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Explain to Me What You Do and Why You’re Good at It |

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A great question from Inc. that you ought to be prepared for–“I’d like you to pretend like I’m 8 years old. I’m in 1st or 2nd grade. And, I’d like you to explain to me what you do and why you’re good at it.”


This is a question I pulled, I believe it was from an article on Inc. where a hiring manager claimed that he asked these particular questions in every interview. I believe I’ve covered the first one elsewhere at another time. He uses a slightly different language to it, but it's the idea of, “how did you get here on this particular day,” when you're inviting someone to go beyond the standard answer of “tell me about yourself,” and talk about your life story that got you to the point of being in there office.

This question actually is framed a little bit differently than the title of this. The question basically reads or, “Pretend I'm an eight-year-old or, I'm in first or second grade period explain to me what you do you and why you are good at it.”

I think this is fabulous question and I want you to recognize that, as adults, most of us get caught up in the jargon of our profession and the ones who are exquisite at what they do are able to translate seemingly complex ideas into really basic language that anyone can understand. That’s really what they're looking for you to do. Are you someone who hides behind the jargon or are you someone who really can explain what you do and this requires a little forethought.

So, if you haven't taken the time to think of this question in advance (and you really should), one of the versions of this answer comes in another video I've done about the XYZ statement where I encourage you to say something like, “I help organizations to do X by helping them solve problems that they have (that's the Y) and the Z indicates the outcome is that they receive.

So, “I help organizations achieve greater sales growth by streamlining operations and creating effective results that yield at least 20% increases in sales.” How do I do that? Then, you go into an explanation.

So, think in terms of X, Y, and Z. What you do. How you do it. What the outcomes are Think simply. Continue with the follow-up.

“Would you like me to give you an example of that?”
“Would you like me to go into greater detail?”

In this way, an organization gets the sense that you can provide a higher-level perspective and you can use simple basic language.

“I help organizations improve their sales by streamlining operations (or whatever you do) that results in an increase in sales of minimally 20% and that’s what I had been able to do consistently throughout my career.”

You come up with your X, Y, and Z so that you can explain this simply to an organization and have a big smile on your face. Again, you think in terms of the theater of interviewing. If you watch my stuff ready period of time, you know I believe there's an acting job that goes on with answering questions. I didn't say a lying job; I said “an acting job.”
You want to make it seem that you have a thought about this before and you can start off with a big smile on your face. You can laugh and say, “This is a fabulous question,” and buy a few seconds to form your answer. Then, you may close your eyes for just a moment and then come back with an answer looking them square in the eye that covers this XYZ model that I've covered elsewhere


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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