What would you do if your interviewer said "show me you're smart"?

Updated on : January 17, 2022 by Elliot Hudson



What would you do if your interviewer said "show me you're smart"?

I was asked a version of this question in an interview with a large company fresh out of college.

I was interviewing for one of five positions in a leadership program with a Fortune 500 company and I was one of 25 candidates from various colleges who were interviewed this day.

We were invited the night before, so I had the opportunity to measure my competition at a social event. It quickly became clear that I was not going to differentiate myself intelligently.

One by one, I heard these brilliant students list their accolades. We had a student body president, several valedictorians a

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I was asked a version of this question in an interview with a large company fresh out of college.

I was interviewing for one of five positions in a leadership program with a Fortune 500 company and I was one of 25 candidates from various colleges who were interviewed this day.

We were invited the night before, so I had the opportunity to measure my competition at a social event. It quickly became clear that I was not going to differentiate myself intelligently.

One by one, I heard these brilliant students list their accolades. We had a student body president, several farewell students, and I quickly realized that I was the only kid there barely hitting the minimum 3.0 GPA for the program. I completed my resume to get there, of course.

I started sweating and felt like I was out of my league. I wasn't smarter than any of these kids and I wasn't sure how they invited me. If academic achievement was the foundation of this company's hiring process, it was in trouble.

After ordering a second round of drinks, I started to notice something. These kids were running out of topics to talk about. Now that they had worked their way through his list of accomplishments, the conversation was filled with long, awkward pauses.

I went in and started asking questions not related to academics. Where you grew up? What is it like to live in that city and what did you like as a child? Are you still a fan of the local sports teams where you grew up? What was it like having an older brother? What did your parents do?

The conversation resumed each time he walked towards a different group of children. Not wanting to talk about my poor grades and relatively poor resume, I did my best to change the subject and get people to talk about themselves personally.

From there, I was able to relate to something I had in common with each of them.

“Are you a fan of the Bears? I support the Lions, but I wish we had your defense. Did you see the game where we lost that easy field goal at the end? "

“I also have an older sister. Let me guess, she was always mad at you because she had to stay home and babysit when she wanted to go out with her friends from high school. "

"That's great. I played the piano for a few years as a kid, but I didn't stick with it like you do. What's your favorite song to play if you are asked at a party?"

Regardless of the background, I found something in common with everyone at this social event. I wasn't that interesting of a person, but I kept my questions wide enough to connect with anyone I spoke to and kept the focus on everyone but me. This started as a way to protect myself from talking too much about my bad grades and turned into an opportunity to make some friends.

I quickly realized how I would differ in the interview the next day and it certainly had nothing to do with how smart I was.

The interview panel was brutal with five consecutive hour-long interviews. The fifth interviewer asked me this question. At this point, I was fried and gave an answer that I might not have offered if they had asked me in the first interview. I think the exact question was "Can you give me an example that shows your intelligence?"

I responded with the following:

“Well, I met all 24 candidates last night and I met most of them personally. If you asked us to take an IQ test, I'm pretty sure I'd finish 25th. You can see from my resume that I have the lowest GPA of the bunch. If you are looking for me to prove how smart I am, start with the fact that I am even here. Anyone can get an interview invitation for a program like this if they have a 4.0 GPA and all academic honors. I interviewed three managers from your company on campus and still found a way to get an invitation with marginal qualifications.

Also, I am interviewing for a sales leadership program. Today I have learned a lot from the other interviewers about what the program will entail and what it is expected to deliver if I graduate from the program. Today I learned that your best salespeople are great listeners, build amazing customer relationships, and work incredibly hard. I have not heard any interviewer list intelligence as a key attribute for their best salespeople. After meeting the other 24 candidates, I can say with certainty that I can connect with people better than anyone here. I can tell you about all the people who were interviewed today and relate various personal highlights of each of them. "

As an interview manager, I can't say I was a huge fan of this question. I think a lot of interviewers ask this question to show how smart they are as interviewers, not the other way around. At best, I can see the use of this question to determine a candidate's level of humility. Could you tell me how well you work with others, or do you prefer the lone wolf approach that so many highly intelligent people use? I've also been asked "Aren't you ever the smartest person in the room?" in an interview, which is a similar tactic.

