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by Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio | May 19, 2009


I’ve been in staffing longer than most … for over 20 years.  I have interviewed well over 10,000 candidates and probably hired several thousand of them.  I ran all of staffing for Merrill Lynch’s asset management business, all of campus recruiting for Warner-Lambert, Merrill and I also managed university relations for Citigroup.  Throughout these thousands of interviews, and thousands of hires, I have honed a very important skill:  I can identify EXACTLY what impresses an interviewer and EXACTLY what doesn’t. 

I left corporate two years ago to become a career coach and now I give these insider’s secrets to my clients.  I conduct mock interviews and critique everything my clients say and don’t say.  These “practice” interviews are critical and here are some observations that I hope will help you with your search.


BE CONFIDENT:  Don’t say “I think I’m good at…..”.  Instead, say “I am very good at …..”.  It’s the subtle difference between an average response, and an exceptional and confident response.  Employers want people that are confident at demonstrating their abilities.  “Thinking” you are good at something doesn’t quite cut it …. So cut out the “I think….”.


BE POSITIVE:  Never, ever, ever get negative about a past employer or anyone you used to work with – even in a subtle way.  I was coaching a very proactive jobseeker who had amazing research, follow up and targeting skills.  I asked her to tell me how she dealt with a difficult client.  She responded (and this is verbatim): 

“I had a very smart and assertive young internal client who was new to the company and had a different work style that did not match the style of our department. We were team-oriented….”

And it sounds like she was not team-oriented … very negative indeed.  It completely shifts the tone of the conversation.  IMMEDIATELLY I am thinking that this person could be difficult to work with, or not talented at dealing with different types …. IMMEDIATELY!   So, instead you can say something to this effect: 

“I worked with a very smart and assertive new employee who was very driven to prove herself early on.  When I found myself reluctant to email her with feedback, I decided to schedule a face to face meeting.” 

And, immediately, the tone is different.  It’s productive, and shows that you know how to deal with all types.  And a response like this will get you a second interview.


DON’T UNDERSELL YOURSELF:  I just conducted a mock interview with someone and asked her what her strongest strength was.  Her response: 

“My overall knowledge of the Health Care Industry.  I’ve become an expert because I worked on both sides:  the employer side and the supplier side.  So my exposure was rounded out.  I also sat on progressive committees in Washington DC about the topic.”

This is what her response should have been:

“One of my biggest strengths is my extensive knowledge of the Health Care Industry.  I’ve honed my expertise from two perspectives:  1 – the employer side and 2 – the supplier side.  Because of this unique perspective, I was asked to participate in a progressive committee in Washington DC to study how this Industry can improve in small start-ups as well as larger corporate with 100,000 employees.”

Can you hear the difference in these two responses?  It’s like night and day and it’s this difference that will get you a second round, and hopefully the job you are looking for.  Hiring a career coach, who knows what they are doing, can give you the advantage you need in the job market today.  It could be that critical.  It could be money very well spent.


Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio is the co-founder of SixFigureStart (, a career coaching firm that partners with individuals through every stage of their job search.


Filed Under: Interviewing

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