Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at amypotthast.com.
From Flickr user Kathleen Franklin (Creative Commons)
If you’re familiar with this blog or with the Idealist Career Guides, I hope we’re on the same page when I say that…
- Your resume is not your autobiography. The point of the resume is to get you an interview.
- …And so it should only include highly relevant accomplishments based on a specific job description’s qualifications or duties.
- And, of course, you should tailor your resume, every single bullet on it, to a specific job you’re applying for.
But what do you do with “leftover accomplishments” that didn’t make it onto the resume?
Use them in your interview! Here’s how.
List and illustrate your skills.
Pam Rechel, with BraveHeart Consulting in Portland, OR*, advises job applicants to prepare stories to tell at a job interview that will showcase their strongest transferable skills. In order to do this, she says, you should first identify your own strongest skills, as well as any other skills necessary for your desired job (which you can find in the qualifications and job duties sections of a job posting).
Once you’ve made this list, look at each transferable skill. Come up with a brief anecdote that illustrates a specific time you used that skill. Make sure to note how it contributed to the success of a project or program.
Prepare to talk about the skills.
Envision a chat that includes the following:
- Name the skill. “I had a chance to use my negotiation skills when…”
- Give a specific example of a time when you used or learned the skill — really tell the story. “…Last summer I met with a nearby organic farmers co-op to persuade them to sell their tomatoes at a discounted price to the local school district. They were reluctant at first, but when I explained the value of locking in a guaranteed buyer for their product, they saw what was in it for them. We went back and forth on a price, and we shook hands on a good deal for the school district that also honored their farmer’s business models…”
- Clarify the impact of that skill on your project’s success. Remember, in the nonprofit world, the hiring team will be most impressed with your ability to increase positive outcomes for your social or environmental issue. “…As a result of my negotiation, 10,000 school children from low-income families in the district ate fresh, organic tomatoes with their daily free breakfasts and lunches.”
- Identify ways the skill applies to the job you want. Connect the dots for the hiring team. “My negotiation skills will be useful as an event planner for your organization because I can work out reasonable deals on venue pricing, catering, and other costs.”
Let’s say you prepare a dozen little stories, each on a different transferable skill, to get ready for your interview. How in the world will you remember them all?
The solution is simple: jot down the skill and a couple of key words that will jog your memory about which story to share. For the example above, you might write “NEGOTIATION — organic farmer tomato story.” Come into the interview with a neat, typed list of skills and key words. If the hiring team even notices your list, they will probably conclude that you are well prepared.
Know when to use your stories.
Of course, after all of this work, there’s no guarantee the hiring team will give you the prompt you’re hoping for: “Tell us about a time when you used your negotiation skills.” Instead they may ask you, “Tell us about a time when you had to overcome an obstacle,” or “Have you ever had to bring different groups together for a win-win?” Your negotiation skills story is still the perfect anecdote to plug in as part of your answer to either of these questions.
The more stories you’ve prepared, the quicker and more effective your responses will be to the hiring team’s questions.
Take your time.
Having a lot of fabulous answers doesn’t mean you should rush!
Always feel free to pause for a moment—scan your list of anecdotes, even—to think about the best possible response to a question. If you’re truly stumped, ask for time to think about it, and then later in the day when you’re emailing a quick thank-you note, offer further insight on the question that stumped you during the interview.
If you follow these steps, your resume leftovers should provide a feast’s worth of great conversation. Bon appetit!
*For more on Pam Rechel’s exercise “Translating Your Experience into Job Speak,” see Part Two of our guide, Service Corps to Social Impact Career.
[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]