If asked this question, play the humble role. Make sure to let the interviewer know that you have always surrounded yourself with smarter people. Minimize your intelligence. Show that you are comfortable not being the smartest in the room, because you rarely will.

Regarding the position I interviewed for, I received one of the five offers and accepted it. I became good friends with the other four who joined the program and all those friendships started at that social event. I wasn't afraid to admit that I wasn't the smartest candidate, but I highlighted what I felt was my natural strength.

As an interview manager, I like to see people who are not intimidated by networking with smarter people. This is how we grow. If you only surround yourself with people who don't pressure you, how can you hope to improve?

I realize that I am not applying for a job at a FAANG company anytime soon, so I don't know what their purpose is, but this question came up once.

I interviewed at SAC Capital in Connecticut. I was interviewing an intelligent man with whom I was a little in love (I am a gay boy). This man would have been my boss if he had accepted the job.

"Show me that you are smart."

I replied: "No."

"That?"

“Smart people don't try such things. They may not even know themselves. "

That answer satisfied him. He went on to other questions. I thought it was a hostile question and

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I realize that I am not applying for a job at a FAANG company anytime soon, so I don't know what their purpose is, but this question came up once.

I interviewed at SAC Capital in Connecticut. I was interviewing an intelligent man with whom I was a little in love (I am a gay boy). This man would have been my boss if he had accepted the job.

"Show me that you are smart."

I replied: "No."

"That?"

“Smart people don't try such things. They may not even know themselves. "

That answer satisfied him. He went on to other questions. I thought it was a hostile question and my "crush" crashed to the ground.

A few days later, when the company offered me the job, I told the recruiter "no." He was very angry with me, he gave me a good ball on the phone. Something like "nobody says NO to these people". The best explanation I could offer was that I didn't feel the chemistry was correct. I found the environment to be a bit aggressive and I was not prepared for that.

A few months later, SAC, Steven A Cohen, was arrested and charged with insider trading. His prosecution was mostly bullshit and he was acquitted, but he fired quite a few people at his company while he sorted out the bullshit. It would probably have been one of them, and it would have cost me dearly. Cohen is one of the private equity moguls modeled after the fictitious Ax Axelrod in "Billions" and SAC Capital reflected its founder's win-win mentality. Being kicked out of a place like that would have been demoralizing and possibly career limiting in future jobs.

Maybe I was smart. Maybe I was lucky. But a question to $$ h @ t helped me see things a little more clearly that day.

Asking someone to prove they are smart is a fool's errand and only a fool will please you.

Answered Question: What would you do if your interviewer said "show me you're smart"?

I start with an observation and then proceed with a clarifying question:

The term "smart" has a couple of common meanings. In a sense, I'm not particularly "smart." This is (indicates my interview outfit with a wave of my arm) I am as elegantly dressed as you will never see me.

The most common sense of the term is sadly quite ambiguous. It can be synonymous with "wise", "scholarly", "educated", "intelligent", "intelligent" or, in a more pejorative sense, "blatantly pompous" or "conceited".

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Answered Question: What would you do if your interviewer said "show me you're smart"?

I start with an observation and then proceed with a clarifying question:

The term "smart" has a couple of common meanings. In a sense, I'm not particularly "smart." This is (indicates my interview outfit with a wave of my arm) I am as elegantly dressed as you will never see me.

The most common sense of the term is sadly quite ambiguous. It can be synonymous with "wise", "scholarly", "educated", "intelligent", "intelligent" or, in a more pejorative sense, "blatantly pompous" or "presumably false".

It could mean any combination of these qualities, or it could have some other notion of it altogether. Since you have specified that the case should be presented specifically to you, we will want to come to a clear understanding of your criteria.

So what would constitute incontrovertible proof, for you, of this proposition?

From there we could have a conversation about the nature of the test and the relative value of this question as it might pertain to the requirements for the position in question. For example, you could follow up with a question like:

How do you think any answer given to this question, presented in this way, will be of predictive value in qualifying a particular candidate for the position we are here to discuss?

