Tag Archives: interviewing

3 things to consider when an interviewer asks, “Why should we hire you?”

For many job seekers, “Why should we hire you?” is one of the most difficult interview questions to answer. Don’t take it from me – take it from my clients, who list this as one of the hardest questions presented by interviewers.

group-interview-2

I understand their concerns. To answer this question, you have to articulate what the interviewer is trying to ascertain. In addition, you have to make your answer relevant to the job at hand and demonstrate the value you’ll bring to the company.

In other words, you can’t use a canned answer for every employer with whom you interview.

The secret to answering this question is that you must address the three things employers look for in their employees. The first is that you can do the job, the second is that you will do the job, and the third is that you will fit in.

1. You Can Do the Job

Having the technical know-how is essential to performing the job and advancing in your career. That includes software and hardware proficiency, specialized knowledge, etc. However, transferable skills can be just as important, if not more important.

It’s imperative that you understand the job extremely well and can address the technical and transferable skills. You do not have to address every single skill in your answer, as that will take too long. Begin your answer with something similar to the following:

“I have a thorough understanding of the role and am confident I can meet the challenges it presents. For example, you require excellent leadership abilities, which I’ve demonstrated in every position I’ve had. You also need someone who can improve the visibility of your organization …”

You can cite additional examples. Just don’t belabor the point.

2. You Will Do the Job

The interview will also want to know if you’re in love with the responsibilities of the role and the mission of the organization. Will you work until the job is finished? Will you overcome obstacles?

Why you want to work for the company is another concern they’ll have. I tell my clients that no company wants someone who’s just looking for any job they can get.

Here’s an example of how you might address your motivation to do the job:

“This position presents an exciting opportunity to take on new challenges that I will embrace. I’ve always stood up to obstacles and worked to overcome them. In addition, I’ve researched this organization and am truly impressed with the product you produce and your mission of helping special groups.”

3. You Will Fit In

Whether or not you’ll be a good fit is a major concern many employers have, and it’s also a tough thing for you to prove. It’s all about your personality. A company doesn’t want to hire someone it will have to let go because the hire couldn’t get along with their coworkers.

Of the three components employers look for in their employees, this might be the most important. There are plenty of talented people out there who can hit the ground running, but not everyone can play well with their colleagues.

Your fit is difficult to prove without data or good recommendations from your references, but try to provide as much hard proof as possible:

“In my performance reviews, I’ve always scored high on interpersonal skills. I know the clients you serve; it will require excellent teamwork in order to serve them effectively. If you ask my former colleagues and supervisors, I’m sure they’ll tell you how I’ve pitched in when needed and without being asked.”


Tying It All Together

Explain how you’ll exceed the employer’s needs based not only on being able to meet the three major components, but also by emphasizing how you will be integral to the success of the company. Going into the interview, know how important your role to the organization is:

“The next marketing specialist you hire will be crucial in creating a strong presence in the direct community and beyond. I can assure you, based on my experience with doing this, I am your person. This is ultimately why you should hire me.”

Learn how to answer other tough questions like:

“What is your greatest weakness?”
“Tell me about yourself.”

This post originally appeared in recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Enri Endrian

Don’t take the telephone interview lightly; be prepared for 4 potential problem areas

 

Recently a former customer of mine told me he was offered an engineering position. He was extremely happy about getting the job and thought he’d enjoy working for the company. I noticed some hesitation in his voice.

man-on-phone

It took five interviews before he was offered the job. These interviews were all conducted over the phone—he never had a face-to-face. This is why he seemed ambivalent about his new position.

If you think a telephone interview isn’t a real interview, you’re sadly mistaken. Telephone interviews are generally thought of as a screening device, but they carry a lot of weight and, in some cases, they’re full-fledged interviews. Often times job seekers don’t take the telephone interview seriously, and this is a huge mistake.

This is the type of response I sometimes get from my workshop attendees when they tell me they have a telephone interview, “It’s just a telephone interview. I hope I get a face-to-face.” I tell them to prepare as hard as they would for a personal interview. Don’t get caught off guard.

Yes, the face-to-face is the next step, but you can’t get there without impressing the interviewer on the other end of the phone, whether she’s a recruiter, hiring manager, HR, or even the owner of a company.

Generally the interviewer is trying to obtain four bits of information from you, areas to which you can respond well or fail.

1. Do you have the skills and experience to do the job? The first of the interviewer’s interests is one of the easiest to meet. You’ve applied for a public relations manager position that’s “perfect” for you.

