After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I am, I said.

Category: tips for candidates
     Over-use of the "I" word is sometimes discouraged in polite society because it may seem self-absorbed or boastful. But a job interview is one time when it is appropriate to tout your strengths and trumpet your accomplishments using the "I" word confidently and often.
     During interviews, I have noticed a tendency for job candidates to speak of their achievements in terms of "We" rather than the more personal and specific "I". When this happens, I often find myself wondering exactly how much or how little my candidate had to do with these achievements.
Compare and contrast the following pairs of statements:
# # #
WE increased sales by 20% in the Midwest Region in 2009.
I increased my sales from 5 million to 6 million widgets in 2009.
# # #
WE initiated procedures that would more accurately track sales vs. cost of sales.
I created a spreadsheet that automatically updated all tracking information whenever a new sale was entered.
# # #
WE won our hot dog eating contest by downing 75 hot dogs in an hour.
I ate 27 hot dogs in our hot dog eating contest and promptly threw up.
# # #
    In each case, the "I" sentence provides more accurate information about the speaker's level of involvement in an activity. "We" connotes an undefined level of participation; "I" connotes ownership, for bigger or smaller, for better or worse. At a job interview, you must own your accomplishments.
    (Of course, you do not want to claim ownership of an achievement that is not, in fact, yours to own. Better to claim the gold nugget that you deserve rather than grab for the gold bar that belongs to someone else.)

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