Those Three Magic Words

Those Three Magic Words

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At some point in your career, if you haven’t experienced this already, you may very well be asked a question similar to one of these during an interview: “Tell me about yourself in a few brief words”, or “What are your three greatest strengths?”, or even “How would a former employer/professor/peer describe you?”

Sound familiar?

Not surprising, since this is standard fare for many companies, especially those using formal structured interviews as part of the hiring process.

The first time this happened to me many moons ago, I was caught a bit off guard and blurted out the first words that came into my head — things my parents had been telling me for years — “creative, flexible and strong communication skills.” (They, of course, used other terms as well, but none of those seemed at all appropriate for an interview!) Anyway, strangely, ever since, when asked this type of question, I have used the same descriptors with a relatively high degree of success because I believe they are still my strong suits — and, they still seem valued by employers.

Let me provide a recent example as testament. (Note: This is often the second half of the original question, i.e., behavioral analysis, “Can you give me a specific example/circumstance to demonstrate these characteristics?”) Here’s mine. Nearly eight months ago, my husband and I booked a cruise to Cuba, scheduled for a July departure to celebrate his birthday. As you are probably aware, at the beginning of June, President Trump enacted a ban to restrict all U.S. cruise lines from docking in Cuba. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed since Cuba was actually on both of our bucket lists — a rare occurrence.

However, we decided to be flexible when the cruise line offered us a new itinerary: Belize, Honduras, Mexico, and Key West. After all, as my husband was quick to point out, we had already booked the air as well as the hotels for our pre- and post-cruise vacation. (As a side travel tip, if you have the time and money, always allow an extra day before and after a cruise just in case some unforeseen event occurs, such as mechanical issues with the airline, delayed flights, unexpected weather advisories, etc.)

We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise despite the new itinerary and arrived back at our hotel in Fort Lauderdale, only to discover that a water main had broken and all hotels in the entire city had been asked to vacate their properties. So much for the spa day and world-class restaurant arrangements for my husband’s birthday surprise! Being creative, I immediately called Marriott rewards and asked for assistance in arranging a beachfront property away from Fort Lauderdale and the other nearby areas impacted by this accident. Subsequently, we spent four lovely days on Miami Beach at a significant discount with the added benefit of points being credited to our rewards account based on my communication skills concerning our predicament.

So, the next time you are asked the infamous question noted previously above, consider the following. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top 10 most desirable skills sought in applicants in order of importance are:

  • Communication skills (written)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Initiative
  • Analytical/quantitative skills
  • Communication skills (verbal)
  • Strong work ethic
  • Leadership
  • Detail-oriented
  • Technical skills

In addition to these skills, when filling out an application or tailoring a cover letter, be sure to include the key terms listed in the actual employment opportunity or job description. After all, I only mentioned two out of the 10 noted above (although, perhaps creativity could be problem solving, sort of), but you can totally ace the interview by using this list to prepare for your next employment opportunity.

Good luck and be creative!

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