You have experience and accomplishments required of a strong public relations manager. Your communications skills are above reproach, demonstrated by excellent rapport with the media, business partners, and customers.

In addition, you’ve written press releases, customer success stories, and assisted with white papers. You’ve added content to the company’s website that even project managers couldn’t supply. One of your greatest accomplishments was placing more than 50 articles in leading trade magazines.

2. Are you motivated and well liked? Your former colleagues describe you as amiable, extremely goal oriented, and one who exudes enthusiasm. The last quality shows motivation and will carry over nicely to your work for the next company. You’ve done your research and have decided that this is the company you want to work for; it’s on your “A” list.

When the interviewer asks why you want to work for the company, you gush with excitement and feel a bit awkward telling her you love the responsibilities set forth in the job description.

Further, through your networking you’ve learned about the corporate culture, including the management team. You tell her it sounds a lot like your former company and will be a great fit.

3. Why did you leave your last company? This one is tough for you, because even though you were laid off, you feel a bit insecure and wonder if you were to blame. But of the three reasons; you were laid off, you were let go, or you quit; this is the easiest to explain.

Your company was acquired and there would be duplication with the marketing department that exists for the company that bought yours. You keep this answer brief, 15 seconds and there are no follow-up questions. You’re doing great so far.

4. What is your salary expectation? “So Bill, what are your needs?” The question hits you like a brick. “Excuse me,” you say. “What do you expect for salary? What will it take to get you to the next step?” the interviewer says. Your mind goes blank. You’ve been instructed to handle the question in this order:

  1. Try to deflect the question.
  2. If this doesn’t work, ask for their range.
  3. And if this doesn’t work, give them your range.
  4. When all else fails, you cite an exact figure based on your online research and networking.

You’ve forgotten everything your job coach told you and blurt out, “At my last job I made $72,000.” But this isn’t the question asked. The interviewer wants you to tell her what you expect for salary, not what you made at your last company. “Is this what you had in mind?” you timidly say.

There’s a pause at the other end, and finally the voice thanks you for your time. She tells you if you’re suitable for an interview at the company, you’ll be notified within a week. She says it looks promising for you….

But you know right then that the position hangs in the balance. You’ve spoken first and within 10 seconds said something you can’t take back. You were prepared, but not prepared enough. You didn’t think this interview counted; you’d do better at the face-to-face, if you get there.

Photo: Flickr, Dwight Anthony

3 major Skype interview tips you must know

for skype

As my second daughter prepares to go to college in Maine, my wife and I are figuring out how we can see her frequently. The solution that comes to mind is Skype. How does our concern about communicating with my daughter have anything to do with the job search?

The future of job interviewing may very well be Skype or some other video interviewing software. If you’re a job seeker and haven’t had a Skype interview yet, chances are you’ll have one soon.

Following are important facts and tips concerning this form of interviewing.

Why do companies conduct Skype interviews?

One reason companies use Skype is because it saves time and money. Instead of having job candidates come in for in-person interviews, companies can put the candidates through the drill over computers, tablets, and even smart phones.

An interviewer can see the candidate’s nonverbal clues, such as body language and facial expressions. Does the person come across as relaxed or nervous? Are they maintaining eye contact? Do they look and sound enthusiastic? More so than a telephone interview, Skype is more personal.

One of my close connections, Angela Roberge, recruiter and owner of Accurate Staffing, says this about Skype interviews: “We are in the people ‘business,’ so face-to-face interviews (including Skype) can help you assess the candidate on their ability to present themselves.”

A negative aspect of Skype interviews is their use for discriminating against candidates based on their appearance, including age, race, nationality, etc. Unfortunately the isms exists. On the other hand, interviewers are naturally curious and simply want to see a person before inviting them in for an in-person interview.

A nasty trick an interviewer played on one of my career center customers was turning his camera off, while my customer had to keep hers on. He could see her, but she couldn’t see him. My response to this was to end the interview immediately.

How seriously should you take them?

Do you take pneumonia seriously? This answers the question. In some cases you could be hired after only being interviewed via phone and Skype, particularly if this precludes the need to fly you to meet with someone at the company.

In essence, treat your Skype interview as you would an in-person interview. This means conducting rigorous research on the position, company, and industry/competition. Make sure you’ve memorized your research, as you don’t want to be caught looking to the side at your notes.

Make sure you’re prepared for the difficult questions. A a telephone interview, when the salary question and a rundown of your qualifications to do the job will take place, will most likely precede a Skype interview.

