Interviewing Soon? Three things matter.

A recent New York Times column by Roger Cohen included a quote from Accenture’s chief executive, William Green. He said three things matter for managers: “The first is competence — just being good at what you do, whatever it is, and focusing on the job you have, not on the job you think you want to have. The second one is confidence. People want to know what you think. So you have to have enough desirable self-confidence to articulate a point of view. The third is caring.”

Good advice for anyone managing and leading people. But you can also take those three attributes and apply them to the way you present yourself in an interview, whether that interview is for a management role or not.

To paraphrase Green, the first quality to convey to the interviewer is competence. Focus on the skills you have and the experience you can bring to the job you’re applying for, not the job you hope to get “someday.”

While it’s fine to show a desire for professional growth and talk about your aspirations, keep things in perspective. Talk about what you aspire to achieve in this role, for this company. Explain how your skills and work ethic can benefit the company and how your demonstrated achievements and personal qualities will make you the best choice for the job.

“The second one is confidence. People want to know what you think. So you have to have enough desirable self-confidence to articulate a point of view.”

Ever have one of those moments of self-doubt, where you find yourself wanting to take back something you’ve said and rephrase it — or leave it out of the conversation entirely? We’ve all been there. But an interview is not the place to second-guess and backpedal. If you misspeak, sure, go ahead and explain. But if you try to tailor your beliefs or who you are to a particular role or interviewer, at best you’ll sound stilted and forced, and at worst, insincere.

Be confident in your own abilities, and honest about the lessons you’ve learned and the challenges you’ve overcome. That will leave a more favorable impression with your interviewer.

“The third is caring.”

There are a lot of things to care about in an interview. Caring about the impression you make – how you dress, how you carry yourself, how well you’ve prepared – demonstrates respect for the interviewer and your desire for the position.

But I think Green’s advice here is more about unselfish caring, as in how you would treat coworkers, even those with whom you disagree. How will you work in a team? How will you handle job demands and those inevitable personal and professional conflicts that pop up in every workplace? Caring is a trait that doesn’t readily pop out from a resume or work samples. It’s most easily seen through the way you present yourself and the stories you tell.

And it’s an attribute that matters when we assess for that elusive quality called “fit.” Values such as caring, respect, cooperation, fairness and helpfulness are all important here at American Family, and we try to discern how your personal qualities will help you be successful and mesh with our culture.

When you sit for an interview, convey your values through your stories. You say you achieved an ROI of 150 percent on that project? Great! Tell us the specifics of how you did it. But also tell us how your values shaped your work. How did you motivate your team? How did you show appreciation to project members?

It all matters.

**Sue is an HR service experience specialist who has a background in journalism, public relations and HR customer experience. Sue’s been with American Family for 12 years and spends her spare time chasing two children and keeping track of all the great movies she’s missed since she became a mom. In two years, you’re all invited to a very long film festival.


  1. Teresa D. Kelley
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I want to work in the East side office or the Corporate site that is new. I would love to include my Resume, I feel I can learn anything in customer service. I can work where you want me to. Please call me at (608)244-1112.

    Teresa Kelley

  2. Eric Maske
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Sue, thanks for the post! I especially agree with the confidence aspect. I believe confidence is incredibly important in every aspect of life. I also wanted to comment to let you know people are reading and appreciating your words. Eric

  3. Sue
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi Eric, Thanks for commenting! Great to hear from you. Sue

  4. John Diefendorf
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink


    I was wondering if there are ever positions available for truly entry level employees. I do not have years of experience working in an office, but I did have a temporary job with the state of Wisconsin during the last two tax seasons reviewing, proofreading, and verifying tax documents.
    I am trying to transition from being a warehouse worker to an office worker, because it is something that I can do for the next 20 years.

    In the search of job listings online, I noticed that many companies describe basic office positions as ‘entry level’ but when reading the job description, they want years of experience or a very high keyboard WPM.

    I find myself in a ‘catch-22’ situation in trying to obtain an entry level job without the level of experience they ask for.

    Does American Family offer an opportunity for someone starting a career in an office environment?

    Thank you,
    John Diefendorf

  5. amfamlisa
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Hi John,
    Thank you for contacting us on our blog. Yes, it is sometimes a bit confusing with job descriptions to identify the level of position companies are recruiting. Our openings at American Family Insurance vary and often we are seeking very specialized talent in finance, legal, marketing, IT, etc. We do have some roles with office duties became available occasionally. I would recommend looking for titles of processor, support, representative, or maybe technician. Also, Spherion does employ individuals at our offices as contingent/temporary roles (just another option). Let me know if you would like to discuss further. I will send you my direct contact information.


  6. Posted July 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Competence, confidence and caring are certainly three qualities, which can go a long way in getting you selected in an interview.

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