Awkward Or Weak First Impression? Relax!


Are you an Employment or Job Coach? At some point you’ve likely said to those you’re supporting, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If you’re in the regular practice of saying this to those you help, please stop. You’re unknowingly doing more harm than good; much more harm. I grant your intentions are nothing but well-intended, but your words have the potential to have dire consequences; you’re setting those you work with up to fail.

I used to buy in to the extreme importance of making an excellent first impression myself, whether it was at a job interview or starting a new job with a lot of people to meet and get to know. Like you, my intentions were always good. So I’d pass along the typical advice for making a good impression. Have a firm but not overpowering handshake, make direct eye contact, smile, be aware of your body language, etc. Like I’ve said, all well-intended and pretty standard advice.

Those I work with confess to being nervous when I’m coaching them for some upcoming meeting. Typically it’s a job interview or meeting someone who they believe might be in a position to advance their employment possibilities. They may be quite comfortable and self-assured in many situations, but as the butterflies in their stomachs begin to take flight seconds before and into a first meeting, so too in many cases does their growing anxiety. And in 2019, a LOT of people have anxiety, so it’s incumbent on us to respond to this.

All it takes is a slight stumble in that first meeting; a pregnant pause in replying to a question they’ve been asked, sweating excessively, arriving 2 minutes later than planned for, incorrectly pronouncing the name of the interviewer and feeling an overcoming urge to apologize; it’s then that it hits them. They suddenly remember the wise advice you gave them as you sent them off brimming with confidence; “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So what are they now thinking? “Ah great! What’s the point of even continuing then? I’ve already blown it! I might as well just apologize for wasting their time and try better somewhere else.”

The thing is, you aren’t there to help ground them, tell them they can re-group and still save the interview. If you were a fly on the wall and you had the power to freeze time, you could stop the moment you picked up on their facial expression that they are in distress and you could coach them through this momentary attack of low self-confidence, then unfreeze time and they’d perform better. But you lack these special powers and you’re not there. You can’t see what those you help actually look like, you can’t observe first-hand their performance, and so all you have to go on when you assess how things went and how to improve is their own recollection of events. And, surprisingly, this person you’re helping who was actually there, may be not all that aware of how things went wrong and how they looked, because their mind was on performing well.

Take heart though. I’m offering up something I feel is a better message to send that they may find far more helpful. It’s the last impression rather than the first, that is the most significant. The way I see and understand things now is that the first impression covers the first 30 seconds or so of an encounter. A face-to-face meeting or interview may go anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and so there’s all that time beyond the first 30 seconds to either confirm or change that first impression.

Now I’m not suggesting we dismiss the value of first impressions. No, I still extol the importance of making as good a first impression as possible. However, it’s the last impression people remember more. You know the saying, “What have you done for me lately”? It means that although you may have performed well in the past (possibly an early or first impression), it’s recent performance that matters more at this moment, (the lasting impression).

This advice gives a person reason to hope when things don’t get off to a perfect start. There’s lots of time to ‘save’ a first meeting. In fact, actually saying, “Gee I’m sorry, let me start again” may be the reboot someone needs to launch an answer with confidence instead of bumbling along and fretting over a miscue. If the whole point of a job interview is to market oneself to the needs of an employer, you unknowingly put a massive amount of pressure on those you support when you send the message that those first 30 seconds will make or break the opportunity.

So instead of rehearsing some elevator pitch to the extreme, what will they say to leave a lasting, positive impression? Based on what they heard as they listened, what opportunity can they pick up on and what will they say that shows enthusiasm for wanting to be a part of the solution?

First impressions are important but the last impression is more important as the final impression is entire summation of the time together. If it started well, excellent; keep it going. However if it started awkwardly, relax, breathe deeply and concentrate on the remaining time together rather than worrying about how things started, which is beyond your control.

 

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Extreme Anxiety And Meeting People


Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, content in your role at work or looking to make a change, you’ll find that having positive, working relationships with others can open opportunities which you’d otherwise miss. For many of us, establishing relationships with others is easily done, as is maintaining and growing those relationships.

On the other hand, there are a great many for whom the idea of striking up a relationship with someone they don’t know is stressful. They’re fraught with anxiety about what to say, how to get started, wondering what to talk about and how to keep a conversation going, knowing when and how to end it and move to another etc. Just thinking about talking, communicating, listening, smiling, interacting and – ah, it’s just so exhausting!

