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Can You Answer the $64,000 Question?

Jul 6, 2008
In the early days of television, there was a top ten show called "The $64,000 question".

Players would be asked a series of more and more difficult questions.As the questions got more difficult, their price tag got bigger. The final one was the $64,000 question.

Answer that one and you were home free.

Sounds a bit like your last interview doesn't it?

You know, the small talk is easy. Then you settle in and the questions get tougher and more specific.

You are concerned about making sure you know your business and can answer those tough questions.

You don't pay much attention to the easy ones, like, "so - John, why don't you tell me about yourself?"

Most of us don't take that question seriously. We consider it small talk. We answer in generalities, cliches, and superficial comments.

"Well, there's really not much to tell" -or- "when I was six my parents moved us to Montana".

This question is loaded though, and should be answered carefully.

Here are some ideas:

1. Answer the question as it pertains to the interview at hand. Tailor your response to highlight relevant professional and/or personal accomplishments based on how the interviewer drives the discussion.

2. Focus on mapping your unique knowledge, skills and abilities to the perceived need of the employer. If the interviewer has shared an interest of theirs with you, seize on it, if you can. Never initiate a discussion based on personal interests though.

3. Ask the interviewer what they want to know. For example: " Do you want me to focus on the major accomplishments at my current or last position or do you want me to provide an overview of my experience?

This may sound presumptuous, but the tactic helps focus the interview in your direction.

4. Answer the question with your two minute pitch. Make sure it is tailored to the industry and niche you are interviewing for.

5. If you are a career changer, provide an interesting, meaningful story about how you evolved in your career to this point. Integrate your transferable skills into the story.

6. Explain how your past life accomplishments and skill sets provide a smooth transition to the new career. Explain how you can add value with a fresh perspective.

When you analyze this question you can prepare an effective strategy to steer the interview in your direction. Successful interviews are ones that guide the interviewer and encourage him/her to ask the questions that you have the best answers for.

Your resume can be a great help in this process. Prepare a resume that highlights the accomplishments you want to discuss. When you answer the $64,000 question you can lead the interviewer directly to those accomplishments you want to promote.

Here's why:

The majority of interviewers don't read resumes before the interview. They just don't have the time. Therefore, they will be happy to have you lead them through your accomplishments as long as you can integrate them into the interview framework.

The 30 second impression

HR professionals will tell you that most interviewers make up their minds (at least on a subconscious level), in the first 30 seconds. You can't fight that cliche so don;t be concerned.

I like to focus on the ten minute impression.

In the first ten minutes you will be asked to "tell me about yourself". How you answer this question may have a significant bearing on the outcome of your interview.

Your objective is to focus on your successes and ignore your failures. Measure the mind of the interviewer and align yourself with their values and culture.

The next time the interviewer asks you to "Tell me about yourself", save the small talk and unleash your strategy.
About the Author
Perry Maisin is a business communicator with 25 years of experience in resume writing, business process documentation, and technical staffing. Read informative articles on career testing, interviewing, and job tactics and strategy at Get Professional Advice Now!
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