Note that I am describing how the conversation might unfold. Much would depend on the circumstances and the conduct of the interviewer. The question, without any indication of tone or accompanying body language, seems confrontational and provocative ... bordering on hostility.

So my answer would be somewhat different depending on the precise position of the interviewer, the details of the possible job, and my own employment and financial situation.

Another tactic you could take, sailing in the wind, so to speak, would be to rhetorically ask if SMART is a business buzzword ... an acronym for something ...

… SMART criteria

… or something like that.

On the other hand, I could, quite frankly, voice my opinion on the interviewer's question, stand up and say that we are done here. I have learned enough to determine that this would not be a suitable situation for me.

I would then appreciate your time and ask to speak to any recruiter or other coordinator who greeted me for this interview (assuming it was a traditional arrangement, on site. Otherwise, I would ask you to convey my apologies to any other interviewers who already was scheduled for sessions with me and I suggest that the recruiter contact me for feedback.

My thanks would be genuinely kind. Not entirely sincere, but kind. That way it would be more efficient.

That latter approach would be reserved for a situation where the behavior is blatantly hostile, the interviewer would have authority directly over the person they will hire, and my situation is whatever may arise, for me, in the foreseeable future. (given that I am happily employed and my skills are in high demand).

In any case, I'll leave it to the imagination of each reader to guess what kind of feedback they would provide to the organization as a whole on how that interview was conducted. Sadly, this would barely rank in the top ten for "least professional" from my actual interview experiences.

The first call I got today, the first business day of the new year, was a recruiter calling me, unsolicited, trying to lure me back to a company where I have worked a couple of times in the past and where I still know a few people. I get some of those calls per month and several of those contacts per week through LinkedIn and direct email; that's after filtering for spam.

Interviewer: Show me that you are smart.

Me: Sir, I need a pen and paper.

Interviewer: Here you go.

Me: (Tears the paper in half and writes something on both halves) Sir, I have written my name on one half and your name on the other half. Now I'll close my eyes and fold these halves as much as you like. Then you make a mark on one of them as an identifying feature and then you ask me to identify whose name is written on that marked half. I'll tell you precisely.

Interviewer: Okay! (It does what I said, it takes about 30 seconds). Now tell me the answer.

Me: (After t

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Interviewer: Show me that you are smart.

Me: Sir, I need a pen and paper.

Interviewer: Here you go.

Me: (Tears the paper in half and writes something on both halves) Sir, I have written my name on one half and your name on the other half. Now I'll close my eyes and fold these halves as much as you like. Then you make a mark on one of them as an identifying feature and then you ask me to identify whose name is written on that marked half. I'll tell you precisely.

Interviewer: Okay! (It does what I said, it takes about 30 seconds). Now tell me the answer.

Me: (After thinking for 30 seconds) Sir, the marked half contains your name.

Interviewer: Okay, yes! You're right. But that may be a lucky guess.

Me: No sir. And I'll show you too.

Interviewer: Go on.

Me: When you were marking the middle, you first thought about marking the half that contains your name, since every human being loves himself. But then you thought that I would probably know and easily say the correct answer and therefore you decided to mark the half that contains my name. But then you thought that I can also think in the opposite way (as I also have a certain degree of cunning) in which I would say that the marked half contains my name because I already have the feeling that the interviewer will not do it like that. easy and direct for me. So you decided to mark the half that contains your name to make it easier for me to give the wrong answer because I was thinking the opposite!

Interviewer: How do you know that I thought so much?

Me: Sir, it took 30 seconds just to mark a piece of paper!

Interviewer: You are smart!

(This method may also fail, but you will still be able to impress the interviewer with your pattern of thought.)

Rohan :)

Interviewer: Show me that you are smart.

CG Pronto:… Shouldn't you know that if you invited me to an interview?

Case 1: The interviewer acknowledges this and we continue the interview.

Case 2: The interviewer keeps asking me if I'm smart, in which case I say I don't think this is the job for me, but thanks for the opportunity to interview me.

Being "smart" is the least interesting thing a person can be. Even being dead is more interesting, it could at least be interesting how the person died and what they were like when they were alive.

