Every job exists to solve a problem, to respond to an employer’s need. For example, the purpose of accounting is to accumulate and report on a business’s financial information regarding performance, financial position, and cash flow. Using this information, the company’s leadership makes business management decisions, investors decide whether to invest in the company, and financial institutions decide whether to lend it money. You should keep in mind the reason(s) the position you’re interviewing for exists, and ensure you’re checking off the following to have a successful interview:
- Know the company, and ideally, your interviewer’s story.
- Prepare for the two questions you’ll be asked.
- Present yourself as the solution to the company’s problem(s).
- Have questions.
In this column and the next, I’ll discuss being prepared for the two questions your interviewer will surely ask you:
First Question: “Walk me through your resume.” or “Tell me about yourself.”
You’re being asked, “What is your career story?” This is the most critical question you’ll be asked in an interview, so know your career story and be able to deliver it flawlessly! Your career story will either turn on your interviewer or turn them off.
The reason interviewers ask for a candidate’s career story is to determine the candidate is worth investing time in and gauge how well they can articulate who they are. Therefore, you want to tell your career story in a way that’s compelling, relatable, and, most importantly, paints a picture of your competencies.
There’s a scientific explanation for our love of stories: When we hear, read, or see (e.g., movie, Netflix series) a story that resonates with us, our “feel-good” hormone oxytocin levels increase, boosting our feelings of trust, compassion, and empathy. Storytelling, a skill I recommend you become adept at, builds connections. When interviewing, as I mentioned in previous columns, your primary objective is to establish a connection with your interviewer.
Don’t try to improvise. Since you’ll be asked for your career story in every interview, it’s worth investing some time writing out your career story and practicing delivering it.
Your career story shouldn’t take longer than 3 minutes to deliver and should provide details, along with several results—numbers are critical. Mention the number of people you’ve led, the revenue you and or your team generated, the savings you created.
People don’t have short attention spans. They have short interest spans. Make your interviewer interested in you!
Here’s my career story:
“Years ago, I found myself working in Cantel’s call center offering additional services to their customers. I liked it, and I was hitting my targets. Since I had some previous managerial experience managing a furniture store, I approached a recruiter about possibly landing a leadership role in a call center. She presented me to a manufacturer of promotional items that was expanding its outbound call center, Myron Manufacturing. Jackie, my manager at Myron, mentored me on coaching agents, understanding call statistics, and achieving revenue targets. I spent over 5 years at Myron learning the ins and outs of managing a sales-generating outbound call center. I left Myron to challenge myself by going to India for 3 years, building an inbound call center for As Seen On TV products and then managing a third-party call center with 85 agents over 2 shifts. Upon returning to Toronto, I joined The Travel Corporation, the ultimate sales-driven and customer-centric industry, where I supervised 85 agents for eight years. I then joined Crocs for two years as their Customer Service Manager. My next job was with Moneris, where I managed their inbound sales department. My annual revenue target was $47 million, which I reached every year. After leaving Moneris, I worked for 3 years at Cognizant, managing 60 agents who moderated content for Facebook and Instagram. Today I’m the call center operation manager at GFL Environmental Inc., overseeing 200 agents handling inbound call inquiries. For the past 10 years, I’ve been on the advisory board of the Customer Service Professional Network. Some fun facts about me, I’m a weekend golfer, an aspiring writer, and I enjoy taking drives in my ’82 Corvette.”
Your career story should reflect your career in the way you want it to be portrayed and give an insight into your capabilities, along with a few “outside of work” interests. (You’re more than just your work.)
In my next column, I’ll discuss the second question you’ll be asked: Why do you want to leave your current employer?