The Critical Question Job Candidates Are Forgetting To Answer In An Interview

Imagine it… You’re sitting in an interview and the hiring manager asks you not about your past experience or your qualifications, but instead, they ask you to describe how you think. Imagine you could use a graphic like the one above to simplify such a complex question.

Here’s the thing. If you’re talking to a hiring manager, you can assume they already know you’re qualified. Your goal isn’t to regurgitate your qualifications but to teach the hiring manager how you think and who you are. Because what they’re trying to figure out is who the Future You is.

I talk about this concept with clients (both those looking for jobs and looking for promotions) all-the-time. It creates a fundamental shift in how they think about themselves, talk about themselves, and how others react to their potential. Just this week, I was speaking to an executive who’s preparing herself for board inquiries. As we talked, I reminded her that the vetting process on candidates starts before the individual gets a phone call for board roles. “It’s like an Oscar nomination,” I said, “You don’t get the phone call unless your name is on the list.”

So what do you do if you can’t talk about your experiences? Well, let’s get on the same page first.

  1. The hiring manager needs someone who can solve problems for the organization in the future. It doesn’t matter what the role or the job description is. “Solve problems in the future” is what humans do in the workplace. We’ve got this nifty thing called a brain that makes us uniquely good at this particular task.
  2. While you might have experience in an industry or part of a business, the problems you will need to solve are unique to the organization. Every issue is unique to a situation, and the combination of circumstances is infinite. Your value in the future is a combination of your experience and your ability to bring it, and your problem-solving skills together. In. The. Future.
  3. While experience dealing with similar problems in the past is helpful, you will likely need to develop a new solution unique to the circumstances.

In the interview, your objective isn’t to help the manager see that you’ve DONE things in the past; it’s to help the manager see your potential in the unknown future.

Take a moment and think about the last job you just loved. One where you were really doing your best work.

Would you credit any of that situation to the fact that your boss understood and utilized your potential?

When we share only stories of our past, we’re making hiring managers guess what our potential could be tomorrow. If that isn’t bad enough, here’s the other truth bomb I’d like you to ponder:



Do you want people to guess?

I know I wouldn’t. If you’re in an interview and don’t hear a question that allows you to describe how you think, don’t leave people guessing. Say something like, “I’m going to assume you’re trying to uncover how I think and who I am. How I might solve problems in the future and the style and experience in solving problems I bring to teams. I’d love to share with you some information about HOW I solve problems. It might help you connect my potential to your need. Is that ok?”

Yes, you can be that bold? 

Want to know how a hiring manager would react if a candidate said this in an interview? Go and ask a hiring manager. I’d love to hear if ANY of them think it’s a bad idea.

It’s time we stopped expecting others to guess who we are. The Future You deserves better.

PS. If you’re hiring and thinking, “OMG, how do I include this idea in my interview process?” I have some ideas for you too. Just click here.


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