A few months ago I made THE mistake I always tell my clients to avoid. And I lost 10,000 EUR in just 20 minutes. It all came down that I forgot a simple & smart question.

What happened?

The managing partner at leading consulting company asked me if I could propose to them a workshop on the “future of work”. While I ran executive workshops before this was a BIG deal for me. They wanted me to present to their entire executive team and tell them How they can prepare for the workplace of the tomorrow.

One thing I knew from my consulting time is that partners (the owners of the company) are fierce with a no non-sense approach. So I was quite nervous and to make it even worse, they told me half an hour before that also the president with the deputy president would call-in from New York.

But I had this. I prepared for weeks. Read all the papers on the future of work, talked to my contacts at the World Economic Forum and the United Nations and even had two few mini-interviews with consultants.

So I was confident I would excel with my smartness. For 15 minutes I showed my great and detailed plan what I would do in a workshop. Showed them the mega-trends in AI, explained what I did in the past on predictive talent management and I then ended with asking specific questions to ask the partners what they think their biggest problem is.

I thought I was so smart to involve those managing partners in co-designing the workshop.

And then, after I finished it happened. The Managing Partner said:

 “Thank you very much Nicolas. You know when we invite experts to pay them 10,000 EUR for a 90-minute workshop we expect another level. Let us discuss and come back to you”.

There was an awkward silence and I just wanted to get out of that meeting as soon as possible.

But what went wrong?

I got the basic question wrong.

The one question that the best candidates answer before they get into all the action mode/ CV improvement/ interview sales.

In this post I want to share with you Why it so important to not get stuck in answering the What´s but to take a step back and first answer the Why me! 

You win the job-hunt for prestigious jobs by saving your time with SMART techniques and not doing what everyone else does. 

The Problem:

One of the biggest problems when we have to convince someone, sell something or just present a solution to a problem is that we immediately jump to answering the WHAT. 

This is completely normal because we are so used to back-up everything with as much information as possible. So we go there and dump an avalanche of details on our (future) boss, executive teams or anyone.

For example, in a Cover Letter we immediately write:

  • What position I want to work at,
  • What companies I used to work for,
  • What I like about the company I apply to,
  • What I did in the past and so on.

Or in an interview we say:

  • What I like about the company,
  • What great team player I am,
  • What I did as a manager or ask
  • What the benefits are at the company.

Yet, we completely forget the essential question Why does this matter?! Or more directly

Why should you hire me in the first place?

Here the consulting partner simply wanted to know: Why my workshop would help them understand the future of work in 90 minutes and Why they should hire me and not someone else.

And then How I could show them I am expert on the future of work.Not all the little details of What I did/ would do. This is actually what they pay me to figure out myself!

Not all the little details of What I did/ would do. This is actually what they pay me to figure out myself!

So maybe if you are only seeing rejections right now, struggle in interviews or wonder Why you don’t get a prestigious level position maybe it’s because you are stuck in action mode and forget the essential question: Why me?!

The Solution:

Before you go into improving all the little details in your application deck or re-hearse the perfect answers for you interview first focus on answering the Why.

Then the How and only then the What.  

In the beginning you will not like this. It’s hard to answer these questions and most scary: You could actually say answer wrong.

For example, if during your interview you only answer “What you did questions” (study details, tasks, projects) you think you are on the right page as you can always add more stuff.

But your future boss will think that you simply do not know what you want or that you are too generic without any substance.

You are a professional and they will expect you to come up with the solution (that is what they pay you for).

When you answer the Why it forces you to come up with a concrete answer.

Once you are clear on Why me all other parts of your application are much easier to write as you naturally know how to answer the How and the What.

Let me show you the below example to make it more clear.

Time for You to Take Action

Select one part of your application (you can see the six essential job-hunt parts here) and use the below steps to optimize it. Let me use the application deck.
step 1

Why me?

Why should they hire me?

Before you write any part of the cover letter or the CV try to answer Why should the company care. Then be even more specific depending on your application stage.

For example if you draft the application deck try to answer:

Why would the company invite me to an interview after reading my CV.

It will be something very specific aligned to the job ad: Something like:

Because after reading my CV they will see that I can start right away on their project X and create new partnerships in region Y.

step 2

How can I show this?

Once you are clear on your Why you need to back it up. Answering the How will help you a ton here.

For example you could answer:

How can I prove in my application deck that I can start to work right away on their project X (plug in the answer of the Why question). 

Because in my application deck I will mention how I managed projects that are similar to theirs and because I was responsible for sales in region Y. 

step 3

What should I mention?

Now we can get into all the specifics. Here you should mention all the important details What you did/ have these will naturally back up your how and then what

Try to answer:

What does the company care about and What details could I mention that I am (was) successful at that role.
Because I managed the project X for more than 4 years in region Y, I overlooked a budget of Z USD and involved X countries in the region, while increasing sales by Z% I am confident to manage similar projects at your company from day 1. 

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About the Author

Work Psychologist & Advisor, with the sole purpose to find and offer you the most competent advise so you grow professionally and live a fulfilling work-life on your terms. 

Find out more: How I went from being an anxious, always pleasing and stuck in the rat-race professional to creating a well-paying career and fulfilling life on my terms.


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