We spend hours, days, weeks, even months scouring job boards around the web looking for opportunities. We’re becoming social media gurus, forming connections and building our network in hopes to get a foot in the door with a great company. It all leads up to the interview, a 30-60 minute window in which you’re put on a platform and asked to prove your worth.

It's not all about you

It can be a grueling process – and let’s face it, wherever you are on the ‘confidence meter’, no one is a fan of going through the interview ringer. It’s stressful, it’s frustrating, and talking yourself up can be a daunting task. You’re wondering how to cut your resume down to one measly page, what experience to include and what you’ll have to leave out. But rather than not saying enough, you may actually be saying too much.

There’s a common misconception amongst the job seekers of our generation. A potential company doesn’t want to know about you, they want to know what you can do for them. Your resume shouldn’t focus on personal qualities, it should focus on the results you’ve presented to your former employers. How much revenue did your contribution to the team generate? What new systems and practices did you implement? Stop focusing on yourself and start presenting the tangible, measurable and relevant skills that will benefit the company. Below are a few do’s and dont’s when it comes to nailing a job interview, from someone who’s ‘been there’ before and living in it as we speak.

DON’T get caught up in talking about your past, but relate your past experiences with clear benefits to the company you’re interviewing with.

DO limit your resume to one page. More than likely you don’t have an abundance of relevant work experience at this stage in the game, better to leave it off than exaggerate. Your interviewer can and will read between the lines.

DON’T talk down about your previous employment. Be honest yet optimistic. Put a positive spin on everything – if nothing else, every previous experience has taught you something and helped you develop into the person you are today.

DO tailor your resume and marketing perspective to the position you’re applying for. Your resume should continually adapt to highlight the assets you’ll bring to that particular job.

DON’T be afraid to say “I don’t know” – It’s a waste of time to dance around a question you have no answer for. Suck it up and admit that you don’t know, but would like to learn more.

It’s more than OK to be proud of all your accomplishments – but you also have to learn to accept that it’s not all about you. You could be a brilliant creative marketing mind but if you’re applying for an accounting position, they want to know how you can apply your analytical skills to enhancing company productivity (just an example). Do some research before walking into an interview, and tailor your approach based on the companies needs. When you stop talking about yourself and start talking about the value you’ll bring to the company, you’ll outsmart (and outshine) your competition.

There are no better experts than those of us who are out there fighting in the trenches. Share some career-seeking and interview wisdom in the comments below.

Join the conversation! 50 Comments

  1. Hi Matt – Thanks for posting this article. As a jobseeker, I am open to finding ways to improve my search and better articulate my experience and skills (while letting future employers understand what I can do for them). I agree that jobseekers should remain optimistic! We should also let potential employers know how we have used our downtime to improve our technical and soft skills. For example, I have been studying to be a certified PMP (Project Management Professional), volunteering, doing odd jobs for friends, etc. while also networking. This shows we are keeping our skills sharp and not watching bad daytime TV or hitting the beach everyday! Looking forward to reading more comments and suggestions.

    Reply
    • Great point Chanthana – It’s important to relay that we’re spending our ‘downtime’ wisely, which should consist of more than ‘job searching’. I’ll reiterate the importance of maintaining a positive attitude about past experience, even if it wasn’t a good experience, odds are you learned something that helped shape and mold you into what you are today.

      Reply
  2. Hi Matt – Thanks for posting this article. As a jobseeker, I am open to finding ways to improve my search and better articulate my experience and skills (while letting future employers understand what I can do for them). I agree that jobseekers should remain optimistic! We should also let potential employers know how we have used our downtime to improve our technical and soft skills. For example, I have been studying to be a certified PMP (Project Management Professional), volunteering, doing odd jobs for friends, etc. while also networking. This shows we are keeping our skills sharp and not watching bad daytime TV or hitting the beach everyday! Looking forward to reading more comments and suggestions.

    Reply
    • Great point Chanthana – It’s important to relay that we’re spending our ‘downtime’ wisely, which should consist of more than ‘job searching’. I’ll reiterate the importance of maintaining a positive attitude about past experience, even if it wasn’t a good experience, odds are you learned something that helped shape and mold you into what you are today.

