How ‘bout them apples?!

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– highlighting the right success at the right time on interviews and in resumes
In a previous life, I had the challenging role of working on the management team of a corporation’s new business unit. In short, I was in charge of doing all the initial interviewing and hiring. While this was generally a fun job, sadly I had to unfortunately turn away many people because they simply did not know how to sell their job skills appropriately.

Let me get straight to the point. What is your best job skill set? What are your best successes? Stop right now, pull out a piece of paper, and write them down. Take no more than one minute. If you have to think hard about what your skills and successes are, then you are doing something wrong. Your skill set and your success should be at the forefront of your mind and ready to fire immediately when needed.

You should be able to list 5 valuable skills and 3 notable successes for the job you are seeking. If you can’t do this now, take some time to think about what those might be. Now, focus on the word “valuable”. When I interviewed people for customer service positions, I heard way too often that they had “customer service skills”. What is that? How can I identify this skill on the job? Well, let me give you some tips using this skill set as example.

Customer service involves so many tasks and if you are looking for a position in this industry, you should be a master at some of these. Are you great at customer problem resolution? Can you briefly describe a situation that demonstrates that skill? Are you great at helping people on the phone? What makes you great? The point of these questions is to pinpoint specific skills within a broader skill set that makes you unique.

Similarly, when you are looking at successes, they must be notable and quantifiable– —this this means they must be big and should be communicated in numbers. A success to include would not be “I was the best sales associate on our team.” This sounds like someone’s opinion (yours). Instead, an employer would much rather hear “I was awarded the Team Leader awarded three times for having higher sales higher than the other 15 people on my team.” So, get to brainstorming andto start identifying specific skills and successes.

Alright, now that you have identified these amazing things about you, when and how do you use them? An initial meeting with an employer (for example, at a job fair) would be a great time to detail a few of your skills. Let’s say ABC Company is looking for a Customer Service Supervisor for its call center. You see this employer is at a job fair. Look up the job description and see what skills you have that match the needs listed in the job description. Find 2-3 skills that match and prepare a short introduction. That’s right – prepare an introduction! Don’t “wing it” when you attend a job fair. This way, when you walk up to Ms. Smith from ABC Company, you can greet her with this line:

“Hello Ms. Smith. I came to this job fair just to meet someone from your company. I researched and found out you are looking for a Supervisor for your call center that is Bilingual and has worked with a 50-station call center. I was so happy to read this as I am fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. and I recently moved from Maryland where I worked for XYZ Company as the Call Center Manager for a 70-station center. that I led my company in customer satisfaction ratings and in sales by 15% and customer satisfaction for the last five quarters. I would really like to know more about your position.”

Now, would you use this line in an interview? Maybe…but maybe not. If you are in an interview, it’s time to pull out all your skills and successes as they pertain to the questions being asked. Research the company. Are they are sales-driven company? If so, you want to highlight your sales success as a team leader. If they are not sales-driven but instead strive to be a leader in customer satisfaction, you want to highlight specific skills and success in this arena. The key is knowing what they want to hear and when. A recruiter at a job fair needs to hear the best highlights about your success that are communicated as needs in their job description (and possibly in the conversation you have with the recruiter). Listen intently – don’t offer what they do not want to hear. This ability to listen, research, and adapt is key to your success in the job hunt. And, I hope you can understand why it is crucial to be prepared and know your success ahead of time. When we improvise on the job hunt, we make mistakes by revealing too much information, not enough information, or not the right information at the right time.

Do your homework. Research the company. Research the position. Know your skills and successes. Practice reciting them. Practice describing situations where you’ve used these skills. Practice again without “umms” and pauses. Being confident requires practice in confidence. This starts with knowing you and knowing your potential employer. Do the right thing at the right time!

Danny Zendejas is the Hospitality Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. He has over eight years of experience in the hospitality industry and workforce development and is a native of San Antonio, Texas.

1 Response to “How ‘bout them apples?!”


  1. 1 Robin Chopineaux April 12, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Excellent teaching, well grounded and informative. I have forever fallen through the cracks of the poor interview. Years of experience, no degree, excellent references from former employers,but feel,on paper,not marketable. I expect to wait to get the job to show them my potential.
    I’ll pass this blog on to others.
    Thank You Again,
    Robin Chopineaux
    P.S. You may also list to your qualifications writing.Many can write,few make an impact.


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