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Any job hunter would be wise to seek out common interview questions and think about his answers beforehand, but what about the questions that haven’t made it onto the lists yet?
One question I’ve heard asked is some variation of, “Tell me something I wouldn’t know from looking at your CV,” or “Tell me something no one else knows about you.”
This question seems to be becoming increasingly common, but it’s still not one that job applicants are routinely preparing for. That means it’s a good place for you to shine.
What is the recruiter looking for?
Of course, I can’t say exactly what any specific recruiter is looking for when she asks a question like this, but I can give you some possible ideas. She might be looking to see:
- How do you organize your thoughts? If you’re telling an anecdote or story, is it well thought out and well told? Do you connect topics and events linearly, or jump all around?
- Can you think on your feet? Because this is a less common question, the interviewer may be trying to get you away from canned, rehearsed answers and see if they can get a glimpse of the real you.
- What do you consider most important for the interviewer to know? What comes out as an answer to this question could say a lot about you. Do you tell a story about your philanthropy and charity work, or about your many awards and accolades, or about family and hobbies?
- Are you able to relate the story back to the job? It’s a nice indication of higher-level thinking if you can tell a personal story but relate the points about you back to why you would be a good candidate for the job.
- Are you saying anything you shouldn’t? This isn’t to say that interviewers are trying to trip you up, but they will always be listening for things you shouldn’t reveal about current or former employers, or anything personal that might make them question your qualifications for the job.
Remember, their job is to find the best candidate, so it makes sense that they want to move you away from more rehearsed speeches into more authentic territory—even if that authentic territory doesn’t put you in the best light.
How to prepare for this question
As with all interview questions, it’s important to think about how you might answer, but don’t compose your answer and memorize it word for word—any savvy interviewer will be able to tell.
Since this is an open-ended question, your answer is an opportunity for you to highlight aspects of your qualifications, history, or skills that might not be immediately noticeable in your resume.
- Keep your core strengths in mind. Go into every interview with a good idea of the core strengths you would bring to the job, and then take the chance to highlight those skills with your answer. For example, if you want to emphasize your organizational skills in a particular interview, you might tell a story of how you organized an elaborate fundraiser at your child’s school, or how you were the president of a particular club at university.
- Think about intangible strengths and soft skills. Your resume should highlight achievements and metrics, but this is your opportunity to highlight your best soft skills. If, for example, your resume says you exceeded your sales goals by a certain percent, you could elaborate by explaining that you were able to do that because of your excellent people skills or your dedication to following up with your leads.
- Share something personal. If the question comes towards the end of the interview, and you feel you’ve already been able to make your case for your job skills, you might choose to highlight something from your personal life that reflects well on your character. Consider sharing only personal things that are universally accepted as positive, like being an avid chess player or enjoying mountain climbing, rather than anything that could be considered controversial, like volunteering with a political cause or being involved in a counterculture.
- Explain why you want the job. This is a great place in the interview to explain why you are particularly passionate about the job. If something in the job description excited you or any personal connection for the field. For example, I knew a young woman who was practically falling out of her chair to apply for a marketing position with a Parkinson’s charity because of the work they had done to help her father. This kind of personal connection can demonstrate that you would bring extra passion and energy to the position.
Figuring out how to answer these more open-ended and personal questions is like solving a riddle; the answer should show how you fit into this new job opportunity. As important as it is to think about these questions before you go into the interview, it’s equally important that your answers sound friendly and conversational, not memorized and rehearsed.
In the end, you should feel glad if you get one of these questions in an interview, because they afford you the opportunity to be your real self and highlight any of your best qualities that don’t fit into the resume template.