One of my biggest pet peeves and one of the biggest interviewing faux pauxs that people make is using the word "we" in an interview. As in, "Well, what WE did was build the models using SAS." We? Is there a mouse in your pocket or something? What's this we crap? I am not interviewing your company or your team, I am interviewing YOU. I want to know what YOU do. How is an interviewer to decipher between what YOU do and what your co-workers did if you keep using the term "we"? An interview is intended to identify candidate skills and personality, not to hear what cool thing your company is doing or how your team worked on a project (unless you managed the team.) This is my memo to the world of job seekers: talk about YOU and what YOU do and what YOUR skills are. Avoid "we" talk. It's frustrating and in the end if I can't tell what YOU do, I'm not going to place you anywhere.

If you do have a mouse in your pocket: seek help.

Views: 378

Comment by See_Jane_Recruit on March 10, 2009 at 1:14pm
Oh, I agree but when you can't identify between what the team and the candidate does--that is a problem. More often than not, I run into candidates who use the term "we" in place of "I" or talk solely about the team and project but not about themselves. If you recruit in a technical trade (like I do) then you need to have an idea of what software and skills your candidate has in order to identify a good position for the candidate. Lots of entry-level candidates, I noticed, use "we" or talk about the team because they don't feel they have too much in the way of skills yet, so they talk about what the team or company does in order to avoid talking about how little skill they have.

I could see if you are recruiting administrative or human resource professionals that learning about what team work a candidate has is great but when you are trying to tell the very miniscule difference between an analyst and a modeler--you need detail. Misuse of pronouns can make a big difference in your interview.
Comment by Michael Glenn on March 10, 2009 at 3:19pm
That's a good point. Candidates don't "sell" their experience in an interview when using "We" and "They" all the time.

If it's something Bad - like company the coffee machine. Using "We" or "They" is a perfectly fine.


"WE had really bad Coffee at my last job, but I didn't drink it since I was heads down coding all the time."
Comment by See_Jane_Recruit on March 10, 2009 at 4:19pm
Exactly. Another acceptable use of "we" would be: "WE do not expect a $20k base raise because WE realize that the financial market made like the Hindenberg and crashed and that would make US crazy people."
Comment by Dan Nuroo on March 11, 2009 at 8:36am
It's interesting isn't it. People coming into interviews, struggling to talk about themselves, for some it is really uncomfortable.

If the candidate struggles with this initially. What's wrong with the old follow up... "Well, what did you do?" "how did you contribute?". It's kinda like hedging your bets, like the Project Manager who tells you the project he/she was working on was worth $25 Million. Cool, how much of that were you responsible for? "Oh my part was worth $50,000"

But pushing candidates on the "Well, what did you do?" bit it'll help coach them for you and for others later on (hopefully)
Comment by See_Jane_Recruit on March 11, 2009 at 10:11am
What's funny to me is that when I say to someone, "Okay, but what did YOU do, what were YOU responsible for?" It really seems to fluster people and a lot of people still can't answer it directly and then fall right back into the "we" bit. One time I really pushed one guy who kept saying "we" in place of "I" and just rode him the whole interview and tried to make him understand that he was making it hard for me to understand what he does when he used "we" in place of "I" and he was almost insulted, like I was stupid for not knowing what he meant.

It just goes to show how important it is to practice answering interview questions! For some interviews, if I know what the interviewer is going to ask, I will go through the questions with my candidates (or at least one question as a sample) and have them respond like they would to an interviewer and then tell them where their reply may be confusing or unclear.

You make a good point, Dan. People LOVE talking about themselves but when it comes to an interview a lot of people (even really good professionals) have a hard time talking about themselves. I know I did when I started my job hunt years ago but then I noticed questions that everyone seemed to ask (like, "What are your positive attributes as an employee?" and "What are your negative attributes as an employee?") and I would practice my response, even write it out. Eventually I could sail through an interview without muttering to myself and staring at the ceiling for answers. So if you are looking for a job--do your research on interview questions! It will help!!!
Comment by Dan Nuroo on March 11, 2009 at 6:49pm
I remember my first interviews... I thought, this will be easy, we will be talking about a subject I know more about than anyone else on the planet... "ME!" so I went in armed with this knowledge and supremely confident. Well, didn't take long for that to get knocked out of me, I couldn't answer those simple questions you stated above, and was so embarrassed, and obviously didn't impress as I didn't even get a call or letter back. But as will all mistakes, I learned from it, and prepared meticulously for the next one, I did practice interviews, thought out scenarios for examples to give etc.. and guess what? I got the job.

Great points Jane, what can we do further to give this information to candidates?
Comment by Mike Gionta on March 12, 2009 at 7:16am
Using "we" alot is also a trigger that I am potentially dealing with a "C" player. As you all have mentioned it could show they are a team player. However, often it is the opposite; they are leveraging the success of the team and were NOT the driver of the team.

This causes me to dig deeper and ask questions like "what are 2 or 3 SPECIFIC things YOU did to contribute to that?" or "Give me 1 or 2 ideas YOU implemented to raise/save money in YOUR role there?"

Often you will validate these "we" people were not the stars on the team when you really dig down. Sometimes they are, that's the importance of getting real specific with them.

Mike Gionta
Comment by See_Jane_Recruit on March 12, 2009 at 9:20am
Great questions, Mike! A good recruiter will know when to dig a little deeper!

And Dan, I think we've all been there! Lord knows I interviewed at dozens of places right out of college and was stunned by the questions I was expected to answer! It's also important to note that formulated, cheesey answers are BAD. So if an interviewer asks, "What are 2 or 3 of your weaknesses as an employee?" You should never answer: "Well, I just work so hard I don't give myself a break!" CHEESEY! Employers can see right through that! Seriously sit and think of your weaknesses in your job performance. Maybe you're not a good phone person, maybe you're not good at giving presentations b/c you get nervous. Employers want to know so they know if they can work with and around your weaknesses or not!

I don't know how to bring this information to candidates besides telling them one-by-one! Haha. There are plenty of job seeker resources out there. I think a blog on your company website is a good tool also!
Comment by M A on March 12, 2009 at 9:45am
When a candidate uses "we" in an interview, I ask them: "what was your role, what were you responsible for. If I think that they will be open to some "humor" I tell them that I am not hiring a team here, but only one person. If I think that it is "cultural," and they are just not comfortable talking about themselves, I tell them that the interview is one situation where they can freely "brag" about their accomplishment, that it is socially acceptable to do that.

Sometimes though, they use "we," because "I" simply didn't do anything :-)


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