What Are the Key Ingredients in Guiding Successful Business Relationships?

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Hiring managers often ask “What- in your opinion- are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful business relationships?” when seeking candidates for a job that requires extensive communication. Similar interview questions are “what are the most important aspects of building strong client relationships?” and “how would you go about building a rapport with staff that works in other divisions?” The question should be a hint to you that success in the position would depend on your ability to build and nurture important relationships- and these might have complex histories or need to be started from scratch.

Likely the hiring manager is trying to figure out if you are a person who can be trusted to build rapport- a so called “soft skill” that is of utmost importance in many organizations. You can successfully answer this question by thinking back to past positions or college experiences where your job depended on initiating and maintaining contact with key individuals. A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to your response- as your goal is to help the hiring manager imagine you motivating other people to support the company’s initiatives.

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How to Answer the ‘What- in Your Opinion- Are the Key Ingredients in Guiding and Maintaining Successful Business Relationships?’ Question

Generalize Your Relationship-Building Experiences: Think back through your career up to this point. Were you ever given a project in which you needed to communicate with a remote colleague or vendor? If you worked in sales- did you cultivate relationships with clients or successfully maintain existing accounts? If you worked in a coffee shop- how did you keep customers happy to keep them coming back? The idea is to think about your successes- then narrow down those experiences to a few “take home” words so that even if you worked in a different industry as the hiring manager- the ideas resonate.

Turn Failure Into a Learning Opportunity: If “what are the key ingredients in guiding successful business relationships?” is an interview question that brings you anxiety because you’ve found it challenging to do so in past positions- it’s time to do a little digging. Use reputable sources to compare best practices to what you already know. For example- think of how you could have applied the tip “do at least as much listening as you do speaking.” If you worked in marketing- think of how by being a more active listener you could have tailored your proposal to the client. If you have a customer service background- think of how important it was to listen to customers- and how crucial it was to pay close attention to training given by senior staff so you could ask experienced colleagues the right questions when dealing with a complex issue.

Regularly Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes: One-sided business relationships are bound to fail. For example- if you consult regularly with a colleague for technical guidance- are you available to help that person when she or he needs to know something in your area of expertise? If the person hasn’t asked for your help yet- try finding ways of sharing valuable information with the individual on occasion. If your duties will include asking others to do something for you- think about how they will feel each time your requests come in- and you could adjust your strategy accordingly.

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Sample ‘What- in Your Opinion- Are the Key Ingredients in Guiding and Maintaining Successful Business Relationships?’ Interview Answers

1. I would say first- seek to understand both sides. I think of what I have to offer the other person and share my knowledge and services whenever possible- rather than only focusing on what the individual can do for me. Second- it’s good to keep in contact with individuals I’m not actively working with. Sharing valuable information rather than noise on email and social networks is good for accomplishing this- especially if it’s a mix of direct and general contact. A final key is squeezing in personal time. If I’m on a business trip- I’ll reach out to contacts I have in that city to see if they have time to catch up.

2. I’d say being a great observer- being an open communicator and having a good sense of humor. On the first point- active listening really helps in business relationships. I try to pick up on others’ personal details and keep those bits in mind as I interact with them. Regarding communication- I like to be open and honest all of the time. If I don’t know something- I have no trouble saying “I don’t know- but let me look into that and get back with you.” Finally- having a sense of humor cuts through the tension and stress that often come with challenging work. I find if I don’t take myself or others too seriously- people enjoy working with me and look forward to future opportunities to collaborate with me.

Now that you’re prepared to answer one of the most difficult interview questions- get ready to take charge of your chance at landing your dream job!

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