Interview Prep Help

Getting help with interview prep can be tough. Here are some tips to help.

If offered the job, what would be your first priority or thing you would change?

The Real Question: Can you strike a good balance between consultation and initiative? Are you going to charge in and step on toes?

Top-line Tactic: Decide how much initiative/change the company is looking for and pitch your answer accordingly.

The most important word in this question is “or.” Talking about priorities or changes you would make are two very different things. The former can be applied to any position and is more about how you’ll approach getting acclimatized. The latter focuses on shaking up the status quo and is often most appropriate for management-level positions or situations where the organization is actively looking for change. Your first task here is to figure out which side of the “or” is more appropriate for this particular position.

Priorities

For roles that are less about leading change and more about individual performance, your answer should emphasize how you plan to get yourself up to speed in your new job. No matter how much you probe, you’ll never know exactly what you’re walking into, so answers that focus on acclimatization are a safe bet. You could include:

  • Getting to know your co-workers.
  • Learning about the customers.
  • Investigating the company’s products or services.

If you’re quite familiar with the role, as well as the company and its products, there are several general priorities you can cite. As always, it’s best to back up your ability to tackle these challenges with evidence from your past experience. This might sound something like:

  • Add value: In my first month, I’d love to focus on kick-starting that key project we discussed earlier. In my last job I tackled something similar, so I think I could really add value immediately by taking the following steps . . .
  • Make a colleague’s job easier: In my last job I was able to really improve candidate tracking for the HR executives I was supporting by implementing a new workflow. I’m hoping to be able to put that experience to use here straight away to save my new colleagues a lot of worry and time wasted on administrative work.
  • Make more money: In my last job I was able to save our department 15 percent annually on contractor costs by reviewing our existing contracts and streamlining things so we were dealing with only four contractors rather than seven. So one of my first priorities would be to take a look at the contractors your company is using to see if I could make similar savings.

Changes

If you’re specifically asked to do a turnaround job, are being brought in to innovate, or otherwise get the sense that the role is about making changes, go ahead and highlight some areas that strike you as in need of work, but be cautious, this is a loaded question.

No one likes a know-it-all who barges in and disregards the experience and opinions of their new co-workers, so make sure that when you suggest areas for improvement, you don’t come across as high-handed. Stress consultation and the need for information gathering. Words like evolve, examine, contribute and develop can be more effective than change, overhaul, transform or fix. You’re trying to get across that you’ll bring ideas to the table, not that you’re a bully.

On the other hand, initiative is a key skill for managers, so don’t completely dodge the question—your answer should contain a few substantive issues you’re keen to dig into straight away.

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