So during the Skype interview you’ll receive behavioral-based and situation questions that will be more challenging. Your response to the answers will have to be delivered as well as if you were in an in-person interview.

As well, your physical reactions will be gauged by the interviewer in terms of your facial expressions and body language. Will you squirm when answering the weakness questions? Or will you answer it with little emotion? Remember, interviewers are watching you.

Logistics of a Skype Interview?

Along with treating the Skype interview seriously, you must make sure your setting and camera are set up for the best possible conversation. As simple as this may sound, improper lighting, sound, and other logistics could blow the interview.

  • Make sure you’re on time for the interview. Discuss with the interviewer who’ll be calling, them or you, and make sure you’re at your computer.
  • Be certain that you’re dressed as if you are attending an in-person interview. Some say you can dress well from your belt up only, but what if you have to get something during the discussion? The fact that you’re wearing pajama bottoms will not bode well.
  • Make sure the connections is strong. I Skyped with a client in St. Lucia and we had to reconnect a number of times. If you have a weak Internet connection, this could cause problems.
  • Your computer’s camera or webcam needs to be eye level; that’s what you’ll be looking at, not the interviewer’s face. Place your laptop on a platform that makes the camera eye-level.
  • Your background should be clear or have very little on the wall. Make sure it’s not cluttered, which can say something about your personality or that you were too “busy” to tidy up.
  • Sound quality is also important. If you’re in an open room, there may be an echo that is quite noticeable. The more objects in the room the better, as long as they’re not visible to the interviewer.
  • Background noise is a no no, just as it is with the telephone interview. Be free of any distractions to you and the interviewer. Your children fighting in the other room can be heard, as well as a loud telephone.
  • Lighting is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of a Skype interview. Here are some pointers: Have your laptop facing a window, not behind it. Lamps placed below you will cause an eerie appearance.

What this outstanding video of the logistics of a Skype interview. http://tinyurl.com/zby4u6n


As said earlier, Skype interviews are becoming more common; so you need to be prepared. I suggest you take some time two nights before the interview to set up an account and practice Skyping with a close friend or relative to make sure things go smoothly.

When my daughter goes off to school, my wife and I will Skype her. We’ll be able to hear how things are going in Maine, as well as read her facial expressions; much like interviewers do with candidates.

Photo: Flickr, Aleta Pardalis

10 reasons why you’re not a fit for the job

Nervous Candidate

And you’ll never know which one.

“You aren’t the right fit.”

This is the default answer recruiters and hiring managers give job candidates when the hiring manager (HM) doesn’t hire them. But it’s as vague as the answer my son gives me when I asked how school went. “Fine.”

Though you may never know why exactly you weren’t hired, keep in mind that it may not be something you did wrong. You didn’t screw up the interview because you said your greatest weakness is you don’t spell well. Or you couldn’t come up with a story about when you saved a project from failing.

No, there were other reasons why you weren’t “a good fit.” Here are some possibilities:

You’re not a purple squirrel. This is a term to describe a candidate who has 15 out of 15 qualifications for the job, which is nearly impossible. Of if you have all the qualifications, there’s something else you lack.

Perhaps you don’t have the personality the HM is looking for. Don’t worry if this is the reason, because the position will remain open forever, or at least until you find your next job.

You’re too old. Sadly—a word my daughter likes to use—this is a fact of life. Some, not many, HMs look at age as a reason to disqualify candidates from consideration. They’re ignorant to the value of the mature worker.

The major concern is money, or output, or flexibility. You did your best to dispel theses bogus reasons, so move on to employers who value you for your extensive experience, maturity, dependability, etc.

Legitimate reasons. Legitimate reasons such as relocation, compensation, or other financial issues. Hiring a candidate is a business transaction, so if you’re going to put too much of a dent into the company’s pocketbook, there’s only one solution—the company ends the business transaction.

Or you just don’t make the grade, whether it’s because you lack the technical skills or you don’t have the personality for the work environment—no fault of yours.Trudge on to the next opportunity with lesson learned.

They went with someone inside. It’s not uncommon for a company to advertise a position even when they have an internal hire in mind. But the company wants to make certain that they hire the best possible person, so they test the water and conduct a traditional search.

You’re better qualified but not as well known as their internal candidate. As well, the company is fostering good will among its employees. Unfortunately, some organizations will hold interviews, despite knowing they’ll hire from within.

You’re too good. Many job seekers have told me that the hiring manager who interviewed them was less knowledgeable; that they could do the HM’s job. This was apparent the minute the conversation began.

