Once You Throw It Out There Can You Get It Back?

Have you ever talked to someone and the conversation was so important that you replayed it in your mind over and over again for hours then had a head-smack moment and think, “I shouldn’t have said that”?  Can you say job interview.


In post-interview debriefings I find is the time that I do the most damage control with my clients – with themselves.  There always seems to be that one little thing, that lingering doubt about how it might have been received and what they can do to fix it.


As if interviewing isn’t nerve wracking enough, to have a lingering about something you said can eat you alive.  Then let’s add the additional stress of the wait – waiting to hear back, waiting to hear if you receive the next interview, job or even a “thanks but no thanks”.  Job searching is just loaded with fun, fun, fun…


Let’s take a look at the interview prep before we look at the interview dissection and maybe this will help alleviate some of this stress.




Be prepared.  I just cannot say it enough.  Do your homework focused on two separate and important factors: the company and you.


Research everything you can about the company, the job even the people you will be meeting with if given their names.  Yes, this can be work but let’s not forget – you want the job right?  So, do the work.


Check out the company website, Google it, read articles in which the company has been mentioned, check affiliated industry publications to know what is going on in their world.


Practice interviewing.  Know what you want to say – not word by word but a general understanding.  If you try to memorize and answer chances are in the interview you are going to get nervous and if you miss one word of the memorized speech it will throw the whole thing off.  Or you will come across as stiff and practiced, not actually participating in the live interview.


Think of the worse possible questions they could ask you and be prepared to answer them.  Things like, “Tell me about yourself”, “Why are you looking”, “Why is there this large gap”, “Why did you take that last position”, “What are your weaknesses”,  “Where do you see yourself in five years”, “Why do you want to work for this company” and so on.


Be prepared to demonstrate.  When discussing responsibilities of the job you need to be prepared to demonstrate how you have handled such responsibilities successfully in the past.  This means coming up with examples which include the situation, how you were involved, what actions you took and the successful resolution.


Have more than one example for these types of situations.  You do not know which direction the conversation might go so you want to make sure to have applicable examples ready to go.


Stand in your bathroom and practice answering interview questions while watching yourself in the mirror.  How is your body language?  Are you a hand talker – I am.  Here’s a tip, press your thumbnail into the tip of your middle finger.  This will make you aware of your hands so you can keep them under control and less likely to have them flailing about.


Lastly, realize you will probably say something “wrong” or make a mistake.  You are human – expect it and don’t freak out.  It happens to everyone and all the time.  The more you stress at that time the more uncomfortable you will make the interviewer.


Two different situations here: 1. Going off on a tangent and 2. by reading the body language of the interviewer realizing you are not answering the question they asked.


If you find yourself rambling on about something that is not even relevant to the interview immediately stop, smile and in a light-hearted manner simply tell the interviewer, “I’m sorry, I am not sure how I got off topic but let me get back” and immediately get back to point.  Then let it go.


If, when answering a question, the interviewer has a pained or confused look on their face stop and ask the interviewer, “Am I addressing the point you had in mind?”  Give yourself the opportunity to find out exactly what they are asking you.  Then let it go.


To help prevent the second scenario ask clarifying questions before you give your answer.  If they ask you a question which could be interpreted in more than one way simply ask them which direction they would like you to go.  Tell them that you can see that their question could mean this or that and ask them which one would they like you to address.  This shows not only are you listening, but you are a thinker and prepared.  Bonus points.


Post Interview


Let it go.


That’s my best advice, let it go.  Unless it is brought up by the interviewer again, do not bring it up.  Many people want to use thank you letters to address potential land mines.  NO.


First of all, you really do not know if what you said was wrong so if you point out to the interviewer after the fact that there might have been a problem then you are creating doubt where none existed before.  Don’t do it.


Secondly the thank you letter is a way to keep yourself front in their mind and the impression you want to leave them with is positive, not an apology or a eulogy for a possible error.  In the thank you letter you should reiterate positives from the interview, express your interest and the desire to speak with them soon.


We have all said things that we wish we didn’t but it happens and the world does not stop just because we misspoke.  The key is not the mistake, but how you handle it.  If you assign your potential small error little importance then odds are so will the interviewer.


Be prepared, be confident, be ready to interview them, breathe and go in with a smile.  You are going to be just fine!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.



What One Word Would You Choose?

My friend conducted an interview yesterday and asked the candidate: “How would you describe yourself in one word?”  Apparently this was the question that sent the candidate over the spaz edge.  The candidate stammered, hemmed and hawed and even repeated, “That’s a really hard question, I’ve never been asked that before.”

Yeah, well you are being asked now.

Making sure that she was staying within her time frame my friend discretely kept close watch of the time, which is how she knew that it took the candidate six minutes to answer the question.  In interviewing a six minute pause in responding is a slow and painful death.  After all that time for deliberation guess what word the candidate chose to describer herself:


Seriously?  Seriously.  Seriously!  Does anyone else see the irony in this response?  This shocked me to the point of speechlessness – and trust me, that is hard to do.  Okay, well, it was a temporary speechlessness, but I was without words nonetheless.

But that wasn’t the kicker, at least to me.  Let me back up for a moment to set the entire stage here: her resume was wrought with errors, no punctuation, no opening statement just a sloppy page of bullet points.  She was visibly shaken throughout the entire interview to the point of making my friend question if she should call for medical help.

When asked how she would handle a certain situation the candidate said she would ask for direction from her boss.  When my friend asked what she would do if the boss were not available she openly challenged her saying she could not imagine between office phones, computers and  Blackberrys that anyone would be unavailable.  Seriously?  Apparently she does not have teenagers – those little suckers can disappear on a dime.  Anyway….