      Reply
  3. I’ve found that being very personable during the interview can make you memorable to the interviewer. If you can create a feeling of ease or find a common ground, it leaves a good impression. One way to do this is to ask questions about the interviewer, how they got there, the company, or anything business related really. People generally like to talk about themselves and what they do, so they won’t mind this. Sure, people want the skills too, but they are also looking for people who are easy to get along with.

    Reply
    • GREAT point Valerie. I always have several questions for the person I am interviewing with – there’s nothing worse than having that awkward silence at the end when they ask if you have any question and you’ve got nothing to say (although sometimes this is inevitable). One of my personal favorites is to ask a person what THEIR favorite part of the job is. Really helps you get some insight into their level of enthusiasm and the overall culture of the company. And lastly, being yourself is huge – you only have to dig a couple weeks back in the archives to see my thoughts on being someone you’re not when looking for a job (http://www.lifewithoutpants.com/career-search/how-far-are-you-willing-to-go-for-your-dream-job/).

      Reply
  4. I’ve found that being very personable during the interview can make you memorable to the interviewer. If you can create a feeling of ease or find a common ground, it leaves a good impression. One way to do this is to ask questions about the interviewer, how they got there, the company, or anything business related really. People generally like to talk about themselves and what they do, so they won’t mind this. Sure, people want the skills too, but they are also looking for people who are easy to get along with.

    Reply
    • GREAT point Valerie. I always have several questions for the person I am interviewing with – there’s nothing worse than having that awkward silence at the end when they ask if you have any question and you’ve got nothing to say (although sometimes this is inevitable). One of my personal favorites is to ask a person what THEIR favorite part of the job is. Really helps you get some insight into their level of enthusiasm and the overall culture of the company. And lastly, being yourself is huge – you only have to dig a couple weeks back in the archives to see my thoughts on being someone you’re not when looking for a job (http://www.lifewithoutpants.com/career-search/how-far-are-you-willing-to-go-for-your-dream-job/).

      Reply
  5. I disagree that “a potential company doesn’t want to know about you.” I do think they want to know what you can do for their company, but part of an interview is knowing who the person is, their personality and their background. For example, on my volunteer/giving back part of my resume I have listed United States Pony Club (was part of it for 7 years). It’s almost one of the first things people saw when interviewing me because it’s interesting, they see it required leadership and strength and I stuck with it for so long. I’ve heard the same for friends who were Eagle Scouts.

    I’ve learned a lot from my CEO and COO because as we’ve been growing we have been interviewing and hiring a lot. They often share their hiring secrets and what they look for. They say that a person’s vision, who they are and personality are highly reflective of their experience and drive. So they DO want to know about you. They want to know if you will fit in to the company culture and grow the team. I think it’s a mix between knowing about you and also WHAT you can bring to the company.

    Reply
    • You raise a very good point Grace. I think in a perfect world, your personal identity should hold a much higher credence. If I’m running a company, I would much rather pick someone who I thought would be a great fit within my company culture and actually WANT to succeed over someone who has some numbers on a resume to back up their results. Then again, a combination of both would be the ideal. I don’t disagree that both should be a factor – but I think far too often we (myself included) get caught up in talking about me, me, me and we forget why we’re there. We forget that people want to know what that ‘me’ can do in measurable results for the said company. My overall point here was not to LINGER on telling your life story, but should rather focus on what’s relevant to the job at hand.

      Reply
      • Matt, you’re right to say stop focusing on “me” “me” “me.” I think we’re both skirting on a fine line, but isn’t an interview about selling yourself and your experience? What about influencing and showing the results that you have created in the past and will create in the future. THAT goes hand in hand with personality and the innate characteristics that make you, you. Don’t sell yourself short. You only get that interview and if you bypass any of the personality, vibe and way the company structure works then you’re almost blind I would say.

        Like Rebecca just said in her post today (http://modite.com/blog/2009/07/30/how-to-innovate-your-career/) “Look at your career as a set of experiences in which there exist core ideas that can be widely applied across disciplines….Occupations are no longer siloed, but instead individuals are cultivating multiple passions, talents and income streams to create meaningful work lives.” Use the experience you have mixed with the passions (your personality) to leverage your next career.

