Unprepared, “off the cuff” answering guarantees you’ll choose a skill that’s not the most valuable for this position, this firm, at this time, and you won’t communicate it clearly.
That’s why this post focuses on knowing your own skills, what the employer needs and communicating that clearly and succinctly.
Do You Know Your Most Valuable Skill?
How accurate is your self-assessment?
Is it even current?
Have you grown over the past year? In your current position?
Today’s highly-competitive employment marketplace demands a serious commitment to gathering facts about yourself.
Don’t be surprised if you encounter internal resistance as you undertake this project. You may even doubt that you have any skills that the average person on the street doesn’t perform at least as well as you.
If that’s really true, you have a new project before you start applying for a new position. Select a few skills that are essential for the position you already have or want. Then set about to become exceptionally proficient at those skills. Read Cal Newport for some excellent advice on becoming so good they can’t ignore you.
But probably it’s not really true. You just underestimate how good you are at some tasks, because they come easier to you. If you train a new hire, observe what they find difficult.
If you take excellence seriously, and even if you have been casual about doing things well, there are skills that have shown up to others, even if you can’t pinpoint them yourself. You are in sales and you need to know your only product – you.
There are many sources of data about you. Gather everything you can and sort through it. What have objective third-party observers said? Write down every compliment. Over time, a clearer picture will emerge. Take action to emphasize strengths and correct weaknesses.
If you can’t immediately name a most valuable skill, you aren’t alone. Many people are immediately stumped. You might feel as though the interviewer will know if you didn’t get the answer right, by overlooking a more valuable skill than the one you name. You need to name one and explain why it’s valuable in this job, this employer, at this time.
Validate your “Most valuable skill” with a story
Naming the skill is just the first part. Now back it up with a story that demonstrates your claim is valid.
Are you the “go-to” colleague for a particular type of problem? What does that tell you about yourself? What skills does that reveal? Ask for help if you need it.
Some of us enjoy completing tasks and practicing skills that naturally seem easier for us. That’s helpful information, but also remember to add some of the rarer competencies that others also avoid. That will make you stand out from the crowd.
Actually, even your worst critics will acknowledge your strengths. Probably you shouldn’t ask them first but do listen to how they describe you.
Valuable and Rare Skills get the Interviewer’s Attention
You may be a poor judge of what skills are rare and valuable. Ask someone who supervises staff in a position similar to the one you are seeking what skills and qualities makes someone a star.
For example, you don’t likely believe that consistently completing tasks is worth mentioning. In some types of work, that skill is rare and valuable, but it always makes your manager’s life much less stressful. Lots of people struggle with executing simple tasks or larger projects. They could even be more talented than you but drive managers crazy because they just can’t finish it up on time.
Your job security is always found in delivering a rare and valuable skill the employer needs.
Target to This Position, This Organization, This Time
A few considerations to check while polishing your response.
- Choose a skill that’s relevant to your new position, not just your current job. Especially watch this when applying for a promotion or entering a new field.
- Keep it short and memorable.
- Talk about benefits, to the people (supervisor, colleagues) not just capabilities.
- Think of your offer as relief of pain that the employer wants (needs) to go away.
Check out this Slideshare presentation!
This is number five in the series of fifty posts, each one providing a specific answers to a commonly asked job interview question.
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