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Be Ready to Defend and Follow Up

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

A friend of mine, who has spent the last few weeks applying for internship positions recently told me about a situation that threw him for a bit of a loop during one of the interviews. He was meeting with a group of high profile executives when they asked him, "Tell me a little bit about yourself." We are all warned of the probability of this question arising, and my friend was prepared. He answered the question well, highlighting a few of his traits as an employee such as "hard working," "good at problem-solving," and "dedicated to being a team player." What he wasn't expecting was for one of the members of the panel to immediately say to him, "Oh, problem solving? Tell us about a time when you solved a problem." The truth was, that member of the panel was on her game, challenging my friend to defend and follow up.

Many of the questions that we prepare for the interview have to do with us telling the stories of our employment--the time that you closed a big deal, how you managed to delegate the multi-phase project, seamlessly, to a team of seven, or how your experience traveling assisted in honing your foreign language skills and diplomacy. We prepare what we think the interviewers may ask, and come with an arsenal of stories that make us look good. There is nothing wrong with this approach. Just don't forget to be ready to defend anything additional that you might say during the interview. You may even want to think of the interview as a trial defense. Often, in law, lawyers lead witnesses giving testimony down a path where they must defend what they have said. You need to be ready to defend what you say. So don't say that you are a "people person," or "good under pressure," if you don't have concrete stories ready in the wings to tell. You run the risk of looking like you know the correct buzzwords to say without the substance to back those buzzwords up!

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