Quick, if I asked you right now to name two words that described yourself, what would they be? Got them? Don’t go any further until you do. Okay, now take those two words and see if they apply to you in the context of your personal life, your work life or perhaps they are words you’d use in both contexts. Me, I’d choose resilient and creative. In both cases, I know I was thinking work context as I chose them.
Now do these two words you’ve selected come to mind if someone in a job interview asked you to share your strengths? What about, “Tell me about yourself”? The next thing I’d ask you to do is to see if you can come up with examples that prove you have whatever two words you selected. So can I for example come up with examples of my creativity and resiliency on the spot? The good news is that in the context of a job interview, I don’t have to come up with these on the spot. No, I can anticipate this question in advance, and come up with these from the comfort of my home.
How about you? Are you able to come up with an example or two of each word that came to mind? Don’t change the words by the way to suit now that you know what you are to do with them. No that’s too easy, and in such a case you aren’t being genuine.
But what if you chose two words like, ‘playful’ and ‘considerate’? Surely you might be thinking these are not two of the best words to describe yourself in the context of employment – especially if you are seeking a job such as a Police Officer or a Lawyer. In other words, you might be one of the people reading this who understand the value of this exercise, but it doesn’t apply to you personally because of the field you are in.
In truth, some qualities are better than others when you think of good job fits. As an exercise in stretching yourself and working on improving your thinking power however, this is a good activity. So how could being playful be a good trait for a lawyer for example? Well, given the number of lawyers I’ve witnessed on television, I’d say many ‘play’ games at catching the other side in mistruths and lies. You know, playing at being someone sympathetic and then turning tables and pouncing in order to catch somebody off guard.
Still, were I someone applying to be a guard in a federal penitentiary, I might opt not to use the word playful in my opening of an interview. I’d choose another word that is better suited. How then to go saying the right thing. The answer might just be found in doing some research into the position itself. If I looked up, ‘prison guard desired qualities’ on the internet; I might be on to something that would give me some options. The real key here is to find qualities of the position that I myself sincerely possess. No sense saying after all that I’m extremely disciplined if that quality isn’t something I really am. In such a case, I’d have to rethink if I’m cut out for the position at all. Yet if I truly am disciplined and all my research keeps coming up with this word, it may be a good quality for me to share in my opening, “Tell me about yourself” answer.
This is the key isn’t it? The key to answering the first question with confidence so that you’re interview is off to a good start and you can build on that initial confidence. So you might find a Server in a bar is friendly, attentive and able to multi-task. A Librarian is organized, efficient and courteous. An Assembly Line Worker craves routine, structure, teamwork and what others find monotonous, they embrace. In other words, you’d want to share that the qualities you possess are the same qualities of many of the successful people in the field you want to enter.
Now suppose you found that the qualities you possess; the qualities that first come to mind in describing yourself, aren’t shared by the majority of people who are successful in the field you are interested in. You’d be smart to ask yourself why that is; then see if you and the job are really going to be a good fit. Sometimes what we imagine a job to be is not the reality of the job, and best we find that out before we take it, or worse yet spend a lot of money and time in school training for a career that in the end we’ll come to realize isn’t for us.
Still, let’s assume the job is a good fit. It still makes good sense to research the job, talk to people already in that job, and find out what personal qualities are good fits. If you aren’t a good listener, hopefully you steer clear of counselling! If you have a poor memory, don’t pursue acting!
Look, like everyone else, you’ve got a lot of desirable qualities. Choosing which ones to highlight in an interview becomes easier when you understand which ones the interviewer is likely to see as a logical fit for what the job demands and also the culture of the workplace.