Own the Question

This post was inspired by one at Inc.com by Geoffrey James


Geoffrey James, writing for Inc.com, reveals the secret he says “allows you to get the better of any opponent in just about every workplace situation.” Who can resist reading on? James says that the secret technique is simple, though not easy: Own the Question.

He goes on to say that every business decision is based on answering some sort of question: How do we fix this? What step do we take next? The person who can frame the question and then go on to provide the answer will prevail every time. He gives the example of a team that has lost a big customer. One executive comes in with ammunition ready to answer the question of “Who’s fault is this?” The Chief Sales Officer comes in and stops that conversation cold with: “The real question we need to answer is ‘How do we get the account back?’”

James writes: “The true power of this technique is to own the question before it even gets asked.” It occurs to me that that’s also the secret of making sure you get the job offer. Ask the question to which you are the answer.
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I believe that every good interview has a theme, and the candidate should think carefully about what his theme will be. If your personal brand relies heavily on being a “creative problem solver,” for example, you should prepare examples of when you used this skill. That’s not new. But what is new is preparing questions for the interviewer that bring out what kind of problems the company or the team is looking to solve (creatively.) “I understand from my research that the industry is very worried about losing a large cohort of baby boomer workers to retirement over the next five to ten years. What creative recruiting ideas does the company have to attract the next generation of workers?”

If you happen to be a Millennial social media expert, you might be the answer to that question. It would be a great way to lead into a discussion of the engagement campaigns you’ve created for your current employer.

Tim Tyrell-Smith, blogger and creator of Tim’s Strategy®, gives a formula for creating a theme for your interview. “Identify 6-10 strengths. You may already have these on your professional resume or bio. These describe what you do especially well. Give them a title. Examples: “I build brands”, “I create productive processes”, “I motivate sales team,” “I drive top line revenue.”

After you decide what your interview theme(s) will be, develop a couple of stories that illustrate how you used these skills in past jobs. Incidentally, if you build a strong theme, you’ll have an answer to “What is your greatest strength?” with solid examples of that strength in action.

Next, develop some questions like the one above that will help you understand if the company has or needs people who think like you. You’ll be able to make a more informed decision about whether you’re a good fit, and you’ll position yourself as the strongest candidate for the job.



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