Please, Bring Me that Pie. I Need to Slam it into My Face.

A guaranteed way to fail the interview opener.

Let’s get to the point quickly folks. You’ve invested time and energy in tailoring the perfect resume. You get that much cherished call to come in for an interview. You invest more time and energy in tailoring your appearance and practicing the perfect confident (but not arrogant) handshake. You know your skills. You can boast a self-assured smile. You have the cordial laugh down to a science. And then you come into the interview room, pick up a nice lemon meringue pie and slam it directly into your face.

Okay, so give me a point for visual effect. What I’m getting at is this…time and again I hear stories of people who have an organized and well-intentioned job search that completely STOPS at the point of proper interview preparation. There are two specific questions that I consistently hear candidates are not ready to answer properly. So, let’s briefly look at both.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself? – The answer to this question is brief and directed. It is your 30-second commercial. If you do not know what this is, it is time to research and plan. In short, this is your marketing statement of who you are, what you (professionally) want to be, and what you can offer the company…specifically, what you can offer the job for which you are interviewing. This is a malleable statement. It should change based on who you are talking to and the job to which you are applying. Don’t try to sell the same set of skills to different people. It’s lazy and doesn’t work. Worse, if you don’t have any idea who you are and what you want to be when you grow up, it will be clear in your answer to this question. Do not talk about family, kids, relationship status, pet peeves, or any other stuff not related to work. It can backfire very quickly. Keep it simple and keep it professional.

2. What do you know about our company? – Easy. They want specifics. What type of work do we do? Where do we do it? What are our successes? Who are our key players? And can you relay this information as if it is second-nature without lots of hemming and hawing? If you researched the company you can. You need to show that you are interested in not only working, but working for them. Further, if you can put the job for which you are vying in proper context within this answer, you can also demonstrate you want to work for them in this specific position. A brilliant wizard of this skill will also find a way to weave their skill set matches for the company and position into their response. This, ladies and gents, requires research and preparation in delivering a concise and confident response.

If you can master these two interview responses, you are already off to a better start than giving yourself an unwarranted pie in the face. Being successful in preparing for these questions means you have devoted time to caring about the specific job for which you are interviewing and it will show. Trust me and avoid a potentially “messy” interview.

Danny Zendejas is the Education Liason for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. He has over ten years of experience in working in the public sector and over five years experience in workforce development.em>