Nailing the All Important First Interview Question

April 30, 2018
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The majority of interviewers make up their mind about you pretty quickly. So what’s the best way to boost those first impressions? You already know the basic tools you have to make a positive impact: professional clothing, eye contact and a firm hand shake. However, another even more important tool you can use early on to set yourself up for success is to prepare a strong and enthusiastic response to the all important first interview question.

Good News!

The good news is that it’s easier to do than you might think. Why? Because the first question in an interview is always going to be some variation of

  • “tell me about yourself”
  • “walk me through your resume,” or the more pointed
  • “why do you want this job?”

Because first questions are generally open-ended, you can set the course for the interview by sharing upfront what you most want the interviewer to know. Because first questions are generally the same in nature, you can prepare for them in advance. This helps both lower your stress level and improve your chances of making a good impression in the first few minutes when it really counts.

Be Wary of Chronology

Everyone’s tendency in this situation, naturally, is to start at the beginning, e.g.

  • “I started becoming interested in dentistry when I was in college…,” or
  • “I began my career in retail but then took a course in book keeping and became a health care administrator…”

The problem with this approach is that you are saving your current situation, what the interviewer really wants to know,until the end when his / her attention level has dropped. These answers can give an interviewer the opportunity to tune you out while reviewing your resume. Or, worse, tune out entirely. Sure, the interviewer may be interested in where you went to high school or how you became interested in working in a dental office, but not as interested in knowing, for example, what you are doing now. All of which can mean that your precious minutes of early interview decision-making time is being wasted.

Starting at the beginning and working backwards can help. But you can also prepare statements in advance to start any interview strong. These will capture the interviewer’s attention early and allow you to present the strongest aspects of your candidacy first.

Make a Strong Statement About Why You Are Interviewing for The Job

Addressing your reason for interviewing for the role will grab the interviewer’s attention right out of the gate. Be positive- not getting along with your current team or not liking an aspect of your current job is a red flag. Some examples of solid reasons for looking include:

  • “Before I tell you anything else let me tell you that I’m very interested in this job because you have an excellent reputation for integrating cutting edge technology into your practice.”
  • “I am interested in joining the practice because it is much closer to my home and childrens’ school than my current practice.”

Say Upfront Why You Have The Right Skill Set

Next, address why you know you will do well in the role. Bringing up the strongest and most relevant aspect of your resume will draw attention to it.

  • “You can see I have a track record of 6 successful implementations over 3 years at my last practice.”
  • “I have a track record of keeping low accounts receivable and payable well managed as well as and high patient referrals and retention high.”

Close Quickly and Turn Over The Baton

Having addressed both why you want the role and why you will do well in it, you have the option to specifically address what the original question might have been. If you want to

  • Go through your resume, go ahead and touch lightly on experiences working backwards from the present. The interviewer will stop you when(s) he wants to know more.
  • Talk about yourself, then keep it quick and professional. Small talk is fine if it meets those criteria.
  • Be quiet – DO. A little dead air is better than continuing to talk while your listener’s disinterest grows.
  • Add something specific about you – when you can start, what kind of accommodation you would need – DON’T. It’s not about you until you have a signed offer.

As a bonus, preparing these statements in advance will help quell a lot of interview stress. You know how things will start, and you know you will start on a confident note. Remember that interviews can be stressful for the interviewers as well. Getting to the point upfront can help reduce their stress levels in those first few minutes as well. Who knows? This may be the edge you need to become the lead candidate.

About Job Coach Amy

Amy Feind Reeves is the Founder and CEO of JobCoachAmy, where she
leverages her experience of over 25 years as a hiring manager to help new
and experienced professionals find careers that make them happy. Her
corporate practice focuses on managing millennials and making
performance reviews meaningful. Amy has enjoyed successful careers as
a commercial banker, global management consultant, entrepreneur,
corporate executive, and non-profit executive. She graduated cum laude
from Wellesley College and earned an MBA at the Tuck School of
Dartmouth College. Her work has been published on Business Insider,
Quick and Dirty Tips and Job-Hunt.