Answers That Matter: 4 Musts for Interviews and Application Essays

Whether you are applying for a job, college or grad school, you will face targeted questions in interviews and application essays. Here are must do’s:

  1. Choose Their Perspective: Start by keeping your audience’s perspective and best interests in mind. “They” are shopping. You are in selling mode, so this is less about sharing what you want and more about connecting how your interests can support theirs.  Example: If they just rolled out a new ERP system that you have experience with, talk about what were your favorite features of the tool and perhaps share one piece of advice about how you learned to use it effeectively. What do they need to know that would make them want you? How is it relevant to making you a strong applicant from their view, not yours?
  2. Connect the dots. Like a dot-to-dot coloring book, there is no clear picture until you make the connections. Clarify who you are and what you offer. How will your talents help their organization thrive? How did that increase youir interest or knowledge in a way that is useful now? Examples: Why did you move from one job or industry to another? If you have a former client who is theirs or professional associate in common, share it.
  3. Answer the question posed, but go as far as you can to use your answer strategically. What are they trying to learn about you?  Relate back to your skills and ability to help in some specific way, using a past experience or talent that is relevant to the question.  Example:If you had a particular customer experience that is relevant, share it.   It’s amazing how often candidates either fail to address a question or choose to answer with something irrelevant to their qualifications or fit. Always bring it back to supporting your candidacy.
  4. Go for the Unique. Ensure your answer is specific, unique to you and your personal experiences. Could anyone else say the same thing? If so, your answer is too generic. (See my related blog post: Are You Covered by Your Cover Letter?)

These 4 tips will help you choose answers that matter to “them” and get you closer to a “yes” from them, whoever they are.


  • Dan Haile

    January 30th, 2017

    Tami, I think this is EXTREMELY helpful. I really love “go for the Unique” and “Could anyone else say the same thing?”! Will definitely be sharing this…

  • fassintt

    January 31st, 2017

    That means a lot coming from you–one of the best execuitve coaches out there. Tami

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