        Reply
        • I agree with Rebecca (and you) in that the tides are turning – we are less apt to take ‘ANY’ job – we would rather, and are capable of holding out until something that at least is closer to meeting our needs comes along. Corporate America hasn’t yet picked up on that mindset – they are still in the belief that we should be LUCKY to have a job – and maybe we should, there are a ton out there who aren’t – but we’re becoming more and more capable of making it on our own.

          Am I anti-corporate? Not at all. In favor of entrepreneurship, sure – but I’m also fully comfortable working with the RIGHT company, the RIGHT people, those who DO want to know about me and not just my accomplishments. But for most, it it comes down to the ‘What’s in it for me’ – and that can only be answered in tangible results. Personality is great, but in the end, it’s an intangible trait that doesn’t “prove” anything.

          Very interesting discussion we have going here – I love it.

          Reply
          • I agree, love the discussion!

            Well I actually feel VERY lucky to have a job and each day I walk into an office filled with co-workers that I love I am grateful. So not settling is important, but I still think taking a job is important. Nothing has to be permanent in life.

            I guess my point is that personality is PART of your skillset and the tangible results you’ve created. CEO’s have a certain personality, that creates amazing companies, results and growth. So the way I see it is that your personality=tangible results. The two go hand in hand, which is why those that hire people look for your personality and not just your interest in horses, but the amount of internships, experience and results you’ve created in the past. All those results are directly related to your powerful or not so powerful personality and drive.

            Reply
  6. I disagree that “a potential company doesn’t want to know about you.” I do think they want to know what you can do for their company, but part of an interview is knowing who the person is, their personality and their background. For example, on my volunteer/giving back part of my resume I have listed United States Pony Club (was part of it for 7 years). It’s almost one of the first things people saw when interviewing me because it’s interesting, they see it required leadership and strength and I stuck with it for so long. I’ve heard the same for friends who were Eagle Scouts.

    I’ve learned a lot from my CEO and COO because as we’ve been growing we have been interviewing and hiring a lot. They often share their hiring secrets and what they look for. They say that a person’s vision, who they are and personality are highly reflective of their experience and drive. So they DO want to know about you. They want to know if you will fit in to the company culture and grow the team. I think it’s a mix between knowing about you and also WHAT you can bring to the company.

    Reply
    • You raise a very good point Grace. I think in a perfect world, your personal identity should hold a much higher credence. If I’m running a company, I would much rather pick someone who I thought would be a great fit within my company culture and actually WANT to succeed over someone who has some numbers on a resume to back up their results. Then again, a combination of both would be the ideal. I don’t disagree that both should be a factor – but I think far too often we (myself included) get caught up in talking about me, me, me and we forget why we’re there. We forget that people want to know what that ‘me’ can do in measurable results for the said company. My overall point here was not to LINGER on telling your life story, but should rather focus on what’s relevant to the job at hand.

      Reply
      • Matt, you’re right to say stop focusing on “me” “me” “me.” I think we’re both skirting on a fine line, but isn’t an interview about selling yourself and your experience? What about influencing and showing the results that you have created in the past and will create in the future. THAT goes hand in hand with personality and the innate characteristics that make you, you. Don’t sell yourself short. You only get that interview and if you bypass any of the personality, vibe and way the company structure works then you’re almost blind I would say.

        Like Rebecca just said in her post today (http://modite.com/blog/2009/07/30/how-to-innovate-your-career/) “Look at your career as a set of experiences in which there exist core ideas that can be widely applied across disciplines….Occupations are no longer siloed, but instead individuals are cultivating multiple passions, talents and income streams to create meaningful work lives.” Use the experience you have mixed with the passions (your personality) to leverage your next career.

        Reply
        • I agree with Rebecca (and you) in that the tides are turning – we are less apt to take ‘ANY’ job – we would rather, and are capable of holding out until something that at least is closer to meeting our needs comes along. Corporate America hasn’t yet picked up on that mindset – they are still in the belief that we should be LUCKY to have a job – and maybe we should, there are a ton out there who aren’t – but we’re becoming more and more capable of making it on our own.

