Creating a ‘Career Highlight Reel’ to Ace the Interview Game

Featuring alumna Dr. Christine Hagedorn ‘13

As a career advising specialist at University of Maryland University College (UMUC), I have the pleasure of working with students and alumni at various stages of their career. I provide coaching on a variety of career development topics, and interview preparation is certainly one of the popular ones.

Recently, I was approached to share my insights with UMUC alumna, Dr. Christine Hagedorn ‘13, a senior higher education administrator in Student Services. Here is what unfolded from our conversation.

Christine:  Cathy, you have a variety of tools and strategies you advise clients to use to prepare for job interviews so that when questions are posed to them during the interview, they are well prepared to respond. One of the strategies you advise clients to implement is creating a “Career Highlight Reel.” You have been known to advise clients to create a stack of 10-15 index cards with their top career “stories”. Why is this beneficial to a job seeker?

Cathy:  I have talked with people who have had so many great experiences throughout their career, but when they are in an interview they fail to express the depth of the experience. Telling a compelling story is a good way to show what you know while engaging the listener. However, in order to be able to share a story that will make a great impression, when asked on the spot, a person needs to be prepared.

Christine:  This sounds like a perfect idea!  And something one should do in general, not only when preparing for a specific interview.  If the professional can set aside time to reflect on his or her career highlights, they will likely call to mind some things they have forgotten they did. This can be especially helpful for professionals with decades of experiences.

Cathy: Exactly, you do not have to start this as part of preparing for a specific interview. Instead, make it a stand-alone project.  Start writing down stories on a stack of index cards, or on your computer, that bring your core competencies and accomplishments to life using the STAR method (situation, task, action, result) to structure the details.

Christine: Okay, I am familiar with the STAR method to answer behavioral-based interview questions, but how would you apply it to the technique that you are describing?

Cathy: Typically, job seekers prepare for an interview by memorizing responses to questions that they think they may be asked. While there are some common interviews questions that you should be prepared for such as, “Tell me about yourself” or “Do you have any questions for me” the core of your interview preparation should be developing stories that describe the situation, tasks you were responsible for, the action steps you took, and, finally, positive results.

Christine:  I can see how there can be benefits of a highlight reel that go beyond job interview preparation. It can help you remember what you have accomplished, document the variety of your experiences and skills, and it can certainly serve to simply boost your professional confidence.

Cathy: Yes, I can imagine athletes using highlight reels to boost their confidence before a game, too. Additionally, reviewing your career highlights can help you assess where you are most effective and least effective in your field. Therefore, this technique can also be used as a way to reflect on areas you may want to seek extra training.  

Christine:  You had mentioned this to me last time we talked so I asked some college athletes if their highlight reel brought them any benefit beyond just having something to show potential coaches, they responded, “Watching myself play gives me joy…knowing it is something great that I personally did. Having the highlight reel saved means that it can be watched over and over to remind me of what I did, instead of these memories being something in my head, where I might forget the details. Also, when I watch the reel, I see the view of the crowd as opposed to only the way I perceived the event.”

Cathy:  Thinking about what this athlete said, there might be some merit in asking colleagues to write up an index card for you of a time they worked with you professionally and their view of the story. This can help you relate to how others view your work style and effectiveness, and may be something you can share with potential employers in an interview. You can simply tell your colleagues, “I need you to write up something for my career highlight reel!”  

Christine: Yes, that is an excellent idea, Cathy. In this way, one’s career stories are told from a variety of perspectives. And, others may point out things that you did not even realize were a “highlight” of your style. Thank you for talking with me today about the idea of professionals creating a career highlight reel using index cards. I started working on one myself and using Quizlet, a free online tool and app that helps you to create sets of virtual flashcards. This can be a great way to document your career highlights and you can refer to these before an interview. Or you can buy stack of index cards and write out your career stories by hand.  The reel can be refreshed every few years with new professional stories.

Cathy: Whatever method you choose, remember to think of each story as a card in your deck of playing cards and your best stories are your aces. Then, pull out the “card” or story that would best answer the question that you’re presented with highlighting the best components of your career. And that is how you bring your “A” game to ace the interview.

For more career tips or to receive career guidance, contact your UMUC’s Office of Career Services at 240-684-2720 or careerservices@umuc.edu, or visit CareerQuest.

 

Cathy Francois, MBA, GCDF is a career advising specialist and adjunct instructor at University of Maryland University College. Additionally, she is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida and a Master of Business Administration from Kaplan University. Her career began in advertising sales and customer service, after which she transitioned into higher education, working as an admissions advisor. She also served as an academic advising and career services for over seven years. Cathy has a passion for helping people succeed and uses her diverse experience and interpersonal skills to bring a personalized approach to career coaching.

Dr. Christine Hagedorn has been advising and counseling college students for 25 years at both a private liberal arts college in New York City and at a suburban community college outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She feels honored to serve in an industry that changes lives and expands economic opportunity for individuals. Her greatest professional goal is having any opportunity to engage in work that advances the role of higher education in a person’s life. Dr. Hagedorn is currently serving as an Adjunct Professor of International Business Studies at a private liberal arts college near Philadelphia. She invites you to connect with her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/christinehagedorn/