Focus on an Interviewer's Problems

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Here's a tip that could help in your next job interview: When asked if you have any questions for the hiring manager, inquire about the biggest challenges her department tackled recently or must tackle in the near future. Tell stories that show you solved similar problems in the past, and explain what you learned in the process.

Those pointers come from Scot Herrick, via his Cube Rules career guidance site. They're rooted in the fact that teams and departments don't hire people to carry a workload - they hire people to solve problems. But steer clear of that word, "problems," Herrick advises. Instead, use the euphemism, "challenges," as managers invariably do.

"The more problems a department solves, the better reputation for the department, manager and team. Like you," Herrick writes. "So one of your objectives before or during the interview is to figure out what problems need solving in the department and then show how your work can help solve the problems."

To elicit this information, you can ask the manager what is the biggest challenge the team overcame last year, or faces right now, or will face in the next six months. Once you know of a few challenges, build your answers to the interviewer's questions around demonstrating how you solved similar problems in the past.

"Use your answers to not only show you have solved the problems in the past, but that you learned from each situation and built your job skills," adds Herrick. "Be humble enough to also show what you learned from the experience."

By uncovering problems to solve through interview questions and then showing how you can help the hiring manager solve them through your performance with humility, you will leap to the front of pack of rivals competing for the opening.