Telling Your Professional Story
“I have your resume here, Ms. Paddison, but I’d like to hear from you: What makes you the right candidate for this position?”
“I’m glad you asked. As you can see, I have the industry experience, but what’s more, I have experience in taking growing companies like yours to the next level. I’m a team-builder, because I know that to be a strong company you need strong, motivated employees. I’ll use my network to help you establish key connections in the industry and put my experience to work in advising where and how fast to expand into new markets. I grew up on a farm, and at heart I’m still a farm girl; that means I work hard and I don’t give up. Based on everything I’ve read and heard about your company, I can see that it’s on the cusp of something big. I’d like to help you take it there.”
See what I just did there? I turned this interview on its head in the very first question. I did it with a compelling, confident, narrative explanation of who I am, where I come from, and where I’m going. That answer is powerful because it shows that I understand the particular needs of the company as well as how I can apply my strengths and expertise to address them. Rather than explain why I want the job, I told them why they need me to take the job. I didn’t simply recite information, I told a story—one in which I’m the hero.
It seems like a dream answer . . . because it is.
It’s a dream answer to an imaginary interview question at a fake company that I made up and then addressed at my leisure from the comfort of my own home. Things admittedly get a bit more complicated when you’re in the proverbial hot seat: crafting that resume cover letter, interviewing for that promotion, or networking with people you need to impress. Nevertheless, my imaginary scenario above was not a futile exercise.
Thinking through precisely this kind of “dream answer” is a great first step in formulating and sharing your own professional story. By imagining a company with needs exactly suited to your strengths and experiences, you can gain a fuller picture of what you have to offer and also gain insight into the kinds of companies, projects, and scenarios in which you’ll thrive. Plus, it’s pretty fun to get to play the hero!
Even if you don’t plan on applying for a new job or promotion any time soon, there are countless times in your professional life when you will need to answer the (sometimes unspoken) question: “Why you?” It sounds like a simple question, but I see people tripped up by it all the time. Understanding and embracing your own professional story will help you provide a powerful answer that is specific, compelling, and delivered with confidence.
Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.