Understandably the HM felt insecure, harboring “you’ll-take-my-job” feelings and decided to go with a safer, less qualified candidate. Perhaps one of the other candidates the recruiter sent to them for consideration.

Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers. Many HMs aren’t trained to conduct interviews to capture the most complete candidate. Their priority is usually hiring someone who has the best technical qualifications.

In finding someone who can handle the responsibilities in their sleep, HMs neglect other important aspects of the job—motivation to do the job, and being able to work with other.

Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases. Nepotism is one blatant reason why people are hired for a position. One of my customers was told she was being let go so the owner could hire his cousin. He actually admitted it to her.

And there’s always a candidate’s appearance, attractive or not, that may come in play. I remember working at a company where the director of sales coincidentally hired beautiful, incompetent women. It was a running joke among the employees.

You’re brought in for the wrong position. Has this happened to you? You applied for a particular position but are surprised to learn that the questions being asked are not ones you prepared for.

Job responsibilities change midstream possibly because the HM is new and has other needs she needs met. This can throw anyone off their game, so don’t sweat it if you don’t do as well as you’d like at the interview.

Sometimes hiring managers don’t have a choice. As a favor to a “friend,” an HM will have to hire someone who most likely isn’t qualified. This is the most bogus reason, in my mind, especially if there are qualified candidates.

Usually this is a strong suggestion from someone higher up in the organization, and there’s not much an HM can do about it, except to argue against hiring someone who isn’t a fit for the position. This comes at great risk to the HM and is probably not worth it.

Okay, you didn’t do too well at the interview. But this doesn’t mean you were wrong for the position. There are times when job candidates are not on their A game, when they don’t answer the tough questions or show enthusiasm for the position or company. It happens.

This can explain being the wrong fit; a poor performance at the interview. It’s time to move on to the next position. (The good news, if you’re dying to work at a particular company, you can apply for other positions, interview with other HMs, and quite possibly get a job.)


What we’re left with after a candidate isn’t hired for one, or many, of these reasons mentioned above is a disheartened job seeker; a recruiter who won’t receive her bonus; and an HM who hopes he has hired the ideal person for the job.

There’s only one winner out of the possible hundreds of candidates in the process. I’m not stupid enough to believe telling you the reasons why you didn’t get the job will provide you any solace, but hopefully you’ll understand that you’re not to blame.

Photo: Flickr, bm_adverts

Here are 4 areas in your job search where you’re broadcasting your age

make mistake

One concern I hear from job seekers in their 50’s and above is the prevalence of ageism they encounter in their job search. While I don’t disagree with these job seekers that it exists, I also tell them that they could do a better job of not broadcasting their age.

There are four major areas where older job seekers need to be cognizant of how they present themselves:

  • Résumé
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Networking
  • The interview

If you’re an older job seeker and feel that you are experiencing ageism, take a close look at these major areas and ask yourself if you are broadcasting your age.

Your Résumé

You’re definitely broadcasting your age if you begin your Performance Profile with, “More than 30 years of progressive project management in manufacturing.” Just do the math. That puts you at least around 55, or quite possibly higher.

Another way you’re broadcasting your age is by listing every job you’ve had since the 80’s. Many job seekers feel that going back 25 or more years demonstrates relevant experience, but this is erroneous thinking; technology and procedures have changed. I advice job seekers to go back no further than 10 or 15 years.

The most obvious way to broadcast your age is by listing your graduation date from university or high school. Someone who graduates from university in 1985 makes them around 55. (I know this because I graduated in 1987.)

I’m often asked, “Why should we lie? They’re  going to know our age when we get to the interview.” True, they will or can guess  your age when you get to the interview, but the idea is to get to the interview, where you’ll have the opportunity to sell yourself based on the benefits of a mature worker.

Besides, you’re not lying. You’re just not disclosing the whole truth.

For more résumé writing tips, read this article.

Your LinkedIn Profile

Here’s the most obvious way to broadcast your age…you don’t have a LinkedIn profile.

Here’s another shout out: you don’t have a photo. What is a recruiter to think when they don’t see a photo? The answer is that you’re trying to hide something.

Here you’re probably thinking that I’m contradicting myself. I shouldn’t reveal my age on my résumé, but it’s alright to show my age with a photo? Here’s the thing; your profile is a networking document and without one, you’re killing your networking opportunities.

When people tell me they don’t have a photo because they look too old, I have two responses. First, it’s not your age that matters, it’s the quality of the photo. A little brushing up doesn’t hurt, and if you want to color your hair (guys), that’s an option.

