Monday, May 1, 2017

Stop being so humble in interviews! Use "I" NOT "We"

          After reading the headline, you must be wondering "isn't that counter-intuitive?", "Shouldn't I use - we - to give people/my team due credit for their contributions?"

The underlying issue is not about giving people credit but is about MASKING what YOU contributed to a certain project, assignment, talk, code, launch, solution etc.

I've interviewed multiple candidates over the years and I notice everyone abuses "We". People use it far too often while describing their work. That nullifies the impact of their contribution and starts to hurt their credibility.

How? When you are interviewing, the job is for you and not your team/peers, right? So shouldn't the answer also focus on your contribution to a work situation & not what "We" did?

The interviewer is only interested in one thing - What did you do to succeed (or even fail, it does not matter) on your team? What did you contribute to the company you worked for/college you studied at? What skills you applied to get the overall results?

It is true, anything you do involves team effort & achievements are mostly collective. But while statements like:
  • We worked on project A breaking a new revenue record in 2015 (or)
  • We launched this new website that got the 10th best traffic in the country etc.
…sound great, you don't realize the person interviewing you:
a) already knows it is a joint effort (else what you did is superhuman and she/he will probe more anyway)
b) really wants to know if you contributed at all to that massive launch or the successful revenue record or that groundbreaking code.

Of course, if you continue your humble trend, you not only are giving the interviewer scarce information to make good decisions but are also leading the interviewer to wonder if you actually did things that matter or are just riding on someone else's collective success.

The solution is NOT to start adding "I" to everything and taking credit from people who did the work but thinking of your part of the work you want to talk about.

Flipping the above example:

Instead of saying the humble yet hurting "We worked on project A breaking a new revenue record in 2015" or stealing credit from a team effort saying "I worked on project A breaking a new revenue record in 2015", you can reflect on what you did and maybe say "I worked on pre-sales presentation for Project A that broke a new revenue record in 2015" which showcases your specific contribution i.e. building pre-sales material!

Pro Tip: When preparing for interviews,
A) Thoroughly read through job descriptions and ensure you know what skills you need to get that job. Example a sales job in Company X mentions you require: Pre-sales, cold calling, presentation skills and deal closing experience to be successful. Be aware of these skills and keep that list handy!
B) Now, list all achievements you have had in your previous work/internship/study experience. It could be team achievements (or) at times even solo performances!
C) Separate the "I or Yourself" from these achievements. See where all you did pre-sales (or) cold calling (or) a successful presentation etc. and build stories accordingly. Use the famous S.T.A.R. technique to polish your stories!

Your team may have crushed revenue every quarter, but only what you did matters for the interviewer!

Remember, do not steal credit, but give yourself credit where it is due. Otherwise, you will come across as a person who was at the right place at the right time.

If you've earned it, proudly say:
I launched
I did
I built
I sold
I crushed!

Hope you enjoyed MY write up ;) In the upcoming blogs, you will get a mix of some interesting business networking tips. We will also shortly continue with the video series! In the meanwhile:

Are you guilty of meaninglessly sprinkling "we" in your interviews? Have you been trying hard to come across as humble only to hurt your credibility?

If yes, it's time to shift gears to the not-so-humble "I". In your next interview/interview-practice use "I" and passively observe your:
  • answer delivery,
  • reaction from interviewer/observer,
  • confidence.

Write to us about your new experience at We would love to hear from you and further add pointers!

“Do your best, and be a little better than you are.” 

Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy – Unsplash)

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