So after this horrific episode my friend asked her boss where he found this candidate and – wait for it – he said she was recommended by a highly reputable recruiting firm.

Seriously? Seriously.  Seriously!!  Fire that firm for crying out loud.  They let a candidate present themselves in paper and in person in such a poor manner that I cannot understand how they could be considered reputable.  I’m sorry, but to speak frankly – there is no way in hell I would every allow my clients to subject themselves to such terror without being prepared.

I get that the interview might be daunting but there is no reason for a total crap resume full of typos.  None.  And as someone representing this woman shame, shame, shame on them for allowing that piece of paper to ever see the light of day.

Okay, off that point.  Now back to the main point of this blog – describing yourself in one word.

Yes, you could get asked this question so it is worth exploring.  Some interviewers ask this question and use it as a tool to get insight; others ask it because they have heard it is something that is asked but have no clue how to utilize the information.

I was on a date once and a guy asked me that question; as I was not there for an interview for any long term position I answered “uninterested”.  Hey – don’t judge – you weren’t there and don’t know how tragic the date was so give me a break!

People will ask me what they should say.  I’m not coming up with your word – it is to describe you, you should know you.  I cannot look at you and say “use this word”.   Because here’s the kicker – what word you chose will depend on the situation.  Yep, the long and short of what word to use is – it depends.  Sorry.

Before you start cursing me for having read all the above just to get to a “it depends” hang on, I’m not washing my hands of this issue.  I’m simply going to help you make the determination as to what word you should use.  Hang in there.

One word does not fit all situations.  There are many words that could be used to describe me and some are a constant while others have varied throughout my life: mother, sister, daughter, wife, fiancée, friend, lover, leader, professional, driven, outspoken, contemplative, supportive, articulate, silly, adventurous, cautious, dork, fearless, content, flexible, introverted, introspective, foolish, brazen – you get the idea.

No one can literally be summed up in one word; well, okay, there are a few out there that “ass” seems to cover it, but that’s another story.

So how do you choose the right word – by knowing your environment.  Had the candidate prepared she would have know the job, the requirements, the expectations and even gotten a clue on the company culture.  Knowing all these factors she could have analyzed what was important for the employer in the next candidate.  Comparing these to her strengths then she could have chosen a more appropriate word – then been able to back it up.

After a six minute pause there was no explaining “self-aware”.  Seriously.  However, if she had stated that she was “decisive” then a natural follow up question would be for her to explain.  Then she could have used the opportunity to give examples of how in her past she had been in situations that required immediate decision-making; how she analyzed the situation and came to her decision and the positive result of her actions.

If you are interviewing for a supportive role than you want to convey that you are a team player completely accommodating to the team goals and objectives while making things happen.   If they are needing someone who can get and keep the team together and moving forward behind the scenes then perhaps a good word would be “organized”.

If you are interviewing for a company who is looking for someone who is aggressive and a real go getter then maybe “driven” would be appropriate.  Again, have the proof to back it up.  Not just the examples of when you were driven or supportive but also the positive results of your actions.  Nothing is worse than hearing a great story but the ending sucks.  Like Prince Charming completing a harrowing quest ending with a dramatic fight with the fire-breathing dragon to finally get to his princess hidden deep inside the dragon’s cave finding her in suspended life so he kisses her out of her slumber then looks deep into her eyes and says “Let’s just be friends”.  Seriously.

Do your homework on the company, the position and the culture – know what is important to this prospective employer and use that information to help you determine how to answer those seemingly odd or difficult questions so you, too, do not become fodder for some random blog.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Don’t Overlook The Little Things.

Sicky dog Luke
My youngest dog, Luke, has been sick all weekend. It started with what I call the popcorn cough. You know when you eat popcorn and you get a small piece of shell stuck in the back of your throat and try to cough it out – that is what he sounded like all weekend.

Prior to calling the Vet’s I was talking to my best friend who suggested kennel cough and asked if I got my dogs shots for that, which I don’t because they are all contained in our fenced-in yard and I never kennel my dogs. She asked about my step-doggie, Bud, and yes, he gets this shot. Oh, step-doggie: it is my ex-husband’s dog but thinks I own it too so he’s my step-doggie. Anyway, Bud lives in a community where there are lots of dogs, and geese. I think geese are nasty creatures who carry every conceivable disease possible – why else would they have green poop? Any way – back to my point, and I do have one….

But, I’m not there yet….I never thought to get my dogs kennel cough shot because, like I said, they are self-contained, why would they need it? Because I have “sucker” on my forehead. A couple of weeks ago we puppy sat another dog for the weekend. Guess who was the only dog that played with him – Luke. So I am assuming this is where he got it. Given that I seem to take in every stray perhaps I should not overlook the obvious things like getting my dogs shots for things that may not seem possible. Because the probably-not-possible can happen. Tada – my point.

Just because you do not think something is likely does not mean you should not prepare for it, especially when you take actions that make it more likely. I brought another dog in the house – it led to the kennel cough. If you are job searching and have submitted your resume to a company, be prepared in case they call.

Oftentimes I hear people who will say they know they will not get a call yet still send in their resume. If you are so sure you won’t get the call why send it in? And if you do send it in you better be prepared for the call because you would hate to ruin it from one bad phone call. I have even heard people say something like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t think you would call!” Guess what, if you don’t think you should get the job why would I want to hire you? While you ponder that one I’m going to go give my dog a cough suppressant.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.