Interviewing Skills #3: Avoid Second-Person Answers

Consider the interview-question “Tell me about a time when you were criticized. How did you react?”

Or, a poorly-worded equivalent: “How do you handle criticism?”

In response to such questions, job-candidates frequently answer in the second-person: “When you are criticized, you need to … Instead of getting defensive, you must listen and understand the significance … Ask how you can improve ….”

Narrative Styles in Communication

Best Answers use the First-Person

Interviewing Skills: Avoiding Second-Person Answers In answering interview questions, the best way to impress an interviewer is to relay your credentials and accomplishments in terms of personal success stories—first-person answers alone achieve this effect. Use constructs such as “I did this …,” “my team discovered that …,” and so on.

Answering questions in the second-person amounts to advising the interviewer–that can be a turn-off.

And, by using the second-person, you sound disconnected from the topic of your answer; you cannot relay a personal experience that provides clues to the specific skills the interviewer is looking for in asking a particular question.

In interviews, use first-person answers exclusively: present lots of ‘I’ answers and the occasional ‘we’ answer. Do not answer in the second-person.

Further Reading: The ‘Point of view’ page on Wikipedia offers details on the narrative first-, second- and third-person styles.

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