I think that as a society we are too obsessed with being "s

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Interviewer: Show me that you are smart.

CG Pronto:… Shouldn't you know that if you invited me to an interview?

Case 1: The interviewer acknowledges this and we continue the interview.

Case 2: The interviewer keeps asking me if I'm smart, in which case I say I don't think this is the job for me, but thanks for the opportunity to interview me.

Being "smart" is the least interesting thing a person can be. Even being dead is more interesting, it could at least be interesting how the person died and what they were like when they were alive.

I think that as a society we are too obsessed with being "smart", and I have a hypothesis about the general reason why society has this emphasis; There is a notion that to do amazing things related to work, people have to be "smart." I'll assume here that smart in this context correlates to some kind of testing mechanism like IQ, GRE, SAT, grades, etc. Therefore, saying that someone is smart means that they can solve problems with definitive solutions in a potentially short space of time. . Good for them.

However, saying someone is smart doesn't mean they're going to have an impact on the world, that they have interests beyond playing video games all day, or that they're really interested in pursuing commonly defined metrics for social success. It just means that they can score higher than x on the y test. While this possibly correlates with the potential to have a dramatic impact on the world, it does not imply it.

I am smart by most metrics. It's not bragging, it's just a statement. I also have a lot of friends who are smarter than me, so I have some experience with the intellectual elite, so to speak. No truly smart person asks another smart person if they are smart, and no truly smart person says they are (save for this single Quora answer). Truly smart people who are going to do something with that intelligence talk about the things they want to do, are doing, or their thoughts about interesting things.

If an interviewer asks me a question about being smart, that interviewer is testing to see if I'm really smart, or it's a bad sign for a variety of reasons:

  • The interviewer thinks that "smart" is the most important thing, rather than using that intelligence to do something.
  • The interviewer did not review my resume and / or did not review the scores of the submitted tests.
  • They don't seem to know that working in a company often requires important interpersonal skills, even more than being "smart."

Regardless, if we are in Case 2, I am out.

The smart thing to do is to realize that this question is not about being smart. It is a test of the ego and the image of oneself. Consider these possible answers.

  1. “I am much smarter than my current co-workers. They are always screwing up and causing me problems. "
  2. “I really don't think I'm that smart. But I work hard. "
  3. "My standardized test scores, graduate and undergraduate studies, research areas, and work history are consistent with a smart person."

# 1 is a red flag as the candidate blames his co-workers for his problems. # 2 indicates that the candidate may have low self-esteem or has

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The smart thing to do is to realize that this question is not about being smart. It is a test of the ego and the image of oneself. Consider these possible answers.

  1. “I am much smarter than my current co-workers. They are always screwing up and causing me problems. "
  2. “I really don't think I'm that smart. But I work hard. "
  3. "My standardized test scores, graduate and undergraduate studies, research areas, and work history are consistent with a smart person."

# 1 is a red flag as the candidate blames his co-workers for his problems. The n. 2 indicates that the candidate may have low self-esteem or difficulty being objective about their performance (for example, due to the Dunning-Kruger effect). # 3 is the most objective answer, but it seems a bit cold. A follow-up like “I've always surrounded myself with smart and talented people to learn from them” might warm you up a bit.

I suspect that some of the "smart" answers listed by others here might not work as they think. In particular, trying to outdo the interviewer is likely to backfire. Remember they asked you why you are smart, not why they are stupid. These responses seem to arise from the anguish that arises from the asymmetry of power in the context of an interview. Showing that you mishandle this asymmetry is a sure way to show that you are going to have problems with people in authority and that you are not a desirable candidate.

I would ask, “Smart compared to what? Do you see gerbils running around talking on cell phones? Lemur driving cars? Any gorillas writing posts on Quora?

“So am I smart compared to other humans? We would have to agree on a criterion to measure human intelligence. I do not believe that an informal argument constitutes evidence. You might like the Stanford IQ test. Well, on that criterion, I'm probably a couple standard deviations above the mean, but we'd have to administer the test to prove it. My statement is not proof.

Are you willing to accept an informal discussion anyway? Well I'm a

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I would ask, “Smart compared to what? Do you see gerbils running around talking on cell phones? Lemur driving cars? Any gorillas writing posts on Quora?