          Am I anti-corporate? Not at all. In favor of entrepreneurship, sure – but I’m also fully comfortable working with the RIGHT company, the RIGHT people, those who DO want to know about me and not just my accomplishments. But for most, it it comes down to the ‘What’s in it for me’ – and that can only be answered in tangible results. Personality is great, but in the end, it’s an intangible trait that doesn’t “prove” anything.

          Very interesting discussion we have going here – I love it.

          Reply
          • I agree, love the discussion!

            Well I actually feel VERY lucky to have a job and each day I walk into an office filled with co-workers that I love I am grateful. So not settling is important, but I still think taking a job is important. Nothing has to be permanent in life.

            I guess my point is that personality is PART of your skillset and the tangible results you’ve created. CEO’s have a certain personality, that creates amazing companies, results and growth. So the way I see it is that your personality=tangible results. The two go hand in hand, which is why those that hire people look for your personality and not just your interest in horses, but the amount of internships, experience and results you’ve created in the past. All those results are directly related to your powerful or not so powerful personality and drive.

            Reply
  7. Agreed that this is a valid job-seeking technique –when you’re desperate to get a job, which I think we all are right now.

    However, I think it’s a totally backwards and unsustainable employment practice. A company worth working for is one that makes sure it’s employees are finding fulfillment through their work. After all, a company is a mechanism to exploit labor – it’s up to the company to create a positive out of that process, not for the applicant to continually compromise until the relationship is abusive enough to eject from.

    So as a strategy for hard times, I can understand the tips in this post being helpful for the survival process. It makes sense to be making the focus of employment a desperate truckling to the company’s ego and greed, being that’s effective in contexts with highly uneven power distribution (Like prisons, the military, and other oppressive regimes which suitably relate to the current employment and economic crisis). But I will encourage seeking out and valuing the companies who understand that a successful, long-term oriented organization comes from happy workers who feel respected, listened to, like their career is part of their passion, and who were hired in a positive environment

    Reply
    • I agree with you for the most part. These words are wisdom are catered to a young adult who is currently out there facing a barren job market. Ideally, any company that you end up working with should be one that hired YOU because of YOU and not simply because you impressed them with what you’ve done in the pat. As I commented in reply to Grace above, I would much rather invest in someone who fits with my company culture and is self motivated to achieve great things.

      With that being said, and I apologize for being redundant – I think it’s important to remember, whatever situation you’re in – that it’s NOT all about you. When I first started out in the career world over a year ago, my resume was weak because I didn’t include the tangible measurable results I had achieved. I focused on me and not my contribution to the bottom line. Overall I agree with your perspective, and look forward to the day where we get back to the point where companies return their focus to relationships and less on pure results.

      Reply
  8. Agreed that this is a valid job-seeking technique –when you’re desperate to get a job, which I think we all are right now.

    However, I think it’s a totally backwards and unsustainable employment practice. A company worth working for is one that makes sure it’s employees are finding fulfillment through their work. After all, a company is a mechanism to exploit labor – it’s up to the company to create a positive out of that process, not for the applicant to continually compromise until the relationship is abusive enough to eject from.

    So as a strategy for hard times, I can understand the tips in this post being helpful for the survival process. It makes sense to be making the focus of employment a desperate truckling to the company’s ego and greed, being that’s effective in contexts with highly uneven power distribution (Like prisons, the military, and other oppressive regimes which suitably relate to the current employment and economic crisis). But I will encourage seeking out and valuing the companies who understand that a successful, long-term oriented organization comes from happy workers who feel respected, listened to, like their career is part of their passion, and who were hired in a positive environment

    Reply
    • I agree with you for the most part. These words are wisdom are catered to a young adult who is currently out there facing a barren job market. Ideally, any company that you end up working with should be one that hired YOU because of YOU and not simply because you impressed them with what you’ve done in the pat. As I commented in reply to Grace above, I would much rather invest in someone who fits with my company culture and is self motivated to achieve great things.

      With that being said, and I apologize for being redundant – I think it’s important to remember, whatever situation you’re in – that it’s NOT all about you. When I first started out in the career world over a year ago, my resume was weak because I didn’t include the tangible measurable results I had achieved. I focused on me and not my contribution to the bottom line. Overall I agree with your perspective, and look forward to the day where we get back to the point where companies return their focus to relationships and less on pure results.

