Interview Question: What would you rather do X or Y?

This is a very frequent occurrence. A recruiter accepts your invite for a call. They start out by saying we don’t have any immediate openings. This is simply exploratory. If after this call there is an opening then I will throw your name in the mix.

Does this sound familiar?

So you get on the phone and unfortunately you do not have a job description in mind. So what’s your strategy? How can you impress someone when you have no idea what they like? How can you express that you are the right fit when you don’t know what buzzwords to use or professional wins to highlight?

Well, that’s not the point.

On these calls the recruiter is trying to ascertain whether you’d be the right fit and secondly what your core competencies might be. It’s an incredibly frustrating conversation because you can say something that will disqualify you. However, this does not have to be the case.

In these situations, I advise my clients to research the organization.

Here are a few items to seek:

  • How do they make money?
  • What business units are there?
  • Think through their recent acquisitions — are they investing in relevant areas to your skills?
  • What spots have been open traditionally in the past?
  • Can you imagine yourself working in any specific role?

Once you’ve done this research then be honest with yourself. What titles make the most sense given your salary requirements as well as your skills and experiences?

Then when you are asked what you rather do X or Y think in terms of themes.

Here’s an example to inspire you, the theme is “relationships”:

I want to work for LinkedIn anywhere I can help you grow. I can fit in as a new business salesperson or as a relationship manager quite well. However, I know that I can bring the most value to LinkedIn as a global account manager focused on growing existing key accounts in the energy space. My book of business is deep within the energy space. I know how your clients such as Rexel, Solar, Rensa, Plieger, Rensa, and Technische Unie use LinkedIn. As a relationships guy who worked with the energy space directly, I enjoyed anticipating my clients’ needs and through the power of LinkedIn I aggressively grew my existing accounts. For example, as a director within Duke Energy, I leveraged the sales navigator tool to prospect existing accounts, zero in on c-level leads, leverage insights for influence, secure strategic accounts, and map new opportunities. Actually, after just one year, I closed more than $4.5 million in deals that were influenced or supported by LinkedIn. I know that I’d enjoy the challenge of bringing these experiences most as a global account manager.

Does that make sense? How can we continue this conversation?

The key insight is that you answer the question. You have to show you’re a team player. Meanwhile, you also need to express your deep interest by being specific.

Melissa Llarena’s craft is coaching top executives on how to strategically dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. Get instant access to a 20-page interview preparation kit that will give you an edge. Join the thousands who’ve read her career insights in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Follow her at @CareerOutcomes.