The recruiter says: „Tell us about your strengths!“ What do you say?
Do you proceed with a laundry list of attributes like: flexible, cooperative, communicative and reliable? This is what most people do but how much are you really saying about yourself? If you look at some short profiles on CVs (and a short profile is a must nowadays), this is what you see: everybody is flexible, cooperative, communicative and reliable!
Here is a better way to differentiate yourself from the mass of applicants out there.
Admittedly, it takes some deep work, so take a piece of paper first. Next, find a good thesaurus or a dictionary of synonyms.
Then, make a list of your strengths and look at the dictionary meanings of the word. Which meaning is most appropriate for the context you have in mind? Here is an example, let‘s take „flexible“. An online dictionary gives several meanings, one of which is „ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances.“ Is this what you had in mind when you labelled yourself flexible?
Once you are clear on what exactly you are saying by what you are saying, proceed to apply these two questions on each particular strength:
1. What is this an example of? (chunking up)
2. What is an example of this? (chunking down)
What is flexibility an example of? What higher faculty is flexibility an example of? Isn‘t it an example of faculties like willingness to learn, eagerness to evolve, thriving on change, innovation and an open mind and ultimately intelligence? Your name what comes to your mind most naturally. What is another example of this higher faculty?
What is an example of flexibility? What did you do when you were being flexible? Did you change companies, industries, countries, or tools, processes, and equipment? Be precise! Can you bring examples of how you were being flexible, ideally without saying the word flexibility?
Once you have done this first layer of working through your strengths, you already have an edge on the average applicant. But you can take it a step further by chunking up and down further.
For example, you chunked your flexibility up to a higher faculty. What is another example of this higher faculty? What other strengths go hand in hand with the ones you have come up with? If you have one strength, what other strength does this one presuppose? And then proceed to chunk down: what is another example of this? What other strength is a direct consequence of that one? Prepare examples that illustrate these strengths. You should be able to come up with at least three stories around the examples you came up with while chunking down. This way you don‘t have to actually use the word „flexible“and the listener will hear „flexible, flexible, flexible“.
It may sound like a lot of work but believe me, it is very rewarding! Not only are you preparing yourself for the application process but you are also resourcing yourself with memories of resourceful states. You start feeling good about yourself and you definitely want to feel good about yourself when applying for a job. Once you have worked through your strengths, you can tackle you weaknesses. Yes, we all have weaknesses and some of our strengths are former weaknesses. It is important to be conscious of your weaknesses too and always approach them from a place of strength.
In the next post, I am going to show you a technique that will make your stories more engaging and impactful.
interview recruitment story telling tell me your strengths