My second point is perhaps the salient; you’ll never know if you’re the victim of ageism because the few employers daft enough not to give you a second look won’t contact you. Whereas the ones who appreciate an older worker will reach out.

But really, LinkedIn is a networking application, and to network you need to come across as personable. This means having a photo which makes you memorable and shows your personality.

Finally, like your résumé, you providing too much irrelevant information can also be a give away. I suggest being consistent with the number of years you list on your résumé. This has more to do with relevance than anything.

While Networking

I’ve heard people broadcast their age by saying to me, “I’ve been out of work for six months, probably because of my age.” Or “Getting a job will be tough because I’m over 55.” Or “Would you hire someone my age?”

To the last remark, I think, “No. Not because of your age; because you’re already giving up the fight.” If you want someone in your corner—going to bat for you—you need to come across as confident; not demonstrating a defeatist attitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d have the same concern if I were to lose my job. But I also believe that to dwell on your age and talk about it while networking is a complete turn off. It doesn’t express your value; it detracts from it.

Your goal is to show value with whomever you speak; this includes people who can be your greatest allies. It’s not only people you network with at organized events; it’s also people in your community and your former colleagues.

To show vitality, dress in more fashionable clothes. I’m not suggesting that you dress like my teenage boy, but perhaps drop the expensive all-weather wool slacks and opt for Khakis. Nice polo shirts during the summer hours are great.

And please smile. A smile goes a long way in terms of showing friendliness and enthusiasm, two traits all networkers appreciate. Someone who constantly appears negative or angry is not going to attract the networking bees.

During the Interview

Older job seekers tell me it’s in the interview where they experience blatant ageism, whether it’s because of the interviewers’ body language or the questions interviewers ask. But how the job seeker feels may not be reality; it may be a preconceived notion.

The first mistake an older  job seeker can make is going into the interview thinking they’ll suffer discrimination. It is written on their body language and evident by their attitude. Their EQ rapidly plummets, and the game is already lost.

Instead of assuming the worse, you should dispel the myth that older workers are not physically up to the challenge by entering the room with a skip in your step. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. Show vitality immediately.

Your firm handshake and steady eye contact are very important in demonstrating your confidence and strong presence. Don’t disregard these first impressions, as they speak volumes about your personality.

Have I mentioned smile?

As well, speak with confidence, addressing the interviewer/s with clarity and the proper tone. Timidity is not how you want to project yourself. Separate yourself from younger job seekers who are not self-assured.

When you answer questions be sure you answer them with confidence and always include statements about how you are willing to learn new technologies or procedures. Talk about your ability to work with a diverse group of people.

If you are directly asked how old you are (it’s happened), don’t get indignant and say, “That’s an illegal question, and I refuse to answer it.” (Unless you want to end the interview.) Instead answer truthfully and follow up with the benefits someone your age offers an employer.

Most importantly always provide answers that express the value you’ll bring to the company. The interviewer/s cannot discount this, especially if you include quantified results in your answers.

Remember that you have more job, and life, experience than your counterparts and can hit the ground running. Employers want people like you. Believe this.


These four areas of the job search are essential to your success. Maintain the mentality that you are young in spirit, yet more experienced than younger workers. Remember that you have much more to offer in terms of your maturity and EQ.

Sure there will be challenges, but you’ve faced many challenges and have successfully overcome them. This is yet another strength of older workers. Continue to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

5 successful ways to be proactive in your job search

looking

Some job seekers tell me they turn on their computer every day to log on to Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and other job boards. They spend many hours a day applying for posted jobs, sending as many as 20 cookie-cutter résumés out a week, anticipating a call from a recruiter or Human Resources.

And they wait.

To these job seekers I point out the futility of a job search like this, explaining that if they want faster results, they have to be more proactive. I tell them this in my Career Networking workshop.

First I talk about the Hidden Job Market (HJM) which is a concept they understand, but I’m not sure they accept. When I tell them connecting with others is the best approach to penetrating the HJM, I can hear them thinking how difficult it will be to get outside their comfort zone, to get away from their computer.

The message I deliver is that they have to be proactive, not reactive. They have to take control of their job search, not let it control them. Here are five ways you can be proactive in your job search:

Approach letters. These documents are sent to companies of interest. Here’s the kicker: no job has been advertised. (Advertised jobs represent only 20%-30% of the labor market.) You’re not reacting to an advertisement; rather you’re sending them unannounced.

Approach Letters are ideal if you prefer writing more than using the phone. Introverts may favor this way of contacting an employer. Whereas, extraverts may prefer simply picking up the phone.

