How to Answer the Most Common Question on LinkedIn, in your Interview and at Happy Hour – Author Philip Blackett

This is a great and quick read……

How to Answer the Most Common Question on LinkedIn, in your Interview and at Happy Hour
July 16, 2014

I don’t claim to be someone who knows everything. However, there is something that I feel pretty confident about.

Whether you are searching profiles to connect with on LinkedIn, being interviewed by a stranger to get accepted into college or to get hired, or networking with new colleagues at a happy hour, there is ONE question that I am sure comes up practically EVERY single time.

And I’m not talking about, “What’s your name?”

It’s usually the question that follows that one. Since I assume that YOU already know how to answer the first question, I’ll move on to the second and, arguably, more important question.

It’s a question that oftentimes gets trite and sometimes boring answers in response. You get a really basic description of the person answering it. However, you could learn so much more about a person if we weren’t so lazy with our responses.

In my best Alex Trebek impression, the question is…

“What do you do?”

Because it’s such a simple question, many of us give a very simple answer to it, similar to when someone asks you “How are you doing?” and you automatically say “Good and you?”

There isn’t much substance there. We didn’t learn anything about the other person.

When we are asked “What do you do?”, we respond with simple, lackluster answers like:

I am an architect.
I teach in elementary school.
I coach high school football.
Unless the profession itself interests you upon hearing the response, you might not be interested and may respond “Oh ok that’s cool” or “That’s interesting” and then move on to something (or someone) else in conversation.

How can you answer this question better?

Include a short BENEFIT of what you do that can be your quick 5-10 second “elevator speech”. This works especially at networking events, since you may not have 30 minutes to fully explain your resume like you may in an interview.

Make sure the benefit describes what you do where the other person has a better idea of WHAT you do, HOW you do it and the VALUE you bring to it.

Here’s a few examples…

Instead of responding, “I am an architect with Company X” like the majority of architects, say:

“I design eco-friendly buildings that add appeal to our city’s downtown area.”
If you are an elementary school teacher, you may be able to say:

“I show 2nd grade students how to use an iPad to complete their homework faster.”
Finally, if you’re a football coach, maybe you can say:

“I teach young men seven key principles about life with the help of a leather ball.”
Obviously, these three responses are much more interesting and more likely to have the other person wanting to learn more about YOU, which is the point when connecting with other people on LinkedIn, interviewing for a job, or meeting new people at a networking event.

Hopefully, this post challenges you to rethink how YOU answer the question “What do you do?” in a way that not only makes you more interesting to others in conversation but also shares the unique value that you bring that can be of service (and benefit) to other people.

Now it’s YOUR turn…

I want to hear from YOU. Whether you are a student or a professional, give me your 5-10 second benefit-driven elevator speech response to “What do you do?” so I better understand what you do and how well you do it. Comment below and let me know.

— Philip Blackett

Are you on Twitter? If so, let’s connect & continue the conversation there too: @PhilipBlackett

If this post is of value to you, please share it with your connections so they can benefit too.

P.S. Want to learn how I’m helping young people best answer this question (and others) so they can ACE their interviews this summer, watch this.


This post is simply here to help you in your professional development. Take what works for you specifically and leave out the rest. While your results may vary, I want to at least share some best practices that have worked for me. One more thing, the views expressed in this post are my views alone. My views are not affiliated, endorsed or sponsored by any company, school or organization that I may be a part of.

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