How?! In what way? What will they find impressive? Should I go with professional or personal in answering the question?
This kind of open-ended question with no guideline is akin to the traditional question, “Tell me about yourself.” Both questions appear to be statements more than questions and both are as broad as it comes. Both however give the person being asked free latitude to share whatever they want that will reveal to the interviewer qualities, skills and characteristics the interviewee wants to share. Keeping in mind the interview is designed to prompt a job offer, each answer should demonstrate your strengths as they pertain to the job you are applying for.
Here’s something to ponder and remember; the interviewer knows you’ve likely done your homework and have tried to anticipate the most likely questions to be asked. This open-ended question isn’t a throw-away just to startle you and shake you up. It’s a relevant question designed to get beyond a rehearsed reply and see you for who you are but also give you the chance to share some achievement you could relate back to the job.
Remember too that the interviewer is evaluating your answer and you the applicant. If you’re trying to impress them with verifiable information such as turning around your last employer’s profitability and saving the company from receivership, that is likely to work if you are competing for the same kind of job now. If on the other hand your tale is advancing to the highest level in a video game, that has limited impact unless you are competing for a job in the gaming industry as a Tester.
Let me introduce you to Carri. I’ve been working with her for just over two weeks now in my role as an Employment Counsellor. Before I share how she answered this question in a mock interview, I’ll tell you she is in the field of Logistics, has international experience, and is looking for employment in manufacturing, warehouse or production settings. She’s highly mobile, trained in lean thinking, well-educated and being in the mid-thirties, has a great blend of experience, enthusiasm and maturity. And yes she’s impressed me; a lot.
So I posed this question to Carri and here’s what followed. First of all she momentarily paused and gave a nervous smile. Later she told me she was waiting for the rest of the question that never came. But in a two-second span of time, she gathered her thoughts and replied.
She shared a story in which she was working in the City of Toronto and the company she worked for was in the mining industry with mines in the Sudbury area of Ontario far to the north. When accidents happen in mines, help is often at the surface, and getting miners up takes time and it costs millions in lost production as operations are compromised, and healthy miners have to accompany the injured up the elevator.
Injuries were happening because workers were using tools manufactured in another country as the supplier had recently been changed away from a local source. So here’s what she did. She flew to Sudbury, brought in product demonstrators from South America to show the Northern Ontario miners how to safely use the tools they were getting injured using. She overcame two major hurdles in saving the workers from injuries and the company lost income; she was a woman in a male-dominated industry, and she was from the big city. Local people in the north don’t always appreciate big shots telling them how to do their jobs from thousands of miles away.
In her answer, she proved her skills using a specific example. As the interviewer, I could also see the contrast between the interview-attired woman in front of me and the woman who would go down in the bowels of a mine to see first-hand the problem and gain the respect of hardened men labouring in those conditions. She finished by saying how she won their respect and saved the company money.
Impress me? Oh yeah. What worked for her was she departed from what could have been a script and answered being genuine and with some passion. The impact is that she came across as believable and summarized her skills; and if she could do that for them, she could likely repeat that performance in other situations for a new employer.
Carri’s skills in remaining calm, reflecting quickly on the question, providing a relevant situation that responds to the question and showcases the skills needed in the job she is currently applying for really came out in this interview. You’d do well to have a few situations of your own that highlight your accomplishments for just such a question.
By the way, if you have a job or a contact in the field of Logistics, contact me and I’ll put you on to her. This woman is intelligent, hungry, driven to succeed and qualified. She gets it.