Why?

Whenever I help college students with their job interviewing skills, one of the most challenging moments for them is when I ask the following question: “Why?”

If a student tells me her favorite subject is biology, the first thing I ask her is why. Or if she tells me that volleyball is her favorite sport and that modern dance is her favorite extra-curricular activity, I’ll always ask why.

And why do I ask “why?”  Because it’s a hard question to answer. You might instinctively know why you’ve chosen to do something or why you like something, but when it comes to articulating your answers out loud you stumble.

Some “why?” questions are easy to answer. “Why am I wearing a raincoat? Because it’s raining.”  Or, “Why am I going to the gas station? Because my gas tank is almost empty.” Those answers don’t need to be rehearsed because they’re so patently obvious.

But what about the subtleties or complexities involved in describing why you like something or why you are angry about something or why a manager’s behavior annoyed you? Or how good are you at explaining why you’ve chosen a particular career or a particular major in college?

And how good are you at explaining why you want the job?

You need to be able to answer “why?” questions seamlessly and eloquently. Why? Because the reasoning, integrity and confident delivery of your answers will speak volumes about how you will add value to any group or organization.

Don’t stumble unnecessarily in your interviews. Anticipate that you’ll be asked plenty of “why?” questions, so write out your answers beforehand and practice answering them out loud. Do this again and again. Why? Because it works.

Be A Problem Solver During Your Job Search

There are two ways to approach your job interview. The first is to take on a reactive role and hope that you can answer the questions being thrown at you. The second is to take charge of the conversation and assume the role of a problem solver. Whether you’re brand new to the job market or you’re a seasoned professional in transition, your number one responsibility during your job interview is to explain to the hiring manager how you are going to solve her problem. And what exactly is her problem? It’s simple: she has a position that needs to be filled.

By taking on the approach of a problem solver you’re giving yourself the confidence you need to articulate how you can add value to an organization. You might be the shyest, most introspective person in the world or, conversely, you could be loud and gregarious. No matter the case, if you assume a “let me help you solve your problem” attitude during your interview, you’ll have an enormously positive impact on the individual or panel of individuals trying to determine whether or not to bring you on board.

If you’ve taken the time to prepare for your interview you’ll be empowered to be a problem solver throughout the conversation. If you’ve researched the company, if you’ve thought about questions you’ll be asked, if you’ve thought about questions you would like to ask, and if you’ve thought about how you have overcome certain challenges in the past, you will greatly enhance your confidence level during your interviews.

If you’ve practiced answering questions out loud; if you’ve practiced asking questions out loud and if you’ve practiced demonstrating examples of the work, or schoolwork, or volunteer work you’ve done in the past, you’ll boost your levels of confidence and will definitely carry yourself as the problem solver that you are.

Finally, if you’ve thought very carefully about your principles and any additional qualities that make you unique, and if you’ve practiced describing those principles, you will be adding even more clarity as to why you should be hired. To paraphrase the late, great Stephen R. Covey, principles are those guidelines of human behavior that have been proven over time to have value. Principles are very rarely discussed during job interviews, and because of this, I urge you to talk about them. If you care about what you do; if you’re interested in doing remarkable, ethically sound work; if you’re respectful of others; if you enjoy learning and pushing yourself – these are but a few examples of principles. Take the lead during your interviews and let it be known how your principles drive you and allow you to excel at what you do.

Remember that an interview is an unnatural act. You’re meeting with people you’ve never met before to address topics you don’t normally discuss, and the only thing at stake is the job. It’s an insane scenario, indeed! Because of this, it isn’t worth your while to take on a passive role during your interviews. Even if you have little or no work experience, your hard work ethic and great attitude could help your future employer solve her problem. Or if you’re more seasoned, your many experiences in life bring with them lessons that have taught you how to solve any number of challenges, thus making you a critically important contributor to the growth and success of any organization.