Ask A Progeek: What DO I bring to the position?

What’s our question this week?

How do you answer “What do you bring to the position” in a job interview without reciting the job posting OR going too off track?  What’s the right balance of requirements and outside details?

I don’t know anyone that really enjoys answering this question (OK, I kind of do, but I like a challenge).  The problem with saying “what do I bring to the position?” is that we’re not sure if we’re answering the question, or answering the question for the person asking it, or . . . well, you get an idea.

Really, we don’t know what kind of questions we’re answering or who we’re answering them for.  We’ve just been asked “what do we bring” after filling out a lot of forms and reading a laundry list of requirements (or, just as bad, no list).

The first thing to do is to realize that the question is coming and prepare.  If you’re shocked this comes up, then you’re not ready.

The second thing is to review the position – not just the requirements, not just what people said it is, but what it really is.  Do your research, read up, etc.  If you’ve been in a profession for awhile you probably know it pretty intimately.

With this review, then compose your answers for “what do you bring to this position?” ahead of time.  Make sure it answers what you can really do for the real position.  Feel free to work in a few bullet points or catchphrases if you think it’s needed, but make sure it’s a real answer – a real in-context answer.

Third, prepare to be pre-emptive on this question.  If an opportunity comes up to show what you can do, use it – just don’t blatantly spit out a bunch of catchphrases or prepared statements.  If someone asks about specific experience, focus on the stuff you’ve done and know relevant to the job – in context (as I always say).  Make sure you’re answering the question ahead of time.

If you do it right, you’ll possibly spare your poor interviewer from having to ask “what do you bring to the position,” because they’re probably tired of asking it and getting a verbal tsunami of an answer (or blank looks).

Fourth, work this into your personal branding – very big for us professional geeks.  Is there a chance to show that what you bring to the position is, well, you?  Can you use your meekness as an edge in answering (or preemptively answering) that question.

So the question’s coming.  Be ready.

– Steven Savage

Ask A Progeek – With Steve

I’ve got two anonymous questions from our audience this week about job followups and about how to deal with time commitments.  Let’s get to it!



1. When applying for a job through a company’s site and the company does not supply contact information, how does one follow up after the application?

That’s a bit of a tough one. Sometimes this is due to ignorance or by accident – sometimes it’s to keep HR away from an onslaught of applications and requests from, well, people like you. So keeping in mind you can’t always be sure, here’s what you do.

First, ask if you actually need to. If you’re “grenade fishing” the followup may not actually be worth your time.

Second, ask if you should follow up. If the ad in question sounds like they want to keep some separation, don’t break it. You’ll just annoy people.

Third, be pre-emptive and use your friend LinkedIn while applying and see if you have any connections to that company. When you apply make sure to ping any contacts at the company, or contacts that may have contacts with the company. They might give you ideas how to followup, put you in touch with the right people, or move your application along. Do this and you might not need to worry about a follow-up.

Fourth, do your research., Crunchbase, and other sites can let you dig up contact info. In fact, company websites, if you dig through them, may have contact information for HR. A general email address may not be the best, but it’s something.

Fifth, consider blowing their minds with an actual physical followup email to see what’s going on – using the above contact information. It may at least make an impression.

The best method however is to use whatever contacts you have at said company or people you know to get you the information. The personal contact is invaluable – and the least invasive method.

Remember that, sadly, some companies and HR departments just don’t want to speak to you until they’ve processed your information, and you’re one of hundreds of people. When you get a nibble, a contact, when you’re a “face” then it’s easier to follow up because there’s some personal connection – which is why any major goal of yours is to stand out.

This is one place progeeks can stand out by leveraging their knowledge, research, or creativity to get connected or be a “face.” From websites to video resumes, look for a way to make that connection so you have someone talk to you – which gives you someone to follow up with.


2. When applying for a job, how do I tactfully mention I need to maintain ongoing commitments (eg, an internship or an additional part-time job)?

It’s usually a good idea to mention this once you actually get interviewed unless it’s part of the actual application. This is something to talk about once you have an idea of what’s going on and are dealing with someone face-to-face.

When you do mention it remember – solutions first. When it comes up or seems to be an issue, mention it and then already have a solution in mind, and don’t be dramatic about it. It could be as simple as “Oh, I can work weekends, but I still do X every other weekend, but my schedule is so flexible I can work around it” or “I’m ideal for this job but I have an ongoing internship that limits my time. But I’m willing to work the extra hours and my internship benefits you as . . . ”

Mention it if it seems necessary, and have a solution in place. The best solutions actually benefit the interviewer’s organization in the first place.

Got a question for me or the rest of the staff?  Go and ask away!

Steven Savage

An Interview With Artist Cheng (Lily) Li

I met Cheng (Lily) Li in one of my many rounds of conventions.  She's a
fascinating example of how people can share an combine their loves –
she's both an artist and a Life Sciences Research Assistant at
Stanford.  Not only does she do fannish work, she does detailed
scientific illustration – you can find much more at her website,

A person who combines fandom, art, and science sounds like someone
with quite a story to tell, and Lily was nice enough to let me interview

Read more