Ask-A-Recruiter: 5 Steps to Comprehensive Examples

istock_000005168521xsmall1.jpgContributed by Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart

At a recent workshop, a jobseeker asked an incredibly broad, but often-asked, question: What are recruiters looking for when they interview you?

I essentially gave him the same advice I wrote about in an earlier GH column entitled “No Magic Bullet Answers”.

But while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to interviews, one strategy that benefits everyone is to make your responses specific and complete. In interviews, you will be asked for examples of your work:

  • Tell me about a typical project at Company X;
  • Tell me about a project where you managed people/ presented to senior management/ impacted the bottom line;
  • Tell me about an analytical/ research/ strategy project; or
  • Tell me about your favorite/ least favorite/ most difficult/ most rewarding project;

To be a prepared candidate, therefore, you need a list of projects that showcase different points you wish to make – different skills, different scopes, and different expertise. You also want to be able to describe your projects comprehensively enough so that the interviewer has a clear sense of what you can do and what you have accomplished.

Many candidates make the mistake of getting bogged down in the minutia of the project. They regale the interviewer with a lot of history and background research that usually doesn’t give the interviewer a sense for their active role. Remember, you are not trying to make the interviewer an expert on the project. You are selling your skills and expertise, and therefore you need to make the interviewer understand the scope of the project and your role therein.

Be able to answer these five questions for any project you discuss in an interview and you will have a comprehensive answer:

  • Who sponsored the project: CEO, department head, line manager? This gives the interviewer a sense of the project’s importance.
  • What was the objective? This is where you showcase your business sense. Give a clear and concise answer as to why this project was undertaken. It boils down to revenue generation or cost savings, so know this and frame your answer accordingly
  • What was the deliverable: Powerpoint presentation, white paper, presentation to senior management, Excel model? Give the interviewer a tangible sense of the result of the project.
  • What actually happened? Let the interviewer know that you know your impact on your company’s business. If the company benefited, quantify this. If the company didn’t move forward, explain why not.
  • What did you do and what did everyone else on the team do? Be specific about your role so you don’t come across as overreaching and so that the interviewer doesn’t assume you did more or less than you did. At the same time, being clear about what everyone else did shows that you are a team player and are aware of what is going on around you and what other people contribute.

Craft your project descriptions so that the above five questions are answered seamlessly therein. Don’t wait for the interviewer to prompt you. Most will not and will just rely on the incomplete information you volunteer.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career coaching firm comprised exclusively of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Prior to launching SixFigureStart, Caroline recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citigroup, Disney ABC, TV Guide and others. Caroline offers a half-hour Complimentary Coaching Consultation to individuals who are interested in experiencing coaching and finding out more about how it can help them reach their career goals. To schedule a consultation, contact her at

0 Response

  1. Great points on being prepared for this question, which in my corporate days I have to admit, few people I interviewed really were. (And those who were, got my attention right away.)

    I’d like to emphasize the fourth bullet: RESULTS. Specifically, QUANTIFIABLE results. I tell my clients this all the time: if you want to make a good impression, whether in an interview or in a resume, have quantifiable results at your fingertips. Anyone can say “I improved profitability.” Not too many can say “by 50%.” I’m unimpressed by the first. I pay attention to the second.

    Another interesting thing to bring with you, or to include in resumes, is actual quotes from senior people in your organization or from clients. Quoting their words about how you helped them is powerful – after all, it’s what businesses are doing when they gather testimonials.

    In the end, it’s all about how you can demonstrate your abilities rather than just talking about them!

  2. Good advice indeed. I find in this competitive market, 3rd party recruiters and even first line HR screeners are asking more targeted, quantitative questions vs warm and fuzzy, mere getting to know you questions.