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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

is using "we" in an interview presumptuous?

A reader writes:

In a job interview, I have been asked questions based on scenarios (i.e., "What would you do if..." or "How would you handle..." with specific situations or projects that are actually going on at the organization or are coming up).

I often catch myself answering using "we" as if I'm already part of their team. Is this good or bad? Does it sound presumptuous or confident? Does it matter at all?


I like this question because you clearly over-think things, and so do I, so I like you.

I also like it because I've noticed this before and thought about it myself, and wondered if I was crazy for pondering it, so I'm pleased to hear that others wonder about it too.

Honestly, I don't think it really makes a difference. It doesn't make me think the person is more enthusiastic or invested or confident than someone who doesn't do it, and it also doesn't make me think the person is presumptuous. At its worst, it might sound sales-ish, but it depends on the delivery.

I suppose there might be interviewers out there who don't like it, and so you'd be safer not to do it ... but I wouldn't agonize over it too much.

9 comments:

Sarah Fowler said...

Good to hear there are two sides to it, just like I figured. My most recent interview (my first in quite some time) that made me think of it resulted in a job offer, so it worked for my new employer! Thanks.

Laurie said...

I use we so I don't look too braggy. I caught myself doing this and changed it to I.

Anonymous said...

I find myself doing this too: I try to stay in the subjunctive when asked about what I'd do if I got the job and was in x situation, but it's really hard for me! I always catch myself saying "I will" instead of "I would" at least once or twice in an interview.

Kerry said...

There are people out there who will say, "Well, I WAS going to hire this person, but then she said 'we,' so forget it" or "Omigawd, I had this other candidate who was qualified, but then you said 'we,' so I'm picking you instead."

Thankfully, both of these groups are very, very small.

Speak the way you normally do. Sounding stilted because you're artificially censoring yourself is a way bigger danger to your candidacy than your choice of pronoun.

Valerie said...

I like "we": I think it acknowledges that in the hypothetical future described, the interviewee would be part of the team.

It's also much better than those who speak in 2nd person: "Well, to solve that problem, you would blah blah blah." I've noticed this a bit when I do mock interviews with clients, and always remind people to "own" their answers and actions.

Office Humorist said...

I like using "we" over "I" because it emphasizes the team aspect of accomplishing something. Of course some people may disagree because they want to do know what YOU would do, not what the team should do.

Still, I think whatever is more natural is better so you aren't too in your head about the word you use.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I just had an interview a couple of days ago and I caught myself using 'we.' I never had an issue with this before, as I think using 'we' reflects me being part of a team, but this particular interviewer kept asking "so what was YOUR job in that" Which basically resulted me repeating my previous thought with some additional clarification. His reaction made me feel like using 'we' lessened the importance of my involvement in projects.

Ask a Manager said...

Just to clarify, the letter-writer was asking about using "we" referring to the *new* team -- like she was already working for the new company.

When you use "we" to refer to *past* jobs, that's a little different. If I'm interviewing you, I do want to have clarity on what YOU did, not what your team did. So in that case, I'd say to try to avoid the "we" as much as you can.

Jonathan McLeod said...

I see no problem using "we". If the interview is asking you to imagine yourself in a position in which you are part of their team, there's no issue in then answering as if you are a part of their team.

However, I wouldn't suggest using "we" instead of "I", as others have noted.

And Office Humorist is probably right. Doing whatever is most natural to you is probably best.