Recently in a Résumé Writing workshop, I asked an attendee to tell the story behind a verbose accomplishment statement she had on her résumé. (Yes, I ask interview questions in Résumé Writing.) Immediately she used the personal pronoun “we.” I called her on this, and she said she’s still in the mindset of team. I get that.
But in the job search, who’s on your team? You could say your buddy group, career advisors, friends, spouse, etc. But when it really comes down to it, you’re the one who is dealing with the ups and downs of the job search; submitting your résumé; engaging on LinkedIn; going to networking events; sitting in the hot seat; and following up.
How to answer a question the incorrect way
I ask a workshop attendee, “Tell me about a time when your diligence paid off in completing a project on time.” An incorrect answer goes like this:
“We were responsible for putting out the quarterly report that described the success of our training program. We worked diligently gathering the information, writing the report, and sending it to the Department of Labor. We met our deadline and were commended for our efforts.”
Here’s the problem: there’s nothing about the job seeker’s role in the situation. As the interviewer, I don’t want to hear about what the team accomplished, nor will employers. I want to hear about a candidate’s contribution to the overall effort.
How to answer a question the correct way
Here’s the question again: “Tell me about a time when your diligence paid off in completing a project on time.”
This answer, using the STAR formula, is more satisfying, as it describes the candidate’s specific contribution.
Read this article, Use 6 important components when telling your interview stories.
As part of a five-member team, we were charged with writing a report necessary to continue funding for an outside program.
I was given the task of gathering information pertaining to participant placement in jobs and then writing a synopsis of their training and jobs they secured.
I started with noting how I recruited 20 participants for the training program, a number I’m happy to say exceeded previous expectations of 10 participants. This required outreach to junior colleges, vocational schools, and career centers, where people desiring training were engaged.
Step two involved writing detailed descriptions of their computer training, which included Lean Six Sigma and Project Management. Then explaining how this training would help them secure employment in their targeted careers. I collaborated with the trainers to get accurate descriptions of the two training programs.
Next, I interviewed each participant to determine their learning level and satisfaction with the program. All but one was extremely satisfied. The person who was not satisfied felt the training was too difficult but wanted to repeat the training. She noted she was very happy with the expertise of our trainer.
As well, I tracked each participant over a period of four months to determine their job placement. Jobs were hard to come by, so at times I approached hiring managers at various manufacturing companies in the area in order to speed up the process. I engaged in finding jobs for four of the twelve people, even though it wasn’t my responsibility.
Finally I took the lead on writing a five-page report on what the members of the team and I had accomplished in the course of three months. Other members of the team were of great help in making sure all the “is” were dotted and “ts” were crossed and that the report was delivered on time to Boston.
The result was that we delivered the report with time to spare and were able to keep funding for the project for another year. I worked hard and was integral to proving to the DOL that the project was successful, but it took a lot of collaboration to bring project all together.
Note: when appropriate, job candidates need to mention the contributions of those who helped in the process. It is not only about the candidate.
Certainly there are times when employees require the assistance of others, but they always have a specific role in the situation. Prospective employers want to hear about the candidates’ role in the situation, not the teams’ overall role. It is best to answer the question using the STAR formula, which demonstrates the situation, task (your), action, and result.
Photo: Flickr, Mehul Pithadiya