Whoa…let’s take a few deep breaths, relax and start slow. The thing about communicating with others is that it seems incredibly simple when we look around us and see people engaged in conversations. It is after all, just talking, listening to the other person, responding, listening again; an exchange of both hearing what is being said and responding. It all seems so effortless and easy.

If you wonder why some find it so hard to do, think back to a time in your life when you were trying to get up the courage to speak to someone you had some strong feelings for. Perhaps you wanted to ask them out on a date, find out if they felt the same way about you that you felt about them. Just asking them straight out however – while the most obvious way to get the information you’re looking for, was not how you went about it. You worked up the courage to approach them and made some small talk, dancing all around what you really wanted until the time seemed right to bring up the topic of a date, grabbing a beverage etc. Remember that anxiety? Remember the angst of wondering why talking to THIS person seemed so much more effort even though your motivation was high?

Well, now imagine how intense and on edge a person might feel if they experienced the same level of anxiety at the prospect of starting a conversation with just about everyone they come into contact with. Feeling such pressure and stress with respect to engaging in conversations with people throughout your day would be exhausting. And these are what many of us might consider every day commonplace conversations we’re talking about here. Now, if we throw in the odd conversation where there’s more on the line, such as a job interview, professionally networking, approaching a Receptionist at a company we’d like to work with etc., you can see how that anxiety is ramped up tremendously. What’s hard anyways just got a whole lot tougher.

Like I said, take a moment and breathe deeply. In and out; inhale, exhale. Again.

Okay, so let’s talk – you read, I’ll write. This conversing thing is a skill like any other and some do it better than others. It’s not a fault of yours if it doesn’t come easy. Let’s look at these conversations and how to get started.

First of all, it might be best to practice interacting with others with a short conversation in mind, and one we can walk away from at any point without being too awkward. You don’t want to practice on an important conversation. Let’s even suppose we don’t have a friend to practice with.

Can I suggest you start with a quick conversation – just for practice – and we then build on our growing confidence over time to longer conversations. One possible place to start is a convenience store. You can look through the window and pick a time when the person there is by themselves. Where you’d normally go in, get your item, pay for it and leave fast, this time your objective is to actually say something. It will be brief, it will be over fast and you can leave, get outside, breath and recover.

Okay, so picture the interaction before you enter. Not the way it’s gone before but like this. You walk in, get what you want and approach the counter. Place your item on the counter and say, “Hi”. As an employee they might ask you if you want a lottery ticket or if you found everything you wanted; every store is similar but different. Think about what they said and say, “No thank you, just this.” If you can, look at them while you say it, give them your money, get your change and leave. Add a goodbye if you want.

This is extremely basic for many people but a anxiety-filled interaction for others. If you can put a series of these short exchanges together with people you don’t know, you are laying a foundation for interacting with others when there is more at stake. Returning to the same employee on different days will help you feel more comfortable too, and you will have days when you things go well and maybe a day or two where you feel you haven’t made progress. That’s to be expected when trying to overcome a challenge.

You may want to try other brief encounters such as saying good morning to a Bus Driver, wishing a Bank Teller a nice day or just looking at someone you pass on the street in the eyes without saying a word. Small steps.

Nervous About An Upcoming Interview?


First things first; congratulations on the interview! Give yourself credit because you’re up against a lot of other people all competing for employment. So well done!

That credit your giving yourself is important because its external validation that  you’ve done a good job responding to the employer’s needs. Employer’s need people who can be productive and add to the success of the organization, so just getting to the interview is a good sign that they like what they read.

Okay, so you’re nervous. There are two kinds of situations where nerves can have you feeling anxious . The first is where you haven’t prepared at all for the interview. Not only did you not prepare, your plan is to wake up and wing it, counting on your natural ability to charm and think on your feet. If this has worked in the past, it will likely work again. Wrong. Employer’s are better qualified than before, better trained and can size up these candidates quickly. Your nerves will go through the roof as you slowly become more and more exposed as having not invested any time at all in doing some basic homework. You’ll be nervous, and for good reason as you’ve brought this on yourself.

The second kind of nervous is the good kind; yes you read right…there is a good kind! This is nervous excitement! You’ve prepared yourself as best you could, read up on the job posting, their website, you may have talked to some employees and you really want this job. The possibility that you’re soon going to be hired for a job you can do well, doing work you’ll enjoy and in a situation you’ll be successful at is so motivating! So this nervous excitement as the interview draws closer is fantastic.

