The Questions I Ask Every Applicant (And You Should, Too).

I ask almost every applicant I screen the following questions: One, “What have you personally done in your career that has either saved your employer money or increased their revenue?”  and two, " How much in dollars and cents ? ”

I guess I don’t have to tell you how many long, uncomfortable pauses that take place after I ask that question. With the exception of a well prepped sales candidate, I typically get one of these responses:

A. The question, “What do you mean?”

B. An excuse, “My achievements are not something I can quantify with money.”

C. The truth, “I don’t know.”

EHHHH. All wrong answers! Career seekers, your answer to these two questions is critical. This is where you explain your value, and you need to be prepared to put that value in dollars and cents. This why an employer should hire you, and why I ask this first. If you can’t tell me an this, I may not be able to sell you to my client.

PLEASE! Take some time and think through these questions before you interview. I have personally seen several situations where being able to do so was the difference between the person that got the job, and the 2nd choice. Ultimately you are highlighting your value by explaining  accomplishments that are hopefully included on your resume.  When you put a monetary value on these achievements, the employer is forced to consider there value in hiring you over the next guy or gal. Here are some thinking points to get you started.

  1. Does your employer require a 40-hour week, but you regularly work unpaid overtime to help out another short-handed department or contribute to a special project? This can be quantified. How much money did you save your employer in the last year because they did not have to pay you an overtime rate for the work you put in?
  2. If your job description does not include sales, but you  contribute the sales process. Maybe you were asked to attend a sales call out of state because of your knowledge within the organization on a subject that was of interest to a potential client. If the company gained this new client as a result of your expertise, this is an example of how you personally help to increase revenue. It is important that you take credit only for what you contributed, but your contribution can be quantified with dollars and cents. The fact that you exceeded the employer’s expectations for your role also could demonstrate money saved. Where did you go above and beyond and what was the financial impact for your company?
  3. Another way to quantify your value to an employer financially is to discuss your experience or production rate versus those on a similar pay scale. If you brought experience to the position that was not available to the company before you were hired, you may have helped them to increase revenue. If your output at the company has been higher than the expectation, in other words, you have consistently exceeded their goals while others have not. This could relate to money savings or more revenue and you should see if you can come up with the numbers.

These are just examples. No one knows what you have contributed to the places you've worked more than you. Many times the fact that they have went without reward are why someone starts a job search in the first place. The point is that the more detailed you can be about the value of having YOU for an employee, the better your chances are for getting the job. Put dollars and cents on that value and you've got a winning combination for success in the interview. Have you ever been asked this question in an interview? If not, do you think talking about the value you can bring would have made a difference in your results?

Amy McDonald is the President and CEO supporting several online employment sites, including

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