Thursday, February 21, 2008

Interview Road kill - “I Haven’t Done it, but I Can Learn”

Ever respond to an interview question, by saying "I haven't done it, but I can learn"?

OUCH…I can feel your pain. Your interview ended with those words. The fat lady sang.

Employers realize you can learn if you've been in the workforce for a while, or if you've graduated College. Of course you can learn. It's even a bad answer for an entry-level job candidate.

But today, employers don't want someone who can learn, they want fast solutions to problems. If you can learn, you might have a future with the company to solve new problems, but to be hired you've got to demonstrate that you've already solved that problem. Employee turnover averages 18 months, and technology changes every 3-4 years – is it any wonder employers look for people who already have the skills to solve today's problems?

Instead, could you reply "Sure, I've solved similar problems!", and go on to give a close example. Instead, most candidates turn into a "deer in the headlights" and say "I can learn".

Anticipate problems the company has through your research, before you even craft your customized resume. Read press releases, SEC reports, articles, blogs…and gain an understanding of the companies challenges and problems. Show how you can solve them before you are even asked and you're a leading candidate. Say "I can learn" and you're road kill.

TIP: Remove the phrase "I can learn" from your vocabulary. Don't say it to recruiters, nor to family or friends. Just don't say it….ever.

Many job seekers describe themselves in a resume as a generalist, attempting to attract a broad number of opportunities. That's nice – but it doesn't work.

Yes, this used to work, and it's how everyone over 30 learned how to job hunt. But it's 2008. And in 2008, employers want subject matter experts who have direct experience in solving specific problems.

Executives exploring Career Change: For a free 30 minute resume consultation, or career advice for executives, email your resume confidentially to reCareered (, and we'll schedule a time to talk.

Staff, Managers, Entrepreneurs, and career changers outside the US: Send your resume to to enroll in a free group teleseminar "Accelerate Your Job Search - tools you can use".


Amy Reinhart said...

I expect to be asked if I have experience with Microsoft Access, and this is my planned answer:

I have extensive experience with FileMaker Pro, and took classes in relational databases, and Oracle programming. At the moment, I'm learning Access 2007, and I'm about halfway through the Missing Manual book.

Amy Reinhart

Phil Rosenberg said...

Amy, thanks for commenting.

That's not a response I'd advise - I'd give a stronger response. I'm not suggesting that you lie, but something stronger than "road kill".

Maybe something along the lines of: "Access is easy - I have extensive experience with relational databases and Oracle programming" or "I've been experimenting with Access - it's a no-brainer compared to Filemaker, Oracle or other relational databases I've used."