As someone who loves interviewing, I’d be more worried for you if you felt no nervousness at all – that would be a huge warning sign that you’re running on autopilot and aren’t as invested in the job or company to the extent you should be.

Now, what to do to help you get those nerves under control. First off, breathe… Stress is a physical thing, and a few deep breaths; in through the nose and out through the mouth will help you give your body oxygen when it needs it to relax. Now stand up for a moment. Seriously. Place your hands on your hips and spread your legs, with equal weight on both feet. You’re in the, ‘Superman’ pose. Head up and looking straight ahead, chest slightly out and hold this for two or three minutes. Do this before the interview – say in the washroom or reception area and you’ll feel confidence growing. Odd thing is, it works.

Now, first impressions are important so choose clothing you feel comfortable in that fit the job you’re applying to. Check them a few days before so they are clean, ironed and you’re ready. On the morning of the interview, shower, brush the teeth, do your hair (off the face as a general guideline for women) and give yourself enough time to get where you’re going anticipating delays.

It’s always good to bring multiple copies of your résumé (for you and for them), pre-determined questions you want answered, paper and pen for notes, the job posting and your references to offer at the end. Depending on the job, you might want any certificates or proof of licences and education requirements too.

Smile at the first meeting, offer a firm handshake and look the interviewer(s) in the eye as you do so. When you walk, don’t amble or shuffle along, walk with purpose and be aware of slouching shoulders.

As for answering questions, use the STAR format. Well, I endorse it at any rate. Essentially you answer by sketching out SITUATIONS you found yourself in so the get a framework for your answer, present the TASK or problem to overcome, move to the ACTION you took in rising to the challenge and finish with a positive RESULT that came about because of what you did.

This format is neat, tidy and concise. It will help you PROVE you’ve done what you claim you can do. I can’t stress enough how specific examples you give are essential to a successful interview. Without specific examples in your answers, you’re hoping they’ll believe you’ve got the experience and skills you state you do, and you’ll come up short.

The tone of your voice is important too. Nervous people often talk quicker and their voices are slightly higher. Slow your words down, pause every so often to emphasize certain things you believe are critical, and your voice suddenly gets more interesting, more meaning is attached to your words and the overall impact is a more attentive audience.

As the interview wraps up, ask for their business card. All the information you need to follow-up with a thank you note or phone call is on that card. Do send a card of thanks! Many don’t bother these days and that’s even more reason to do it. You stand out and that’s what you’re hoping to do.

The most important thing you can do is leave a lasting positive impression. Why hire you? What makes you the right fit? Answer this now, before you get to the interview. It’s not about what you want, but how hiring you is in the company’s best interests.

3 Interview Questions: What Would YOU Say?


All this week I’m in the process of conducting mock interviews with a select group of people who are hunting down employment opportunities. Mock interviews in which one can practice their skills and get valuable feedback and support is extremely helpful in increasing the odds of landing a job offer. Understandably then, I’m proud to see such an enthusiastic group putting in the effort to make sure this opportunity before them is one they get the most out of.

Yesterday I conducted three such interviews; each one about an hour in length when you factor in the interview and summarizing how they’ve performed with both verbal and written feedback. While I asked each 8 or 9 questions, I’m sharing 3 such questions with you here, as well as some tips on answering the question better than your competition.

Question 1: Impress Me. 

This is actually the last question I pose to most of those I interview. So before you read further, how would you respond? Resist the urge if you can to ignore thinking about it and just forging on to read more. Where would you go and where would you take me as you respond?

One purpose of the question is to give the applicant, (in this case you) the opportunity to wow me as the employer. Use this opportunity as your one chance to make  a strong final impression on those interviewing you. For just as an interviewer is impressed or not with your first impression, they will be similarly affected one way or the other when you leave them.

The second purpose of the question is to gauge how you can think on your feet with something you may not have prepared for. Best to look thoughtful, pause and then launch into whatever it is you want to say. Good advice is to smile, look positive, entirely engaged and proud as well as emotionally connected to this answer. It is after all how they’ll remember you as things wrap up.

Question 2: Tell me about a time you’ve made a serious error and what you did to overcome it. 

Built on the premise that we all make mistakes, this question is one you should expect. Why? It’s likely you’re going to make at least one mistake if not more in this new job if offered it. So the interviewer is asking to hear not so much the error itself but rather how you reacted to the mistake and what you’ve learned from the experience so it’s chances of being repeated are lowered or eliminated. In an interview you are working hard to come across as polished and confident, marketing your strengths and assets as best you can. So this question is designed to expose a potential problem, perhaps some training needs or where you might benefit from support. Whatever you do, by all means don’t offer up a fatal error where the outcome remained a negative.