The goal is to get networking meeting or better yet, chance upon a possible opening that hasn’t been advertised. You must describe your job-related skills and experience and show the employer that you’ve done research on the company to boost the employer’s ego.

Good ole’ fashion networking. Normally we think of networking as strictly attending organized meetings where other job seekers go, doing their best not to seem desperate. (I’ll admit that this type of networking is unsettling, although necessary.)

The kind of networking I’m referring to is the kind that involves reaching out to anyone who knows a hiring manager.

Most of the people who contact me after they’ve secured a job tell me that their success was due to knowing someone at the company or organization. You must network wherever you go.

Network at your kid’s or grandchildren’s basketball games, at the salon, while taking workshops, at family gatherings (see Any Time is Time to Network)—basically everywhere.

Volunteering as a way to find work. This method of being proactive works. Granted it is tough to work for free, volunteering offers great benefits. The first of which is it’s a great way to network. Think about it; you’re in a great environment to discover opportunities from the people with whom you’re volunteering.

Let’s say you’re volunteering with an organization that deals with vendors, partners, and customers. They’re all great people to gather advice and information. You are ALWAYS keeping your eyes open for opportunities.

Another benefit of volunteering is enhancing the skills you have, or learning new ones, to be more marketable. If you lack certain software, such as PeopleSoft, seek organizations that use this software or would like to implement it. Who knows; you may prove to be so valuable that you develop a role in their finance department.

Finally, volunteering is a great source of fodder for you résumé. I tell my clients that if their volunteer experience is extensive, they should include it on this document. Just write “Volunteer Experiend” in parenthesis. 

LinkedIn and other social media outlets. I recently received an In-mail from someone who is currently working but is not enjoying her experience. I’ll keep my ears open for the type of position she’s looking for because she asked me to.

LinkedIn members who know the potential of this  professional online networking tool  reach out to other LI members for information and contact leads. Practice proper etiquette when reaching out to your connections. In other words, don’t request an introduction to someone the very first time you communicate with a new connection.

Another one of my job seekers is doing everything possible to conduct a proper proactive job search. He updates me on his job search and sends me job leads for me to post on our career center’s LinkedIn group. I’ve got a good feeling about this guy. He’s being very proactive by using LinkedIn and his vast personal network of professionals.

Follow Up. Allow me to suggest a must-read book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I think this guy gets more publicity from me than any author I’ve read. The reason I recommend this book is because none of these three proactive approaches are useful unless you follow up on your efforts.

Never Eat Alone teaches you how to network in every situation and then how to keep your network alive by following up with everyone. I mean everyone. Send an approach letter, then follow up with the people to whom you’ve sent it. Network face-to-face, then follow up. Connect with someone on LinkedIn…you guessed it, then follow up.

Of course you need to follow up after an interview. Many employers complain that candidates don’t send a follow-up note, and some candidates are eliminated because of this. So take the time to write a brief follow-up note. It’s well worth the time.


Being proactive sure beats the hell out of only reacting to jobs that have been advertised and visible to hundreds, if not thousands of other job seekers. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and yields more results than exclusively participating in the visible job market. Being proactive makes you believe that the job search will finally come to a halt, that the job search is in your hands.

Photo: Flickr, EasyBranches

Leaving “I” out of your interview answers is NOT noble. Use a 4-step process to answer interview questions

interview with woman

When I ask my workshop attendees to answer an interview question, some of them refuse to talk about their role in a past assignment. An article on Recruiting Blogs details this problem job seekers have, the unwillingness, or inability to describe their role in a situation.

For example, I ask my workshop attendees a question like, “Tell me about a time when your diligence paid off in completing a project on time.” An incorrect answer sounds 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. 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.

Note: when appropriate, job candidates need to mention the contributions of those who helped in the process. It is not only about the candidate.

This answer, using the STAR formula, is more satisfying, as it describes the candidate’s specific contribution.

The Situation

As part of a five-member team, we were charged with writing a report necessary to continue funding for an outside program.

My task

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.

My actions

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 was responsible for directly 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

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.

Certainly there are times when employees don’t work alone and 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.

Allow me to quote directly from the article:  “…after an hour I still don’t quite understand what this person’s involvement was on any of their most recent projects even though they were all delivered successfully, on time and under budget.”   What I did understand involved a whole lot of we, us, and the team, which leaves me to wonder whether they’re a good team player or just a player on a good team.  I don’t have a spot on my team for the latter…”

Photo: Flickr, Renee Bertrand