Two Things You Should Share With A Recruiter About Your Past Positions

You’re 5 minutes into a phone interview.

In spite of the obscene amount of coffee you drank this morning, your jitters are starting to subside. You’ve totally got this!

So far you’ve caught the recruiter’s attention, you’ve given them an executive summary of your professional experience, and you’re just starting to delve into your background — backwards, of course.


But now what? What do you actually say about each position on your resume? There are so many things you could say and so little time…ahh, decisions, decisions.

Only you can decide what to say about each position you’ve held. What you say will probably (read: should) vary based on the job you’re interviewing for, but there are two critical topics that you won’t want to leave out as you talk about each of your past positions.

chess pieces king and queen

Content is king but context is queen

What you say about your professional background matters in a phone interview, to state the obvious. But the context you give me about each position and the companies you’ve worked at matters a whole heck of a lot, too. Without it, I have no idea how to interpret what you tell me. And my interpretation will probably be wrong because, let’s be honest, there’s a 0.00001% chance that I’m deeply familiar with each of the companies you’ve worked at.

Let’s take a simple example.

One fundamental thing I want to figure out is whether or not you’re a good match for the seniority of the position I’m hiring for. And I don’t mean how many years you’ve been working. Seniority is a lot more nuanced than that. I want to know things like:

Who do you report to?

How much experience do you have working with C-suite executives?

Who reports to you, if anyone?

How big is your team, if you have one?

What is the scope of your / your team’s responsibilities?

So, once again, spoon feed me. Prevent me from thinking too much. Don’t let me draw my own conclusions. Give me the context I need to interpret the information you give me about the places you’ve worked and the positions you’ve held.

(As an aside — context is the same principle at work behind my resume advice to include a company description on your resume. )

What would you say…you do here?

Have you ever wondered what a friend or even a colleague actually does all day? Sure, you know they stare at a computer screen and send a lot of emails and probably go to some meetings. But what do they actually do.

You’re not the only one. I wonder this all day, every day about every person I interview.

And Tom’s answer from Office Space probably won’t get you very far —

“I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that?!”

I’m constantly amazed how many people I speak to and, even after a 5-10 minute conversation, I still have no idea what they’re good at or how they pass the hours between 9 and 5. That’s bad news. At some point, if I can’t figure out what you do, I’ll assume that you’re not a doer at all. You’re a delegator. And a delegator is the last thing I want in a start up where everyone needs to get their hands dirty.

So, after you give me a summary of your professional experience and a little context about your role, be sure to tell me what you actually do on a daily or weekly basis.

And there you have it! The next time you’re describing your background to a recruiter, be sure to include plenty of context about past positions and don’t forget to make it clear what you actually do all day long.

The Distracted Goldfish



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