Question 3: Describe the position you are applying for as you understand it. 

Whereas the first question I’ve shared with you is actually one I ask last, question 3 here is one I typically slot in at number 2 in a mock interview, following on the heels of the famous, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

As the interviewer, I pose this question to find how well the applicant actually knows what it is they are being interviewed for. Surprisingly, there are many people who go to job interviews with only a vague idea of what they’d actually be doing in the job they are applying for. So do you know how this job fits in with the organization? Knowing how this job or role connects with other positions in the organization is critical. Does it support other positions? Is it a mentoring or leadership role?

Do more than just regurgitate what is in the job posting under the heading, “Duties” or “What You’ll Do In This Role”. Yes, if you zero in on what’s under these headings you’ve hit on the right things to share, but your competition can memorize bullet points too. So if you just repeat back what the job ad says and stop talking, while you’ve technically answered the question, you won’t score as high as the applicants who add more.

So what to add? Excellent question! After having summarized what the key things are, the best applicants then prove how they have actually done what the job entails in one or more of their earlier jobs. Even in situations where the applicant hasn’t had that same experience, the best will talk about how their past experiences use transferable skills which they’ll bring to this place.

Believe me, if you’ve got a wealth of experience and skills and you undersell yourself and your accomplishments, you are gifting your competition and making it highly likely you’ll be passed over. Those with little to no experience will benefit if you fail to illustrate and prove you’ve got what it takes.

If you answered these questions well, congratulations. If you don’t know what to say, bring these three questions with you and put them before whomever you’re working with to help prepare for upcoming interviews. Together, perhaps they can help you compose 3 solid responses.

While job interviews cause anxiety for many, when you practice, you lower your aversion and grow in confidence. While you may never love them, you’ll fear them much less.

Job Interview First Impressions


In my experience as an Employment Counsellor, I’ve come to note that those who make good, positive first impressions don’t mind for a minute accepting that other people form opinions of them spanning the first 30 seconds to a minute when they meet. Equally, those who tend to make poor first impressions feel that its entirely unfair that others judge them in such a short time. Well, honestly, whether you like or dislike it when others form first impressions in such short timelines, the reality is, that’s…well…reality.

It’s not just employers and interviewers that form these quick first impressions, and quite frankly, as a species, humans have done it for centuries. It’s survival 101 you know; this innate ability we have to quickly take in whatever sensory information that’s available to us and then in mere seconds, assimilate all that data and form an immediate impression that then guides if or how we interact with others.

Walking on a sidewalk we look ahead and see a stranger approaching us. Based on extremely limited information, we might continue on with a smile and nod as we pass, or we might see a swagger in their walk, a scowl on their face, see their eyes set on us and with all this we choose to duck into a store or cross the street. We judged the situation to be uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worse, and best to be safe and not sorry. Were our actions justified?

Similarly in a subway if every time we look up we notice a person looking at us with a smile and fleeting eyes that look away and we see them bite their lips, we might interpret this as a shy, embarrassed, “you caught me looking at you, and I’d like to meet you but I’m too shy to start a conversation” look. Maybe we’re right and maybe we’re not; maybe we introduce ourselves on the off-chance they are interested in us, or maybe we bury our heads in a book because we might be wrong.

It’s in these everyday interactions with others that we form impressions of others while they of course are doing the same thing with respect to us. The data we take in might include someone’s choice of clothing, it’s cleanliness, their grooming, body odour or fragrance/cologne, their height, weight, shape, health of their teeth, colour of their eyes, posture etc. All in mere seconds mind you – our brains process all this data and we form opinions from which we judge them to be safe to approach, intimidating and to be avoided, etc.

In a job interview situation, take heart! For starters, always remember that this first meeting you’re about to have with some company representative is one you know is going to happen. In fact, you’ve got the time and place as two knowns, so it’s not going to catch you off guard. If you ask the right questions when offered the interview, you also know how many will be interviewing you, their names and their titles. This information can be of comfort, especially if you use social media to look them up and get a visual on their appearance and read their bios in advance of meeting them face-to-face.

