Right Attitudes

Interviewing Skills #4: Avoid too many ‘I-I-I’ or ‘We-We-We’ answers

A job candidate that I once interviewed claimed credit for a new customer-service strategy across her company. Following the interview, in speaking with her references, I discovered that the candidate was responsible just for implementation of a corporate-wide initiative only in her particular facility. She had done this job exceedingly well; however, the initiative was not her idea, nor was the new IT-system installed to support this initiative, as she had claimed. Further, her work was restricted to her location only. Clearly, the candidate had overstated her achievements. She had likely used too many ‘I-I-I’ answers.

One of the persistent problems with the job interview process is that candidates tend to exaggerate their achievements in their résumés and in interview discussions. Interviewing is, therefore, one of the toughest managerial-tasks: in the 30-or-45 minutes of a face-to-face interview or a telephone interview, it is very difficult to identify specifics of a candidate’s achievements and place them in a border context. A job candidate can easily distinguish himself or herself by helping the interviewer with this challenge.

Avoid Too Many ‘I-I-I’ Answers

In the modern organisation, a lot of work, and consequently, success, is a function of circumstances—of opportunities available and teamwork. Success is often about being in the right place, at a right time, with the right people and doing what is right.

When interviewing, distinguish yourself by clearly demonstrating an understanding of the role of respective contexts in your projects and their successes. Justify your achievements while acknowledging others’ contributions. Use constructs such as “the marketing manager had this great idea. I teamed-up with him, conceptualised the idea and executed the new initiatives in my engineering organisation.”

Too many ‘We-We-We’ Answers are Bad Too

On the other hand, interviewers from specific backgrounds tend to use too many we-answers. Cultural upbringing may encourage these candidates to display humility, be modest in discussing achievements and consequently avoid I-answers where possible.

I can think about numerous instances when I have requested interviewees to stop using we-answers and describe achievements specifically in terms of what the candidate did–by using the I-answers.

Balance is Key

Acknowledging the circumstances and clarifying context of successes helps interviewers develop a broader perspective of your achievements and understand your credentials easily. By carefully balancing the I-answers with we-answers, you can