Resume Help/Interview Question

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Question
Hi Dr Converse,

I recently got an interview and one of the questions kind of stumped me.  The panel asked me "what is your biggest professional success so far?"  I recently graduated with my BA and haven't really had much professional experience, so I didn't know how to respond.  Can you help with this?

Answer
Hi Phillip,

Yes, happy to help.  The desired response to this question has changed over the last year or so.  Previously, interviewers were simply looking for you to tell your story; to demonstrate how your experience would contribute to their need.  Allow me to answer your question in two parts.

First, you expressed concern about a lack of professional experience which would allow you to respond  to the question.  When you tackle this question in the future, remind the panel that of your recent graduation (in the event they haven't looked closely at your resume or application - this does happen).  Then be prepared to discuss internships, senior projects, leadership events or anything that would allow you to show your abilities relating to the position.  Employers understand that applicants will have varying degrees of experience and as long as you have the requisite minimum for the job, they will accommodate your situation.  In short, if you have very limited or no actual job experience, describe the next-best thing that applies to the needs of the employer.

Second, the response to this question most employers are looking for today can be summed up in one word: we.  I described above the old version of what employers were looking for you to do.  Today, they want to hear a lot less "I did " and a lot more of "We did "  In other words, describe your professional achievements but phrase it in ways that demonstrate that you were part of a collaborative project in which you were one of the participants.  Even if you were the team leader, nobody gets anything done by themselves.  So, the panel wants to hear that you understand the team concept and that your achievement was a direct result of this kind of collaboration.

Hope this helps.
Best of luck,  

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.

Expertise

I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.

Experience

I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Publications
Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

Education/Credentials
B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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Thousands of individuals

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