You have the further advantage of choosing your outfit for this first encounter, deciding which clothing will be likely to make the best impression on them; be it formal, business casual, etc. The things in your control continue as you can make sure your hair is clean and brushed, your deodorant working, your teeth brushed and a swig of mouthwash will ensure any lingering offensive smells are absent. You can shine your shoes, choose your accessories with care as well.

In addition, when you arrive is in your control. Sure you might run into unexpected delays – that’s why their called unexpected! – but, you can almost guarantee your arrival time will be appreciated by leaving early and planning your route. A dry run on another day will likely give you a good measure of the time you’ll need.

Whether you bow, shake hands or not, smile or not, maintain eye contact or not when actually meeting during the first 2 seconds; again in your control. Even the way you sit or pace back and forth in reception, your posture as you wait and then your body language as you get up to introduce yourself to the interviewer(s); all this within your control and therefore up to you to choose how you wish to act.

These first few seconds are critical as those you meet form first impressions of you just as you are of them. The thing is though that you might be feeling so much pressure on yourself to do well and get a job offer that in the moment you aren’t thinking a great deal about them – being so worried about yourself and what you’re communicating.

Positive or negative, that first impression is the initial point from which all further interaction either reinforces or works to change one’s first impression. The more you put some effort into ensuring the first two minutes shows you as you’d like, the more you can feel confident done your best to get off on a good note. A poor start and you’ll feel the pressure to alter their view of you.

First impressions; vitally important and worth paying attention to. Oh and on the subway? Just go up and introduce yourself!

“What’s Your Weakness?”


Ah the weakness question in the job interview. It’s one of the classics isn’t it? I mean of all the things they ask you in most interviews, why is this question still being asked?

The answer is of course that the question is a good one, so you best be prepared to answer it intelligently. If the question wasn’t worthwhile, then interviewers would have stopped asking it a long time ago. So it stands to reason they are finding it useful in revealing information necessary which helps them make their decision.

Asking about an area in which you are weak gives you the opportunity to either reveal something about yourself so damaging that the interview essentially ends on the spot or it provides the chance to impress the interviewer. Revealing something damaging about yourself isn’t something I’m going to spend much time on here. Suffice to say, its fatal to say you have no flaws at all. It’s also suicidal to reveal a criminal conviction, past aggressive behaviour on the job such as assaulting a co-worker you didn’t get along with or question the interviewers intelligence in asking such a dumb question. Oh yeah, someone I know actually did that.

The smart thing to do with the question is to have thought about it long before the interview. Anticipating the question makes it less nerve-wracking and stressful when it does come up for starters. Let’s face it, when you really want the job, talking in any way about a known weakness isn’t going to be something you naturally would want to volunteer. So doing it on the spot might catch you saying something later that while honest, wasn’t the best choice.

So pull out that job posting and read what the job entails. What will you be doing in this position and have you done it before? All of it? Are there areas or perhaps a single thing you notice that you haven’t had direct experience doing or perhaps did quite a long time ago and you know things have evolved? Could be, and if so, you might find your answer to the question here. Do yourself a favour though and don’t make telling them your weakness the entirety of your answer. The impact of this is just to leave them flat and yourself painted in a negative light.

When you state your weakness follow it up by sharing both what you are doing to improve on it and how you’ve overcome such weaknesses in the past. For example if an organization uses some specific computer software that you are not familiar with, you could share this along with evidence from your past where you quickly acquired the necessary expertise to competently use industry-specific software in a previous organization. It stands to reason that if you learned software elsewhere upon accepting a previous job, you have the necessary skills and interest to learn the software this organization uses too.

The one thing you may reveal about yourself in answering this question is your attitude for learning and your acceptance of learning from others around you. Presumably you are going to get some support in this new position. Someone is going to be responsible for showing you the ropes, giving you an orientation to the job, introducing you to company policies and practices and might be assigned to have you job shadow them.

You are the new hire; the fresh blood. You are the one in the beginning who has a lot to learn, even if or when you come to a job with a great deal of experience. So while you have much to share and a good grasp of the technical skills to perform in those early days, you won’t know how the organization you are now working for goes about the work. It’s in the ‘how we do it here’ that you can best reveal a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.

Once, maybe even twice, you might get away with a, ‘this is different from when I worked at such-and-such” but keep those kind of statements to a minimum. You don’t work there anymore and this company does things a certain way for a certain reason and quite frankly you haven’t been with them long enough to know why. The bottom line is it’s good advice to respect how and organization does things in the beginning instead of second-guessing those around you and telling them about the better ways of doing things they need to know.

