Early in my career, I was asked one of the best interview questions you can ask someone interested in being a part of a team. As I moved into the phase of my career where I began to interview candidates, I always ask, “What is one job you’ve had, that is not listed on your resume, that has prepared you for the position you are interviewing for today?”
I love the simplicity of the question. The amount of information it reveals about someone feels endless and will go in just about any direction you could imagine. Surprisingly, while simplate at the surface, it is one that is often difficult for many to answer on the fly. With just one easy, approachable question, the chances are in your favor that you are going to learn about a candidates:
Did they work in high school or college?
Was there a grueling internship?
Passions, hobbies, interests:
Were they a lifeguard?
Did they work for a sports team, retail and in music?
Did they work in a collaborative or individual environment?
Were others dependent upon them to do their job?
Did they work in a bar, restaurant or hotel?
How important was communication?
Were they intentional about the jobs they chose?
How do they respond to high pressure situations?
Are they able to capture your interest?
Do they communicate effectively and with enthusiasm?
Ability to think quickly
Preparing for my interviews in sales, before BetterWorks and beyond, it never crossed my mind that work I did prior to the ‘real-world’ would be the focus of a question during an interview. I graduated. I moved on. And, besides, when I interviewed to become a sales development rep, I focused my sales experience to date on my ability to sell wine and steaks. I had been fully immersed in the real world of business and technology for a couple of years. Why would I need to take my mind back to waiting tables, bartending, refereeing basketball games, making smoothies, working in a shoe store or room service?
That changed in the middle of an interview when a sales manager asked, “Matt Hart, what is the one job you’ve had, not listed on your resume, that prepared you to be an enterprise account executive here today?”
I paused for a moment to absorb the question. And just like that, it clicked. This was the perfect question for me to answer. “That’s easy. I spent two summers working as an equipment assistant for the San Francisco 49ers.”
Before I could continue to explain why these two summers prepared me for the position today, an over excited sales manager was already asking me to elaborate. “Wow! That must have been cool. Who was your favorite player? What was T.O. like? Jerry? Steve?” I had to reign his excitement in a bit to bring the story back to answer the question.
“I have noticed people sometimes get nervous or intimidated when they are cold calling on executives, required to deliver presentations, or are caught in the elevator with the CEO. I don’t really get too nervous in these situations and cannot really a time where I have felt ‘starstruck.’ When you are taking care of players dirty laundry (literally), catching balls from Steve Young as he gets warmed up for practice or games, playing basketball after practice with Pete Carroll, ping-pong with T.O., going out to dinner with Tim McDonald, Merton Hanks and Rod Woodson, you just kind of see them as the people they are and not their position or what they’ve accomplished - the greatest wide receiver of all-time, one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, safeties, defensive backs, etc. So, it has prepared me for a career in sales and the position I want today because I do not really think of a CEO, CFO, VP, etc. as anything more than what they are - a person who is looking to me for some level of help.”
While I felt I had the perfect answer to a great question, I did not get the job. As it turns out, the sales manager was a Cowboys fan.