      Reply
  9. It’s interesting to see how people are reacting to your tips. I have to agree with Grace, I think companies really want to know what you can offer them AND who you are. In my job search, in the opportunities I’ve deemed ideal for me and my career goals, the hiring managers I’ve talked to have been most concerned with how I’ll fit into their company culture. Everyone can learn, everyone has room for growth and most of us can adapt reasonably well to a new role even if we have little experience performing the tasks of that role. But people learn the most and adapt the best in a culture they fit into, right?

    I say go for a combo of talking about who you are and how your experience benefits the company. Then you’ve given the organization a well-rounded glimpse of what they’re in for if they choose to hire you.

    Great discussion. :)

    Reply
    • Thanks for swiping your Life Without Pants comment virginity Teresa. Glad to have you here.

      I’ve had experiences with both styles of interviewing – some have been very analytical, wanting to know exactly what I’ve done in the past, what contributions I’ve made in my professional experience (which is limited – granted, I’m only in the baby stages of the career world) – while others have been much more philosophical. These are the ones I love, the ones that give you a look into their structure and environment – the one’s that talk about their focus on relationships and people (and mean it). What I’m learning through my own experience, and through the discussion here, is that you have to be adaptable to either situation, and ready to prove yourself in more than one way.

      Reply
      • I think you hit the nail on the head — be adaptable to both interviewing styles. Hopefully, those of us immersed in job searches right now understand how important it is to know ourselves and our accomplishments well enough to answer any style of interview question out there.

        Glad I could join the conversation. :)

        Reply
  10. It’s interesting to see how people are reacting to your tips. I have to agree with Grace, I think companies really want to know what you can offer them AND who you are. In my job search, in the opportunities I’ve deemed ideal for me and my career goals, the hiring managers I’ve talked to have been most concerned with how I’ll fit into their company culture. Everyone can learn, everyone has room for growth and most of us can adapt reasonably well to a new role even if we have little experience performing the tasks of that role. But people learn the most and adapt the best in a culture they fit into, right?

    I say go for a combo of talking about who you are and how your experience benefits the company. Then you’ve given the organization a well-rounded glimpse of what they’re in for if they choose to hire you.

    Great discussion. :)

    Reply
    • Thanks for swiping your Life Without Pants comment virginity Teresa. Glad to have you here.

      I’ve had experiences with both styles of interviewing – some have been very analytical, wanting to know exactly what I’ve done in the past, what contributions I’ve made in my professional experience (which is limited – granted, I’m only in the baby stages of the career world) – while others have been much more philosophical. These are the ones I love, the ones that give you a look into their structure and environment – the one’s that talk about their focus on relationships and people (and mean it). What I’m learning through my own experience, and through the discussion here, is that you have to be adaptable to either situation, and ready to prove yourself in more than one way.

      Reply
      • I think you hit the nail on the head — be adaptable to both interviewing styles. Hopefully, those of us immersed in job searches right now understand how important it is to know ourselves and our accomplishments well enough to answer any style of interview question out there.

        Glad I could join the conversation. :)

        Reply
  11. When you attend an interview its as much about you evaluating the employer as it is about them evaluating you. Both have to impress and both have to think they would fit well together. Considering that if you work in a full time job, thats where you will spend the majority of your time, being happy there and enjoying it is essential, an employer who doesn’t want to know about you is unlikely to meet your needs and expectations which leads to unhappy employees.

    Reply
    • Dan – I agree with your point here on the evaluation process being mutual. When I walk into the interview, yes, I might be on the hot seat, but I’m also evaluating the company, determining whether or not *I* believe I would be a good fit – it’s an impression that can usually be made very quickly. Being happy IS essential – an although money makes the world go round and can be extremely tempting – if you don’t love or at least like what you do, all the money in the world won’t matter.

      Reply
  12. When you attend an interview its as much about you evaluating the employer as it is about them evaluating you. Both have to impress and both have to think they would fit well together. Considering that if you work in a full time job, thats where you will spend the majority of your time, being happy there and enjoying it is essential, an employer who doesn’t want to know about you is unlikely to meet your needs and expectations which leads to unhappy employees.

