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An employer will learn a lot about you from asking this question. How do you think you would answer?

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This is one of those tough interview questions that has an intention behind it that may not be obvious. And the question is, "Think back to your first job. How did you learn the ropes?"
I think it's a fun question and it just affords you an opportunity to reveal something about your character. So, one thing, one way to do it is, let's say you're an individual who wound up being in a first job where they were doing sales. You were given a lot of rope, because no one really had time for you. You really had to figure it out.
So, you tell a story. And questions like this suggests that they want you to tell a story to them. So, let me try doing that now, following the acronym called SOAR-- S-O-A-R-- where you're coming up with the situation that you are in, the objective that you had, the action that you took, and the result that you achieved.
"So, my first . . . I remember back then . . . my first job when I was 16 years old . . . Well, I worked at a pool company and I was doing sales at the pool firm. They kind of gave me some basics, like, answer the questions, be friendly, but, you knew what they really wanted was you to close sales and they didn't really do a lot of teaching around that.
"So, I really had to figure it out on my own." So that's the situation. The objective that I had. Got it? "So what I did was, number one, is I didn't hide from the customers, I went out there and tried. And what I noticed certain responses, I started to file those away in the back of my mind so that, in this way, I could see whether it was a onetime thing or this was a pretty standard response to what I said, or what I said to a particular type of customer.
"Eventually, what happened (Now, we're getting to the result), I became the top part time worker for sales in the firm by better than three to one." And what you're doing is demonstrating to them that you're willing to figure things out, that you're aggressive, you're ambitious, stuff along those lines.
Let me give you another example. "You know, my first job was at a fast food place and I noticed that a lot of the workers didn't seem to really care. I really didn't want to work that way. So, I went about my business. If they told me to do it, I did it. And I did it faster than anyone else. It just became a game for me. I wanted to see if I could help reform other people who've been there for a while, and would naturally start to notice that I was outperforming them.
"I noticed that they would started to give me more assignments faster than other people. Like I got promoted from prepping this to front of the house working with the customers. I started to notice that and every time I tried to work faster and harder, and with a smile on my face so that in this way, no one would think I was run down."
Notice what you're trying to do is instill what habits or demonstrate to them what habits were instilled in you at an early age and why. So, I think it's a fun way to answer the question.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for 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 1400 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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