Successful interviewing is hard. But what you say and how you say it can lead to that “chemical reaction.”


Your Best Conversation Is Needed:
Lessons From Helen Ann

Successful interviewing is hard. Some people say it’s all about chemistry. I’ve countered that with another view. It’s preparation. Sure, connecting to the other person in networking and interviewing is critical—but what you say and how you say it can lead to that “chemical reaction.” Example…

Question: “How do you feel about calling people and presenting ideas over the phone?”

No chemistry: “I don’t mind it. I’m a people person and like talking to others.”

Chemistry: “That kind of work challenges and invigorates me. I think it’s important to know what you want to say in advance —then you can focus on the energy you need for the call. That can get the listener excited about the conversation.”

Often, it can be important to go beneath the surface in your conversation. Staying on the surface is both safe and easy. It may even feel effective. But going deeper with both content and affect can set you apart from the run-of-the-mill candidates.

Question: “Tell me about a situation where you wished you could have managed it differently with maybe better outcomes.”

OK Reply: “As I lead groups, I usually pull ideas from the strongest members. As I think back on my latest meeting with ABC Group, I would have liked to have done a better job of getting the whole group involved.”

Better, Deeper: “As project head for ABC, my boss asked me to move up the deadline for the report. I told my group and we all agreed that if we did, several other deadlines would not be met. They asked me to tell my boss which I did. She was understanding, and everything worked out. In hindsight, however, I think my boss was disappointed in me and has kept me from some work which would have advanced my career. If I could do it over, I would have been a tougher ABC Manager and figured out ways to meet the original deadline.”

Journal entry August 8, 2015

I felt lost as to what to say to Mom. I could tell she was not interested in the usual topics—my kids, Jim’s trip to Texas, the weather. She was doing the hard work of dying. What did I expect? We talked about the old neighborhood. She started to sparkle as she remembered names of families—Bojarskis, Paulsens, Lanzers, Niles—I mentioned Mrs. Shohable babysitting for us. “She always seemed so old,” I mused. Mom said, “She wasn’t as old as she appeared.” She said it with confidence and wisdom. I was floored and asked, ‘What do you mean, Mom?’ “Oh, Mrs. Shohable was smart–she knew what was going on.”

We talked about her cousin Jeannie and husband Ron with whom I never had much contact. I said what I remember about Jeannie was that she was pretty. Mom asked incredulously, “That’s all you remember about her?” I felt badly for not remembering other, more important aspects of her cousin. Here was my Mom on her deathbed, challenging me to know more about people who are important in my life.


Consider making a list of three work experiences you’ve had where you would have done things a little differently or better in retrospect. Describe in detail using names, numbers, outcomes and your emotions.

Edit each experience to 4-5 sentences and have someone review them to ensure they aren’t too personal; or would make a person in a professional meeting uncomfortable.

*TranSpirations III is a series of writings connecting Tom’s journal entries leading up to his Mom’s death on August 10, 2015, to some of the challenges people face in work related transitions.

Thomas Bachhuber, Ed.D., President of the Board and Executive DirectorThomas Bachhuber, Ed.D.
President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions. Tom is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. Read more.