MBA Career Advice: The Magic Is in the Details

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

We have all had the experience—sometimes even in an interview!—of telling a great story. You know those times when the listener is rapt with attention and you are brimming with vitality and confidence and in the process, creating a real connection with the person you are talking to. Those moments seem like magic to be sure, but the truth is that they happen predictably when we share rich details about our life. Answering a question in an interview is much more than a chance to show a professional experience. It is an opportunity to let the listener into your world in a palpable way that creates a shared connection.

Consider the following answers to this question: “What do you do in your free time?”

  1. I am an avid foodie, so I try to eat at new restaurants as much as possible. My favorite food is Korean, but I also love Vietnamese and Italian.
  2. I love to eat. I try to go to one new restaurant every week, even when I am swamped with work. Last week, I had the most amazing Korean barbecue tacos at this new place near me. The marinade was so authentic and spicy. I’ve had to fight myself not to go back every day since.

Now, food may not be your thing. No problem. You have your thing. But notice how these two answers make you feel. The first answer likely leaves you cold—it gives you no window into the authentic experience or values of the speaker—but the second one really makes a connection. It shares a few small vivid and rich details that really bring you into the speaker’s experience. Notice how this answer gives you a sense of the speaker’s….

  • Values and priorities (food and adventure/experimentation matter even when I am swamped!)
  • Experience (the tacos are amazing and authentic and spicy!)
  • Emotions (I love to eat!! And I have to fight to stay away!)

These are the elements that forge connections between human beings. Beyond the obvious, generic, and neutral “I’m a foodie,” these rich details paint a picture and reveal emotion. When you do this in your interviews, you will naturally engender the trust and affinity of the interviewer. At the end of the day, you will be the person about whom she says, “I like this person!!”

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