It’s one of the more challenging job interview questions: “What would your colleagues say about you?” Instead of fumbling around for an answer, prepare for it ahead of time and you can slam dunk this difficult personal question.
Why Ask Interview Questions Like This?
Most prospective employers ask this interview question to see if the description you give synchs up with the impression you’re making. “Some people are really good at interviewing,” says Sarah Baker Andrus, director of external relations and academic programs at CutCo in Olean, New York. “It’s a great way to measure if the person is the real deal.”
It’s also handy when doing due diligence. “Asking candidates this question also gives me something concrete to discuss when I call their work references,” she says. “They’ll either gush or pause, and either way it’s telling.”
Ask Your Sources
It’s a good idea to check in with former colleagues and employers to find out how they’d answer this question. Their answers will give you some useful material. Additionally, this will help you identify who among them would be good references.
“I would start thinking about coworkers who look on you favorably,” suggests Kathleen Steffey, founder and CEO of Naviga Business Services, a sales and marketing recruiting firm in Tampa. “Send these people a little friendly but honest feedback survey in advance that asks them how they felt about your work.”
Lee Perrett, a senior vice president with Tyler & Company, a healthcare executive search firm advises you “pick the best replies that can be tied back into the position or company you are interviewing with.”
If you don’t feel comfortable reestablishing contact, go back through your performance appraisals and pick out keywords like hard-working, tenacious, great attention to detail, excellent salesperson, etc. “A potential hiring manager may check your references, so it’s important to be honest and consistent with the feedback you give the interviewer, and the feedback the former manager or colleagues will give,” he cautions.
Avoid the temptation to use those key descriptors as your complete answer, however. Instead, use that information to introduce concrete results. Anyone can say they’re reliable, for instance, so you want to show how you were reliable.
“An applicant is going to be seen as much more sincere and believable if they have tangible, articulated examples,” explains Rick Moore, a senior vice president for staffing firm Volt Services Group. “By having a clear example, they have created an image that the interviewer can easily relate to and reflect upon at the conclusion of the dialogue. Think: How can I use real life situations and describe something well enough that the interviewer feels like they were there?’”
Andrus has another idea. Use the question as an opportunity to show you’re interested in improving by saying something like this: “My boss would probably tell you I didn’t get off to the greatest start, but by the end of the summer she knew she could count on me” followed by an example of that. “Talk about a challenge you had and overcame related to how people saw you,” she notes.
Now you’ve got the keys to unlock one of the toughest interview questions you may be asked. A little networking and some preparation will put you at ease with answering interview questions like this one.