“So am I smart compared to other humans? We would have to agree on a criterion to measure human intelligence. I do not believe that an informal argument constitutes evidence. You might like the Stanford IQ test. Well, on that criterion, I'm probably a couple standard deviations above the mean, but we'd have to administer the test to prove it. My statement is not proof.

Are you willing to accept an informal discussion anyway? Well, I am applying for a position as a senior software developer. I offer my resume as a demonstration that I have faced a lot of problems that most human beings would find very difficult to solve, but you will have to take my word for it that the resume is not a work of fiction. I have two US patents, which you can search by number right now. These can be informal signifiers of intelligence. I have written a book on C ++ that you can find on Amazon right now. I've gotten reasonably good reviews, so this could serve as another signifier.

But it may not be the kind of book-learning intelligence you want to measure. You might want to know how I would fare if I threw myself naked into the jungle to face large predators using only my teeth and nails, and whatever tools I can make from local materials. I would like to discuss with you if this was really an intelligence test, or more of a physical fitness test. I would need your argument to be convincing before I voluntarily submit to the experiment.

I think by the end of the conversation, you will probably be reasonably convinced. Maybe. Or maybe I would find myself naked in the jungle.

"It's been a while since I had to think about that question or they asked me."

"I've been too busy doing things."

All an employer needs is work to do. That's why they even have a job. If the interviewer doesn't understand it, they would spell it out.

"I do not know who you are. I do not know what you want. If you are looking for a ransom, I can tell you that I have no money. But what I do have are very particular skills, skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me an absolute dream to work with people like you. If you hire me now, it will be the end.

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"It's been a while since I had to think about that question or they asked me."

"I've been too busy doing things."

All an employer needs is work to do. That's why they even have a job. If the interviewer doesn't understand it, they would spell it out.

"I do not know who you are. I do not know what you want. If you are looking for a ransom, I can tell you that I have no money. But what I do have are very particular skills, skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me an absolute dream to work with people like you. If you hire me now, it will be the end. But if you don't, I'll find another job, find one, and kill him. "

But that would make me sound like an idiot, and it's risky if the interviewer doesn't have a sense of humor or isn't a fan of the movie Taken.

So I'd just say, “All you need to do is work to do it. That's why you even have this job vacancy, and that's the only reason I'm here. You know I can do this job, because I've already been doing it for other people. I can work independently or in a team. I can get instructions or I can figure things out. If I have any questions, I will ask them first. And most importantly, I don't make excuses. I'll do everything in my power to get the job done, and I've never had a problem getting things done. "

Now if you're lying, you don't want the job anyway. But if not, it couldn't be easier.

And if they don't want you, you don't want to work there anyway, because either there is more to it than just work, or the interviewer is incompetent ... especially if they insist.

"But are you smart?"

To which you could say, "You have shown me that you are an idiot." And it would be true.

Of course, this is a pretty unwise interview question anyway, if you're serious.

Someone who tells you they are "smart" ultimately doesn't tell you anything.

Almost everyone here seems to see the question as an opportunity to outwit the interviewer, which I think is a mistake (assuming you want the job). * Some even assume that the interviewer is "an idiot" for asking the question, apparently also assuming that the interviewer is necessarily trying to figure out how smart the candidate is, or does not understand the popular principle of many science professionals that never nothing has been proven in science. The last thing I would do is try to prove that I am smart, and that would essentially be my answer.

Honestly, I'm not sure about that, if I hadn't seen this question and not

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Almost everyone here seems to see the question as an opportunity to outwit the interviewer, which I think is a mistake (assuming you want the job). * Some even assume that the interviewer is "an idiot" for asking the question, apparently also assuming that the interviewer is necessarily trying to figure out how smart the candidate is, or does not understand the popular principle of many science professionals that never nothing has been proven in science. The last thing I would do is try to prove that I am smart, and that would essentially be my answer.

I'm honestly not sure that if I hadn't seen this question, and thus had time to think without the pressure of a live interview, I would have come up with the following answer. There is a difference between being brilliant in a hypothetical situation and in a spontaneous one.

