Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: What to say when a job interviewer asks, 'Who's your role model?'

Job-seekers may think that reviewing their own resume and career highlights is sufficient preparation for an interview, but there's actually someone else whose achievements you need to consider as well.

According to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, there's one question that interview candidates almost always get wrong: "Who's your role model?"

"This question is a gift from the career gods," Welch tells CNBC Make It. "It's the hiring manager giving you a chance to prove how well you know — and how much you love — the kind of work you hope to be doing."

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch
CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch

Welch says too many job-seekers answer this question with the best of intentions but no strategy, responding with something generic like "my mom" or "my dad."

"That answer is endearing, and I get it," she says. "Parents make enormous sacrifices for us and often are our best teachers in life. But as an interviewer, I want to hear about your career values and aspirations. I want to hear about your professional heroes."

In the early days of her journalism career, Welch says she would always ace this question by talking about a Miami-Herald crime reporter she admired name Edna Buchanan. "Everyone in the business knew of Edna and her decades of investigative brilliance," she says. "She was fierce, relentless and respected — she was everything I hoped to be."

"Find your Edna Buchanan," Welch advises job-seekers. Choose someone whose reputation will indicate that you're serious about becoming one of your industry's high achievers as well.

"Talk about a visionary in your field, or a former boss who taught you how to build great teams," she says. "Prove that you have role models who are relevant to the job you want to land. And then, if you want, go ahead and mention your parents, too — and don't forget to tell them that you did."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at gettowork@cnbc.com.

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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