“In 100 characters or less, why are you the best candidate for the job?” How can you possibly describe your unique skills, abilities, and passion with all the nuance in a simple 100 characters or less? You wouldn’t dare waste your precious characters on words like “team player,” “good communicator” or “organized.” Why? Because in business, those qualities are table stakes.
Table stakes refer to the minimum requirement for entry. If you think you aren’t or won’t be a team player, organized or a good communicator, you are mistaken — at least when it comes to the companies you’d want to work for.
You bring so much more to the table than the minimum requirement. You have to land on what that is and why it matters.
As someone who has conducted thousands of interviews, I perceive candidates as self-aware, confident and capable when they can express what makes them special and how it applies to the business.
So, before you go into your next interview, get laser-focused on what differentiates you from the crowd and know how to answer the three questions below.
1. Where do you find your flow?
A flow state is where you find energized focus — usually by losing track of time and feeling an undercurrent of enjoyment while working. Think about the last few times you were in a flow state. What is it about what you were doing, how you were doing it, or the result that gave you that energized focus?
2. What about your work or accomplishments make you proud and why?
Figuring out the “why” is key. If you successfully launched an employee referral program, were you proud because you solved a long-standing candidate pipeline issue that was impacting the time to fill open roles? Or because you established a process to create consistency and ease of use across the organization? Understand what you care about and why your work is important to you.
3. If you had to utilize only one of your skills for the rest of your life, what would it be?
While this question is pretty extreme, it’s a good thought experiment. Why did you choose your occupation or earn your certifications and degrees? How can you “repackage” your skills to apply to various businesses, industries, and situations?
These reflection questions will help you understand where you find confidence and comfort in your work, which speaks to your innate abilities. These abilities often align with your highest point of contribution.
Take the time to search for commonalities in your answers, too. Do you feel excited about rallying a group around a common goal? Or a sense of pride in fixing and formalizing processes? Maybe you want to solve problems with new ways of thinking or you find satisfaction in high-quality execution. Whatever it is, find it and connect with it. Then, think about how it could positively impact what the business is looking to achieve.
Finally, don’t forget to interview the company to determine if you want to work with them. Don’t miss this opportunity to ask questions. But, just like wasting your 100 characters on table stake characteristics, don’t waste your questions on things like understanding the mission and what the business does. Do your research before the interview so you can ask more tailored questions about culture, leadership, advancement opportunities, strategic direction, etc.
The interview is a perfect opportunity to learn if your contributions will not only be valued and utilized, but also impactful to the goals of the organization. Doing this will position you for continued career success — but first, you must know what you bring to the table.