When interviewing for a job, be careful of the words you use particularly the word “we.”
This is a mistake a lot of professionals make on their resumes and during interviewers.
While you may think you’re communicating that you’re a team player, the fact is the interviewer may see negatively.
I vs We
Today’s work is increasingly becoming dependent on other people. It’s rare to accomplish significant results by yourself. This is especially true as you move higher in the organization and start to manage teams or divisions.
And even them, on smaller or flat organizations, there is a growing trend in companies about cross-functional teams to encourage collaboration.
As a side note, that’s also the reason why project management skills is essential for every professional.
Because of this, not one person can solely claim the results by themselves.
But when you interview for a job, remember that the hiring company is looking to potentially hire you, not your team.
That’s why constantly using the word “we” instead of “I” may lead to them thinking that you didn’t contribute to the result at all.
Highlight Your Contribution
When asked behavioral questions, be mindful of the words you use. Make sure you answer in the first person.
For example, if the interviewer asked about the software migration project you listed on your resume, answer along the lines of “I was in charge of developing the criteria for selecting vendors, picking them, and managed the QA of data transfer” instead of “we completed the migration by following best practices. My team was responsible for developing the criteria for vendor selection, picking the best fit, and managed the overall progress of the project.”
Notice the difference? Read it again if you don’t.
If all your answers fall along those lines, at one point, the interviewer will stop you midway and ask directly “what did you contribute to the project?”
This means the interviewer is pissed off because you keep saying “we did this” or something to that effect. Remember, the company is hiring you (potentially), not your team.
You may feel uncomfortable with this, but this is a fact of life. How you feel is irrelevant to how the interviewer sees your capability. This is technically another variation of not answering the interviewer’s questions.
But Don’t Lie
While there are some who might be hesitant to take credit for the team’s results, there are some who will take advantage of this unfortunately.
Smart interviewers can see through lies.
Through probing questions.
Go back to the sample answer earlier.
I was in charge of developing the criteria for selecting vendors, picking them, and managed the QA of data transfer
From the interviewer’s perspective, this is an okay answer. If you stopped there without explaining the details, they will ask.
- How did you develop the criteria?
- What was the decision-making process like?
- How did you get the word out to the vendors/how did you ensure you were selecting the best of the best?
- What does the QA process look like? What metrics did you use to gauge the effectiveness? How did you develop them?
These are just some of the follow-up questions that may be asked for this single interview question. Interviewers do this because they want to verify whether you can do the job and if you can do it well. The skills necessary to do today’s and tomorrow’s work is not just reliant on one single (technical) skill, rather a combination of different ones (soft skills)– from communication, problem-solving, time management and many more.
All these things are assessed by interviewers. That’s why lying through your teeth about certain accomplishments or projects will only reveal that you’re not a good fit for them.
So wehen you’re interviewing for a job, remember that you’re on stage. The spotlight is on you, not your team. There’s nothing wrong taking credit for the accomplishment of your team. After all, you did contribute to it. But highlight what you did and be honest about what you didn’t. Don’t lie. Interviewers can see through this a mile away.
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