But, having had the luxury of pondering here, I would say what I always say about testing and testing, which I have said many times on Quora:

I never try to prove things to anyone, because "testing" is always a private event in the mind of the person doing the testing. This is especially true when it comes to the non-physical. There are no words that I can say that have the power to uproot someone else's thought and enforce my affirmations in their mind. Now, I can offer justification as evidence (for abstract things) or show physical proof of physical facts. But I can't force anyone to accept it rationally. The best thing I can do now is refer you to my resume.

This answer is both honest and not insulting to the interviewer, as it does not make him look stupid. And again, they are probably not testing how smart I am, but some aspect of my character.

In which case, many of the answers here would fail miserably.


* Of course, some people are apparently in such high demand that they can afford to ignore interviews if they look down on the interviewer and move on to the next of the dozens they've lined up.

I would say that,

Well, my answer would depend on what you consider to be 'smart'. If you think it is defined as the numbers generated by the metrics in our current educational system, I am sure that you will find many people smarter than me and if that number is your only measure by which you are selecting people today, you should find one of them.

But I think I am smart if you define it by the ability to listen to people with more knowledge than me in a certain area, and combine it with the knowledge obtained from other equally qualified people, in a solution that helps solve a problem that was not appropriate.

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I would say that,

Well, my answer would depend on what you consider to be 'smart'. If you think it is defined as the numbers generated by the metrics in our current educational system, I am sure that you will find many people smarter than me and if that number is your only measure by which you are selecting people today, you should find one of them.

But I think I am smart if you define it by the ability to listen to people with more knowledge than me in a certain area, and combine it with the knowledge obtained from other equally qualified people, in a solution that helps solve a problem that was inaccessible. . to any of those smart, skilled people who tried to come up with a solution on their own.

I'm good at talking to people, understanding them emotionally, and seeing their logic even if I don't agree with where it ends.

I am able to pass that "first-rate intelligence test" as defined by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is having two opposing ideas in my mind at the same time and still functioning.

I am able to take big complex ideas and get to the core of them, translating them into words that other people who may not have such a large vocabulary can understand and work with.

And I am able to figure out when a seemingly simple question may require a long, multifaceted answer to better cover the range of potential meanings within its somewhat ambiguous phrasing.

So if that shows that I'm smart with you, then I've done what you asked me to do and thank you for giving me the opportunity to do it, but ultimately that's up to you and your definition of smart. "

Intelligence can be demonstrated ... to the extent that you believe that IQ tests are a reflection of human intelligence. However, 'intelligence' is situational, requires context and challenge, and is on a sliding scale that changes according to surrounding circumstances.

You cannot be considered smart unless you have accomplished something. And, because you can't prove a past event in words, you rely on using your observation skills at the time to deduce something noteworthy.

In my job hunting days, I enjoyed these kinds of questions ... partly because it allowed me to demonstrate skills other than j

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Intelligence can be demonstrated ... to the extent that you believe that IQ tests are a reflection of human intelligence. However, 'intelligence' is situational, requires context and challenge, and is on a sliding scale that changes according to surrounding circumstances.

You cannot be considered smart unless you have accomplished something. And, because you can't prove a past event in words, you rely on using your observation skills at the time to deduce something noteworthy.

In my job search days, I enjoyed these kinds of questions ... partly because it allowed me to demonstrate skills in addition to 'intelligence'.

I was once asked why I thought the interviewer wanted to see my academic records. Hearing the question, I was able to mediate my answer. “Normally, I suppose you need to meet a performance benchmark… but since you asked that question, what you are probably looking for is an improvement in grades over time. This would suggest a greater interest in the profession that would continue within the workplace ”.

If you want other people to recognize that you are smart, your best option is to prove it. Interviewers don't (or shouldn't) ask this question without providing some support. Search the room for a problem that needs to be solved. It could be a notice, a conveniently placed part document, a diagram on a whiteboard ... something you can evaluate and discuss (even if you have to ask a few probing questions first).

This dialogue will go a long way toward demonstrating your intelligence, as well as your way of working within a team. It will turn what could have been a credible story into a memorable event that connects you directly to the job you hope to land.

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