In a recent discussion with recent graduates about the STAR Interview Answer format, I stressed the need to highlight how you contributed/your role during your interview answers. Some attendees were concerned about being perceived as arrogant or cocky if they spoke about their contributions instead of keeping the focus on an entire group or entity. I thought I would go into more depth about this concern and what I recommend when speaking about your role/contributions.
Company X is Interviewing You
During the course of an interview, questions about teamwork or group projects are often asked – or an example you use in one of your answers is part of a larger team effort. These are great examples to use in an interview as every employer wants staff who can work well with others, however, the employer is not hiring the entire group/team from your example, the employer is looking to hire YOU.
It is this reason that one needs to communicate one’s role/contribution during the course of the answer. At the beginning of your answer, provide the setting and communicate the scope of the group project and then drill down to highlight your specific role: My role within the group was to perform an analysis of… I contributed to the team by handling the registration… My involvement was to organize the volunteers..
You Did not End World Hunger
When highlighting your role within a group, give yourself credit for your accomplishments but do not overstate your contribution. By making outrageous claims, the employer will begin to doubt all your answers. For example,BloombergBusinessWeek has ranked the Mendoza College of Business as the #1 undergraduate business school for four consecutive years – one important reason for the ranking is the student placement/career services information. Through the student satisfaction and recruiter surveys, career services efforts impact both results.
As part of my job, I work with current undergrads within Mendoza, if during an interview I were to claim to be responsible for the #1 ranking, I would appear foolish. I played a role in the ranking and I can highlight specific actions I took that may have positively affected the student and employer satisfaction ratings, but I should not overstate my contributions.
I Did Everything
During an answer when group dynamics are being discussed, too often I hear interviewees say, “The other members of the group did not contribute so I handled the project by myself” – or something similar. It is true that you are highlighting your role/contribution, but you are doing much more harm than good.
By claiming to do everything (even though it may be true) – you are sending up red flags. Hiring managers can interpret this to mean you have problems delegating or you allow yourself to get dumped upon by co-workers or you are not a “team player”. If you are using an example during your interview where you did end up completing the lion’s share of the task, be sure to highlight what you learned or how you would handle the situation differently in the future: In the future, I would be more clear about my expectations… Since that time, I have been more proactive in asking for quick updates with team members to ensure the project is moving along… I learned the importance of laying out a specific timeline with expectations in order to ensure the entire team understands what deliverables are needed and when.
It is important to highlight your contribution or role when providing examples during an interview because in the end, the employer needs to know about what you can bring to the organization. If you are honest and highlight your role/contributions, you will come across as able and not arrogant.