The weakness question in the job interview also gives you the chance to identify any training issues the company should be aware of that once known can best get you working up to full speed. If you claim to have a certain knowledge and experience at the interview but are counting on bluffing it or getting a co-worker to show you what you claimed to know, you might find yourself out of a job faster than it took you to get it.

In the here and now can you identify something that is generally needed in the jobs you are applying for that you aren’t strong in? if so, start to work on that now. Look up some training online that might be free or invest in yourself and take a course. Practice your skills and get that training on your resume so you can point to what you are doing to improve yourself in that area.

“So Tell Me About Yourself.”


You’re fortunate if the job interview starts off with this question. Not everybody agrees of course; in fact, this question seems to rank pretty high up there on the list of questions people dread in an interview. So let’s look at this question; why it’s asked and most importantly how to answer it intelligently so you get off to a positive start in the job interview.

To begin, imagine yourself as the interviewer; sitting on the other side of the table and meeting job applicants for the first time. Presumably the number of applicants has been reduced from all of those who applied down to a few people who – at least on paper  – meet your stated qualifications. After all, whether your company used applicant tracking software or human eyes, it’s highly probable that the reason you were invited in to meet with company personnel as a potential new hire is that you have done a good job matching yourself up with their needs as stated in the job posting.

At this point, you as the interviewer are coming face-to-face with people for the first time. Your job is to meet these candidates, listen to them respond to your questions, confirm their credentials, expose any liabilities and in the end, determine the best of those you meet in terms of finding a fit for the organization. Make the right choice and you add to the overall strength of the company; choose the wrong person and you have two problems: a) you let the right person walk away and b) you’re going to have to release the person you’ve hired and return to the interview and selection process costing you time and money.

As the interviewer, you can look at the resume of the 5 or 6 finalists for the position you are interviewing people for and compare education achievements and professional development. If the job requires a diploma or degree, presumably all the people you are meeting will have this credential. Not much point wasting valuable time confirming that in person, unless of course you’ve requested they bring in the original document for confirmation. Even so, that would take less than a minute to verify.

What you’re really interested in is getting information from the meeting itself which you will compile in order to form a complete picture of the person you are interviewing. Your ears will pick up the person’s vocabulary, ability to express themselves, hesitations and uncertainties and quality of their answers. Your eyes will provide information you’ll use to form a first and last impression based on their clothing, their grooming, posture, facial expressions, gait, smile etc. Your hands will note their handshake quality and will relay information you’ll interpret as their confidence, nervousness, confidence etc.

Leading up to the interview, you’ve no doubt sat down either alone or with someone else and come up with the questions you plan on asking in order to best extract the information you want and need to know in order to make the proper job offer to the best candidate. Some of these questions will focus on technical skills, past experiences, future plans and all the while the interviewer is listening and gathering information they’ll need to determine the right person.

In addition to the objective education (your formal schooling), experience (have you previously done the work required of you now) and skills (how well or poorly have you performed) the interviewer is focused on determining the right personal fit. From your words, tone of voice, visual cues, body language and your own questions, they are sizing up your attitude, values, personality and visualizing how you might fit or not in the environment that makes up the workplace. They know the other employees in the department you could be assigned to, the supervisor you’d report to, the qualities of the best employees they currently have who have made a success of the work. They are in short, measuring you up against this unique knowledge they possess, trying to determine not only if you have what it takes, but the impact of your hiring on the existing workforce and ultimately the services and products they produce for their end-users. Whew! No pressure there!

Okay, so upon first meeting you and the other candidates, they only know what they’ve read on your CV or resume and in the 23 seconds they first eyed you and you took your seat across from them. They are now ready and take the lead on the conversation welcoming and thanking you for coming in to meet them. The opening question is really the ice-breaker; the in-depth questions are yet to come but in the beginning there’s one question that’s really just designed to hear you speak and give them some lead data from which to add to a first impression.

To answer the question intelligently, respond to their stated needs as outlined in the job posting. Get them checking off their own needs based on your answer. You’re a proven professional in your field with the required years of expertise. You’re passionate about your industry and identify your strengths as they relate to the job at hand. Ensure your body language and words reflect your enthusiasm for the opportunity.

Personal hobbies? Avoid these unless they add to the position. Family situation? Irrelevant and could expose liabilities. What’s your motivation, what will you add?

Look at the job posting; don’t wing your opening answer or you may find by their reaction you’re going to be spending the rest of the interview in damage control.