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Put the "I" in Your Interviews

So many of us are conditioned to understand and appreciate the importance of teamwork. Teamwork, of course, is unavoidable in most work environments, and we all want to talk about how good we work collectively. Nobody wants to sounds arrogant by bragging about their accomplishments. But, there is one situation in particular where talking about yourself is socially acceptable – and that is a job interview.

Of course an employer wants to hear that you have made successful contributions to teams. But they also want to know the “I” and not just the “we”. Unless you’ll be bringing your entire team to your new job, an interviewer wants to know what your specific successes and capabilities are.

Think about the STAR method for behavioral-based questions. As a refresher, STAR is an acronym for situation, task, action, and result. You use this method to respond to questions that start something like, “Tell me about a time when…” Many behavioral questions will yield responses related to a group project. That’s well and good, but where students end up with lackluster responses is when they only talk about what the group’s task was, and whether or not the group was successful in achieving the goal. Remember, the “action” is the most important part of a STAR response! Think about what YOUR OWN actions were; what were you responsible for? What steps did you personally take to accomplish the task? Did you make a successful contribution?

I once received interesting feedback from an employer who conducted on-campus interviews. She said “students need to learn to put an “I” in team”. This is in stark contrast to everything we learned growing up. There is no “I” in team! But what she means by this statement makes sense. Employers are hiring YOU. They ask you questions that are meant to predict your future behavior. If they pluck you out of your current environment, and stick you in theirs, they are going to make the assumption that you will handle future situations in a way similar to the past. All teams are different, so an employer wants to know that you’ll be able to figure out which of your strengths will make the biggest contribution. Don’t be afraid to brag a little! It’ll pay off in the end. 

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who'll decide where to go."

~Dr. Seuss

About the author

Krysta Kirsch

Krysta Kirsch is a Previous On-Campus Recruiting Coordinator at Engineering Career Services.