Anecdotes about your achievements are music to a hiring manager’s ears.
You see, hiring managers hear generic statements like these over and over again:
- “I have strong communication skills.”
- “I’m self-motivated.”
- “I’m good at managing my time.”
- “I have excellent leadership qualities.”
- “I work well with others.”
Unfortunately, broad declarations won’t blow an interviewer away, says Todd Cherches, CEO and co-founder of leadership consulting firm BigBlueGumball. A better approach is to offer specific examples of your accomplishments from past jobs that back up your skills.
“[It] helps the interviewer visualize what you could do for their company,” says Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career-marketing coach. The thinking is that if you did something great once, you can re-create the success elsewhere.
To help you prepare for your next job interview, we asked Bradley to provide a few examples of what to say in a job interview that would impress any hiring manager. You can use them as inspiration when preparing your own anecdotes, which Cherches says, is an absolute must. “It’s very hard to retrieve anecdotes in the moment, which is why you have to craft them in advance,” he says.
Focus on results
BAD: “I’m an excellent communicator.”
GOOD: “I’m a strong communicator. In my last role, to improve communication in my department, I initiated weekly standup meetings where no topic was off limits. It became a vehicle for eliminating redundancies, promoting best practices, and improving overall morale. It became a more fun place to work where people felt safe to share their points of view.”
Quantify your achievements
BAD: “I’m a self-starter.”
GOOD: “I’m highly self-motivated. In fact, recently our budgeting system didn’t pass muster for the sophisticated reporting we needed to do. I took the initiative to do some research and found an alternative that was 25% cheaper that integrated with our other software and could be implemented within six weeks. Now we can produce quick turnaround reports in whatever form our customers need.”
Show how your brain works
BAD: “I have good time-management skills.”
GOOD: “I’m an exceptional time manager. My job requires staying on top of many moving parts, so I routinely plan on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. I use project management software to ensure our team is tracking to meet deadlines as promised. On a personal level, at the end of every day, I invest 10 minutes in planning the next day, blocking and scheduling time to meet my top two to three priorities for the day.”
Look at the big picture
BAD: “I’m a great leader.”
GOOD: “I’m a transparent communicator, team motivator, and always keep the big picture in mind. I like to hire people who are smarter than me who complement my skillset and encourage their professional development. I established an initiative where every six months, my management team has a two-day offsite meeting where we discuss priorities and brainstorm new ideas. I invite at least one motivational speaker and host at least one workshop focused on some aspect of professional development—last time it was on Sharpening Your EQ.”
Highlight positive feedback you’ve received in the past
BAD: “I’m a team player.”
GOOD: “Something that has been really consistent throughout my career is the feedback from my co-workers, vendors, and bosses who say I’m easy to work with. I’m serious about my work, but I don’t take myself too seriously, and people really appreciate my sense of humor and levity I bring into our work environment.”