    Reply
    • Dan – I agree with your point here on the evaluation process being mutual. When I walk into the interview, yes, I might be on the hot seat, but I’m also evaluating the company, determining whether or not *I* believe I would be a good fit – it’s an impression that can usually be made very quickly. Being happy IS essential – an although money makes the world go round and can be extremely tempting – if you don’t love or at least like what you do, all the money in the world won’t matter.

      Reply
  13. Great article Matt, and GREAT website!

    I agree with that there are many “rules of thumb” that simply no longer apply in today’s job marketplace!

    On the other hand, Grace makes a good point about adding an intersting personal piece to your resume.

    Not only does it help present you as a “well rounded” individual, it almost encourages discussion on a topic not related to the job offering.

    In Grace’s case, she was probably more comfortable (and confident), talking about the Pony Club than she would have been talking about how she could contribute to the company. It gave her the chance to present I side of her that otherwise the interviewer may not have seen…

    Reply
    • Thank you, on both accounts. Glad to have your input here! I think my overall point was slightly misconstrued – the ‘not wanting to know ANYTHING about you’ is the extreme – really my focus here was on the idea that it shouldn’t be ALL about you, and in general a company wants to know what YOU bring to the table for THEM. It’s about applying what you’re good at, your interests and passions, into tangible results. Companies want more than ‘the right fit’ – they want someone who combines the personality traits and proven experience as the ‘total package’.

      Reply
  14. Great article Matt, and GREAT website!

    I agree with that there are many “rules of thumb” that simply no longer apply in today’s job marketplace!

    On the other hand, Grace makes a good point about adding an intersting personal piece to your resume.

    Not only does it help present you as a “well rounded” individual, it almost encourages discussion on a topic not related to the job offering.

    In Grace’s case, she was probably more comfortable (and confident), talking about the Pony Club than she would have been talking about how she could contribute to the company. It gave her the chance to present I side of her that otherwise the interviewer may not have seen…

    Reply
    • Thank you, on both accounts. Glad to have your input here! I think my overall point was slightly misconstrued – the ‘not wanting to know ANYTHING about you’ is the extreme – really my focus here was on the idea that it shouldn’t be ALL about you, and in general a company wants to know what YOU bring to the table for THEM. It’s about applying what you’re good at, your interests and passions, into tangible results. Companies want more than ‘the right fit’ – they want someone who combines the personality traits and proven experience as the ‘total package’.

      Reply
  15. Definitely great advice overall concerning the dreaded interview process, though honestly that has always been my least troubled part of the routine. I’m very capable of answering the questions and explaining my experiences, the problem I face is far more challenging- due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (I can’t get full, quality treatment for it without health care reform passing)- I’ve been unemployed with no options since I was last laid off at the end of ’02.

    It’s far too long a story to explain, but this has created an job-seeking nightmare: A near-decade gap in my resume. I’ve asked countless resume experts how to handle this, and how to address the core issue with a new employer: do you discuss the Anxiety Disorder or not?

    I have been told NOT to divulge the Anxiety Disorder. But if that is the case, then how do I explain the lack of ANY work from ’02 to ’09? I actually have a local company that is hiring (this is a miracle people- I live in MICHIGAN- 15% unemployment on record, more accurately 34-40% with people who’ve gone beyond their unemployment benefits and are no longer tracked)- this company is hiring no less than 2-4 positions that I am VERY qualified for, barring the knowledge of the specific tools, languages or practices they use. All of my work in development was niche- so I have to convince them to hire me and let me learn the details, which is not a concern of mine- there is no program or language I can not learn.

    But I am stuck on the gap. I would think I HAVE to discuss the Anxiety issue- because I am going to need to make sure that travel, overtime and the like are not going to be an issue like they were at other companies… I simply can’t repeat the process: I lost my entire 20′s, and therefore greatly diminished my chance to have a family, etc.- to working around the clock.

    Any suggestions on how to handle this gap? Books and the like say to claim you were studying, or whatever. I have literally been thinking. I’ve spent these years for hours each day trying to figure out how to fit the square peg that is ME into the round hole that is the workplace in our society.

