By Joe Stein
Today we will explore a question that I almost always ask when conducting an interview…”What Would Others Say about You?” I am not sure if this question has caught on enough yet to be on the list where everyone asks it, but it does result in some interesting conversation. I do believe, however, that many of you reading today, will run into this question and should know how to respond.
To relax the candidate, I will usually frame the question in a non-threatening manner, such as the other person has been empowered to speak freely (I have even dropped the line that the person has taken “truth serum”). I will also, almost always, immediately follow-up the answer with an inquiry regarding whether the candidate agrees with this description of themselves.
Now that you know a bit about the question we will examine in this article, let’s take an even deeper dive, so you will be sure to ace it when asked.
Why Is It Asked?
· Determine the Level of Self-Awareness – This question can be a stumper because it requires the candidate to place him or herself in the eyes of someone else. A person who is in denial or is not self-aware regarding their personality or behaviors will struggle in trying to answer. Individuals who are self-aware of their personality, their strengths, and their areas of improvement tend to perform better in their professional career than those who are deficient in these categories.
· Generate Read on Ability to Work with Others – This question can help assist the Interviewer get a feel regarding your interaction with others. Someone who is connected with their supervisor and co-workers will have some idea on what they love about you and what they wish you would work on.
· Find Out What They Would Say or Confirm Your Belief – Sometimes it is really that simple: we want to know what others would say. At this point, we probably have some inkling regarding your personality and style, but would prefer a confirmation prior to moving forward.
· Determine Fit – Ultimately, the goal is to determine how you will fit with the organization. Whether it is on the macro level with the overall culture, or specifically with your boss or the members of the immediate department, this question may assist in reaching a conclusion on whether you will be a successful teammate.
How Should It Be Answered?
· Decide How Upfront You Want to Be – I am never an advocate of speaking mistruths, but not automatically offering information is certainly acceptable in the interview world. If you have some “dirt” that you do not want to share (i.e., a real deal breaker comment in your last review)…then use something else that won’t be as incriminating.
· With Reflection – This is a question that you probably will want to pause prior to answering. I don’t think it is in your best interest to eagerly dive into the answer about how others would describe you. Failure to pause may present to the interviewer that you are self-absorbed. Act like this is a tough one.
· Redirect – Once you have answered then end your answer…don’t ramble. The more talking you do, the more you will share, which, in this situation, may not be a good thing. Try to redirect the conversation back to your skills and value as soon as possible.
· Tie It to Specific Feedback – Provide an Interviewer with a point-of-reference, whether it is your annual performance review, Stakeholder Feedback, or a 360 review. You will instantly add credibility to your answer by anchoring it to actual specific feedback.
· Stay Business Orientated – Don’t use this as an area to dive into anything related to your personal life. Stay focused on professionally used attributes and situations.
What Not To Do:
· Pretend You Have No Areas of Concern – While you certainly do not want to turn this into a negative self-loathing display, it is important to have a sense of reality to your answer. It will provide a refreshing sense of humility and increase the perception of your self-awareness.
· Act Like You Have Never Received Feedback – A savvy Interviewer will instantly doubt that this is true and may turn the tables by asking why you haven’t solicited any information (or worse believe you are not being forthright). Inevitably, everyone has received some level of feedback, so “I don’t know” is not a good response.
· Get Real Negative – This answer goes hand-in-hand with the first bullet point in this area; although you will want to have some sense of realism, the goal is still to sell yourself. Keep your answer as positive as possible, while maintaining your credibility.
· Fail to Tie Back to References – You will want to answer the question with an idea regarding how your references will answer questions about you. Any differences between your answer and your references may cause a red flag to occur. Solve this issue by coaching your references and mirroring their future responses in your answer.
This can be one of the most challenging questions to answer because it not only requires a person to talk about themselves in a reflective manner, but also from the perspective of someone else. Anticipate the question, prepare your response, and practice the delivery and you will be on your way to acing this inquiry.
As always, best of luck in your job search.