Distinguish Your Experience From Your Skills
Ask yourself, “How would I define experience versus skill?” Have you ever been on a job for two weeks and realize that your quality of work is much better than someone who has done that same job for two years? Maybe you’ve been on a job for two years and someone who was just hired is producing more results for the company than you are! In any case, you are now beginning to realize that two weeks and two years are strictly measurements of time. The real determining factor, in an employer’s mind, is your skill. So, let’s break it down by defining these terms:
Skill – The innate talent or ability to perform a function.
Experience – A measurement of time.
How do you respond when an employer says, “Tell me about the experience you’ve had with X.” First, let’s remember that an employer mostly cares about your skill sets. Does he/she really want to know about your experience (the amount of time you’ve been performing a function)? Not primarily. Does he/she want to know first and foremost that you can actually do the job for which he/she is interviewing you? Yes. Therefore, the main focus of your answer should emphasize your skills. What do you do best? Are you a quick learner? Are you familiar with specific software(s) in your industry? Remember to always respond to experience-related questions by emphasizing your skills and how they came into play during your professional experience.
Highlight Your Greatest Hits
If you could make a Greatest Hits CD of your accomplishments and abilities, what would be on it? Notice if you pick items that emphasize your skills or highlight your experiences. If they emphasize your experiences, such as a job you’ve held for awhile or an internship/co-op you completed over a summer, try to focus more on the skills you applied to these experiences, rather than the experiences themselves. Ask yourself a few questions: “What are my strong suits? What do I do well? What would people say are my best qualities?” These are your greatest hits. Throughout the interview process, the employers you meet should remember you by the skills you bring to the table and not by where and when you worked.
The Interview Process
Inventory of the Applicant (that’s you!)
Phase 1 of the interview process usually takes the longest. Sometimes, employers request a second or third interview before they decide to make an offer. In Phase 1, the employer takes inventory, or makes judgments, of an applicant’s overall presentation during the interview process. This can include anything from the items on your resume to your communication skills, personality, and work ethic.
If an application is required, complete it neatly. Do not write “See Resume.” Your resume may not contain all of the information requested by the application. If there is a section that requests your desired salary, leave it blank. Do not write “Open” or “Negotiable.” Just leave it blank. If questioned about the blank section or any salary requirement during the interview process, respond with your own interpretation of the following:
- I will truly consider any offer (recommended).
- I do not know about your benefits, vacation packages, bonuses, or other perks, therefore, I cannot say what type of offer would be competitive.
- I am a new graduate and I am not fully aware of what is competitive in my field.
Phase 1 is strictly for the employer to take inventory of the assets you may contribute to his/her company. We are all human. We are all judgment machines. Therefore, it is understandable that you are going to form opinions about your surroundings and the people interviewing you. The moment you notice yourself making a judgment, bring yourself back to the interview conversation and notice how you are presenting yourself.
PHASE II Getting the Offer
The employer may ask you, “Would you consider coming to work with us for $X?” Is this an offer? Look again. It is not an offer. It is merely a question. How would you respond to it? Simply say, as stated before, “I will consider any offer you make.” If you feel that this number is particularly low, it doesn’t matter. This question is still a Phase 1 question. It is designed for the employer to take inventory of your response. So, continue to remain open-minded and positive.
Phase 2 is simple. An offer is made. An offer consists of a salary (or hourly rate) and a start date. The offer can be verbal or physical. However, most reputable companies will provide a physical version of the offer in an e-mail, letter, or packet, so be sure to request the offer in writing. Once an offer is made, Phase 3 can begin. Don’t be quick to rush into Phase 3, however, if you do not have a bona fide, come-to-work job offer. Make sure you have a dollar amount and a start date that is clear to you.
PHASE III Inventory of the Job Opportunity & Company (Now it matters what you think!)
With an offer in-hand, you are now free to assess the position and company by questioning the employer. First, thank the employer for the offer. Then, request any information you require to make your decision (e.g., brochures or handouts regarding benefits, reviews, advancement titles, hours, vacation packages, bonuses, and other office perks). Review this information very carefully. Jot down notes or questions you may have regarding the offer. Be sure to ask the employer by when he/she needs your answer. If it is not specified, we recommend that you respond to any offer within five working days of receiving it, unless there are extenuating circumstances involved.
Visit our section on Accepting the Best Opportunity for You when you are in Phase III of the Interview Process and have received a job offer. Congratulations!
Basic Interviewing Tips & Review
- Arrive at least 15 minutes early to every interview. Even if you are 30 minutes early, you can still go in and let the greeter know you have arrived. They will most-likely have some forms for you to complete prior to your interview, in which case, you can take your time with them.
- This will also give you some time to review your resume prior to the interview, which we highly recommend you do. Look for the positive choices you’ve made during school or in your professional career and highlight them during your interview. Remember to focus on your skills and what you do best!
- Know the name of the person(s) interviewing you. Get a business card from every person you meet. Send a letter or e-mail within two business days (same day, if possible) after the interview thanking them for their time and consideration. Be sure to express your interest in the position(s). Additionally, you may want to highlight specific references made during the interview that seemed of interest to the employer.
- Make a presentable appearance, speak clearly, and shake hands firmly when greeted. Bring a mirror (or take a quick peak in your car mirror) to make sure you have nothing in your teeth or on your face that will be distracting to the interviewer. Mints are always recommended. Smile and shake hands firmly with each interviewer as you leave, no matter how you think the interview went.
- Respond to every question with a smile and a positive attitude. If you don’t possess a specific job skill requested by the employer, having interest and an eagerness to learn can be a great substitute. According to our clients, over 50% of hiring decisions are based on personality and attitude. Regardless of your level of interest, continue to remain positive about yourself and the job opportunity.
- If questioned on a salary requirement, avoid naming a number. The best response is usually, “I am very interested in the position and will consider any offer your firm makes.” If you are pressed further, express that you are not really sure of the company’s compensation or benefits packages, and therefore, as you said, you will truly consider any offer they make.
Last Tip: Good luck and have fun!