Why Using The Past Tense Can Sabotage Your Search

by: Joanne Meehl

(also seen in Joanne's?Between the Trapezes newsletter, September 2012)

You know I'm big on job candidates telling success stories. These are evidence, PROOF of your ability to do the next job.

But talking only of what you "used to do" won't advance your career OR your job search. Your next employer wants to know: What can you do for us, NOW?

Here's a typical mistake that a job hunter makes when asked, for example, "Why do you think you're a fit for this position?"

Poor answer: "It's a lot like what I used to do but with more responsibility. Back then I was the manager of three people, and enjoyed team building."

Notice phrases like "used to do", "back then", and "enjoyed" -- all in past tense or in the past. Are you stuck there?

Better answer: "This job would let me build on earlier successes as a manager -- I would bring my skills in team building to you. My plan if I were selected is to hold weekly meetings where those who've had a breakthrough week would be recognized, which is motivating to team members."

Notice phrases like "lets me build", "bring my skills", "my plan is" and "is motivating". These are not only present tense, the answers are expansive and tie the candidate to the job at hand.

So beware of the past tense. YES, of course, you need to prove you can do the job by mentioning past successes. But talk of them like you can still do them -- you still can, right? -- not like they are lost in your past.


Need help wordsmithing your VALUE to a potential employer? Getting them to see why they should hire YOU? Contact Joanne to get your search and your career on track.


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