“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t know, what do you want?”
Few things are more annoying in a conversation than when someone keeps answering questions with questions.
Why is this the case?
Well, conversations are a bit of a dance. There’s a give and take. When you ask a question, you’re requesting a little contribution from your conversation partner, and when you answer a question, you’re contributing something yourself.
That’s how conversation flows.
However, if you always answer a question with another question, you’re not only refusing to contribute anything, but you’re also demanding that your conversation partner carry the entire weight of the conversation.
That gets old real quick.
People really really hate it.
You know who was one person who answered every question with another question? Socrates. And you know what happened to him? He got executed.
We all know how annoying it is when someone answers our questions with a question. Yet most of us do the same thing on the job hunt.
What do I mean by that?
Well, if a company is hiring, they’re basically putting out an ad that says: “Who can help us?”
And soon enough, the response comes in the form of an enormous pile of resumes that starts flooding in. And all those resumes basically say the same thing:
“Is it me?” Is it me? Is it me?”
Because when you submit a resume, you’re basically saying: ‘Here’s an overview of what I’ve done in the past, now you figure out if and how I could be valuable to you.’
Remember that time you asked your teacher what a word meant and she just handed you the dictionary? It’s exactly like that.
This company is asking for solutions, and all you’re doing is just giving them a bunch of homework. They now need to look through all these resumes, and for each one, translate the listed skills and previous experience into concrete ways that this person could create value for their business.
That is a lot of work.
And it’s also not very fair, because you know yourself way better than the hiring manager could ever hope to know you from that one page pdf that you submitted. If anyone is qualified to determine what kind of work you would be good at, it’s you, right?
So stop answering a question with a question.
Take the time to research the company and think of concrete ways that you could see yourself create value for them. Then, substantiate your claim with something you’ve done in the past, and your pitch basically writes itself.
“Hey [company], I love what you’re doing with [something you love about their mission]. I’m [your name] and I’d love to [create value in some concrete way] for you. I did [something similar] in the past and [some success you achieved]. Let’s talk!”
Now that is an answer a company can work with!
Does this sound like a lot of work?
It can be.
But look, someone’s gotta do this work. If you’re ever going to get hired, someone’s going to have to figure out concrete ways that you can create value for this business.
Will you do it? Or will you just offload the work to a hiring manager, and hope they get around to it?
You know what to do.
Stop answering questions with more questions.
Act like you have some answers.
This post originally appeared in the DJH newsletter.
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