Master the Interview with Anne Marie Segal
Anne Marie Segal, AM’96, is the Founder and Principal of Segal Coaching and has worked with hundreds of professionals across the U.S. and internationally on career transitions, interview preparation, leadership development and personal branding through individual coaching, writing, workshops and seminars. Anne Marie is also the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals, a new and innovative resource for professionals seeking to maximize the results of their professional interviews.
Anne Marie contributes her expertise and insight to her fellow University of Chicago alumni and as an Advisor for the Resume Exchange, she has helped numerous alumni improve the quality and competitiveness of their professional resumes.
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The Resume Exchange recently interviewed Anne Marie about her work as a career coach, her book, and her advice on taking advantage of the UChicago alumni network as a tool to advance your own career development:
After a successful legal career, what led you to focus on career coaching?
The short answer is that while I loved being a lawyer, I often felt that I couldn’t be “all of me” in that role. I enjoyed working with executives and entrepreneurs but not my interactions with them in a legal capacity, which were too often about risk management rather than creating value. When I looked to my talents, passions and network, coaching emerged as the clear means to make the greatest impact.
Who are your typical clients? Do you focus on candidates for any particular types of positions or industries?
My clients are often at an inflection point in their careers. They might be seeking significant advancement in their current positions or sorting out a transition to a new role or a new field altogether. Originally, my client base was chiefly attorneys and financial executives. My practice has grown over time and now includes technology, human resource and marketing professionals, government officials, scientists, chefs and others. I love the cross-fertilization of working with clients across industries and roles, which also helps me guide those who are considering a major career transition.
Do your clients’ needs vary based on their industry? Do lawyers commonly face different issues than those in finance or other fields?
Needs definitely vary by industry. Take resumes, for example. Generally, resumes should be highly driven by accomplishments. Yet attorney resumes are often more process-oriented and need to highlight mastery of substantive areas, as well as results. At the same time, some fields behoove a conservative presentation while others reward risk and creativity. It all depends on your audience.
Does your guidance to a particular client depend on whether the client is interested in a career in the private, non-profit, or public sectors?
Yes, absolutely, and there is always a question of fit. As a candidate, you need to demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the pace, goals, framework, culture and vocabulary of the target employer and work environment.
What are your most common recommendations for recent graduates and young professionals? How about for experienced professionals and candidates for executive positions?
Recent graduates often need to stop expecting to be rewarded for good work and start approaching professional activities like owners or clients, i.e., with the end objective in mind. They also need to take the long-term view of their careers, engage mentors and learn how to signal confidence in their professional communications. Experienced candidates may have the same or more varied needs, from business development or boundary setting to re-envisioning one’s entire career trajectory.
In your new book, “Master the Interview,” you provide readers the tools to create a strategic framework for making the most of professional interviews. Why did you decide to focus on interviewing?
The book built upon my individual sessions with clients. I realized that most interview books on the market deal with what might be called surface concerns, such as how to impress someone with the “right” answer to a challenging question. To really master the interview process and your own career, you need to build your strategy from the ground up.
What is the purpose of the interview?
From the employee’s perspective, the purpose of an interview is to get the job (or at least the next interview) and to determine if it is the right job at that time. An employer wants to know if the candidate is a good fit for the job and what he or she will add to the department and organization generally.
What are your top five recommendations for a successful interview?
- Get out of your own way. Focus on what you can bring to a target position; don’t get hung up on your own insecurities.
- People hire people they like. Aim to build a rapport with your interviewer.
- Know the target organization, your resume and, yourself.
- Remember that every interview question – even one about baseball – is really a way for interviewers to determine if you would be a good fit for the organization, and thus if they should hire you. Tailor your answer to this underlying question.
- Have two to five priority points (with examples of your accomplishments!) to communicate in an interview and be alert for questions that can key up a chance to discuss these points.
In your book, you give a lot of attention to defining your ”personal value proposition.” What is a value proposition and why is it so important to define?
Your personal value proposition goes far deeper than your brand. Essentially, it is the intersection of your unique set of competencies and interests with the needs of the marketplace. Whom do you serve, how and why? If you do not define your own value proposition, you will not be able to drive your career choices and may become deeply unsatisfied in your professional life.
Does your personal value proposition change from one prospective employer to the next? How does it change over the course of your career?
Ideally, your core value proposition is a match for the target role. Otherwise, you may be after the wrong job. That said, among roles and as one’s career evolves, your value proposition can certainly change. I see this quite often with candidates who have highly technical backgrounds, such as legal or IT. At the beginning of their careers, their greatest value may be their ability to solve problems. Over time, leadership and relationship-building skills become as or more important.
Does your advice for mastering the interview apply to other aspects of the job search process, such as networking or crafting a professional resume?
The presentation process is essentially the same for all aspects of the job search process. Know the value you add. Tailor your message to your audience. Build a robust professional network and use it to your advantage. An early chapter of the book, for example, covers networking specifically for the purpose of securing more interviews.
You graduated from the University of Chicago with an AM in Art History and have coached many fellow graduates on their career development. Do you have any advice for UChicago alumni who are in the market for a new job or seeking to advance their careers?
Take advantage of our strong and diverse alumni network and activities. Rather than going for the quantity in making connections, seek out opportunities to create high quality, long-term, mutually-supportive relationships. Regardless of your specific interests and career goals, chances are that there is a fellow alum out there who has experience in your desired field and would be happy to help, whether by reviewing your resume, providing a mock interview, making further connections or simply sharing some career advice. Our alumni network is a great resource – don’t be afraid to use it!