    I’d love to hear if anyone has any insights into how to handle the gap- both on a resume, and within an interview- and to what degree I should discuss my Anxiety Disorder with them.

    Also- a separate question- I’ve forgotten the details on this: If you’re applying for a job at a company that is hiring 3-4 positions you can do, should you send separate resumes for each position? Or one, indicating you can do any of the four?

    Anyways, thanks for reading my unique issues I face in the job-hunt nightmare! =P

    Reply
    • to Jaym-
      If it were me, (and I am NOT an expert on resume-writing or interviewing or hiring, so take it with a grain of salt) given the fact that it is a seven-year gap, I would be honest about the reason, and I would detail exactly what I was capable of, and what my limitations were. But I would also research the hell out of the company I was applying for, and give them a reason to choose me over someone less medically challenged. If they do not respect your honesty, they will not be the sort of company you want to be working for, if you have a problem. I have a friend who has a different, but no less debilitating condition. He waited until just after he was hired to divulge it, which upset the boss, but because he revealed his condition, we were able to avoid putting him in an environment that would exacerbate it. Formerly one of many writers, he is now THE editor.

      Reply
  16. Definitely great advice overall concerning the dreaded interview process, though honestly that has always been my least troubled part of the routine. I’m very capable of answering the questions and explaining my experiences, the problem I face is far more challenging- due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (I can’t get full, quality treatment for it without health care reform passing)- I’ve been unemployed with no options since I was last laid off at the end of ’02.

    It’s far too long a story to explain, but this has created an job-seeking nightmare: A near-decade gap in my resume. I’ve asked countless resume experts how to handle this, and how to address the core issue with a new employer: do you discuss the Anxiety Disorder or not?

    I have been told NOT to divulge the Anxiety Disorder. But if that is the case, then how do I explain the lack of ANY work from ’02 to ’09? I actually have a local company that is hiring (this is a miracle people- I live in MICHIGAN- 15% unemployment on record, more accurately 34-40% with people who’ve gone beyond their unemployment benefits and are no longer tracked)- this company is hiring no less than 2-4 positions that I am VERY qualified for, barring the knowledge of the specific tools, languages or practices they use. All of my work in development was niche- so I have to convince them to hire me and let me learn the details, which is not a concern of mine- there is no program or language I can not learn.

    But I am stuck on the gap. I would think I HAVE to discuss the Anxiety issue- because I am going to need to make sure that travel, overtime and the like are not going to be an issue like they were at other companies… I simply can’t repeat the process: I lost my entire 20′s, and therefore greatly diminished my chance to have a family, etc.- to working around the clock.

    Any suggestions on how to handle this gap? Books and the like say to claim you were studying, or whatever. I have literally been thinking. I’ve spent these years for hours each day trying to figure out how to fit the square peg that is ME into the round hole that is the workplace in our society.

    I’d love to hear if anyone has any insights into how to handle the gap- both on a resume, and within an interview- and to what degree I should discuss my Anxiety Disorder with them.

    Also- a separate question- I’ve forgotten the details on this: If you’re applying for a job at a company that is hiring 3-4 positions you can do, should you send separate resumes for each position? Or one, indicating you can do any of the four?

    Anyways, thanks for reading my unique issues I face in the job-hunt nightmare! =P

    Reply
    • to Jaym-
      If it were me, (and I am NOT an expert on resume-writing or interviewing or hiring, so take it with a grain of salt) given the fact that it is a seven-year gap, I would be honest about the reason, and I would detail exactly what I was capable of, and what my limitations were. But I would also research the hell out of the company I was applying for, and give them a reason to choose me over someone less medically challenged. If they do not respect your honesty, they will not be the sort of company you want to be working for, if you have a problem. I have a friend who has a different, but no less debilitating condition. He waited until just after he was hired to divulge it, which upset the boss, but because he revealed his condition, we were able to avoid putting him in an environment that would exacerbate it. Formerly one of many writers, he is now THE editor.

      Reply
  17. Whether a company wants to know about you, personally, depends largely on the size and age of the firm. They all want to know what you can do for them, how you can contribute to their bottom line. The bigger the company, the less they will focus on your personality. But in a small start-up, it is crucial that the entire team share the “vision” of the entrepreneur running the show. It’s that “little engine that could” and everyone has to be in sync for that engine to make it over all the obstacles that a fledgling business faces. Personality is important, as well energy, enthusiasm, dedication and drive. I’ve worked for a few big companies where you’re just a face in the crowd, but I much prefer the excitement and challenge of working for a small company on the rise. The risks are greater, but the opportunities for learning and growing are so much better. The experience is so much more valuable. And YOU are more valuable to the start-up, as long as you grow with the job. Be ready for the next level, because if everyone does their job, and the company grows, in order to play on the same field with the big boys, you will all need to step it up. You can’t be complacent. Even in a big company, in this economy, you need to stay a step ahead to be the person they can’t let go.

    Reply
  18. Whether a company wants to know about you, personally, depends largely on the size and age of the firm. They all want to know what you can do for them, how you can contribute to their bottom line. The bigger the company, the less they will focus on your personality. But in a small start-up, it is crucial that the entire team share the “vision” of the entrepreneur running the show. It’s that “little engine that could” and everyone has to be in sync for that engine to make it over all the obstacles that a fledgling business faces. Personality is important, as well energy, enthusiasm, dedication and drive. I’ve worked for a few big companies where you’re just a face in the crowd, but I much prefer the excitement and challenge of working for a small company on the rise. The risks are greater, but the opportunities for learning and growing are so much better. The experience is so much more valuable. And YOU are more valuable to the start-up, as long as you grow with the job. Be ready for the next level, because if everyone does their job, and the company grows, in order to play on the same field with the big boys, you will all need to step it up. You can’t be complacent. Even in a big company, in this economy, you need to stay a step ahead to be the person they can’t let go.

    Reply
  19. I agree, to a degree. I think it is an unfortunate fallacy that we believe at a young age, that dammit we are fantastic and because of this people should just be beating down the door to acquire us into their organization or company.

    While all of this is probably true ( :) ) there are a lot of us and, as the current unemployment rate would indicate, fewer of them (jobs.) If this is the case and the market is flooded with awesome and wonderful job seekers, what is going to make a company already leery in the the downturned economy, want to bring you on board? Sure, they might like your personality and previous accomplishments and style, but a profitable business did not get there by making poor decisions or functioning on blind charity. They tune in to the important radio station for all business, WII-FM…What’s In It For Me?

    If you want to set yourself apart in the interview and hiring process, you’ve gotta figure out how to blend all those great things that make you YOU and then present that package in relation to how it will benefit the company. Cause there are millions of objects in this universe spinning around one central object, and that object is most always not you.

    Reply
    • I agree Elisa – and honestly – the most important thing (which I did during every single interview) is to be yourself. Don’t fake your personality, don’t pretend to be interested in things that you aren’t – be the best version of YOURSELF. You may not be handed a job offer from everyone, but you will have an opportunity with the RIGHT ones – the companies that like you for you from the get-go.

      Reply
  20. I agree, to a degree. I think it is an unfortunate fallacy that we believe at a young age, that dammit we are fantastic and because of this people should just be beating down the door to acquire us into their organization or company.

    While all of this is probably true ( :) ) there are a lot of us and, as the current unemployment rate would indicate, fewer of them (jobs.) If this is the case and the market is flooded with awesome and wonderful job seekers, what is going to make a company already leery in the the downturned economy, want to bring you on board? Sure, they might like your personality and previous accomplishments and style, but a profitable business did not get there by making poor decisions or functioning on blind charity. They tune in to the important radio station for all business, WII-FM…What’s In It For Me?

    If you want to set yourself apart in the interview and hiring process, you’ve gotta figure out how to blend all those great things that make you YOU and then present that package in relation to how it will benefit the company. Cause there are millions of objects in this universe spinning around one central object, and that object is most always not you.

    Reply
    • I agree Elisa – and honestly – the most important thing (which I did during every single interview) is to be yourself. Don’t fake your personality, don’t pretend to be interested in things that you aren’t – be the best version of YOURSELF. You may not be handed a job offer from everyone, but you will have an opportunity with the RIGHT ones – the companies that like you for you from the get-go.

      Reply
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About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. Connect on Twitter or check out the work I'm doing at Proof.

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