You’re reading an excerpt of Ask Me This Instead: Flip the Interview to Land Your Dream Job, a book by Kendra Haberkorn. This powerful work is written by a veteran recruiter for job-seekers who want to find their dream job—not just the next job. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, worksheets and a question database, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Consider the Place and Time

The setting, or place and time, are often included on a resume without much extra thought—this role was at that company, located in this city. Seems simple enough, right? In the most basic sense, that is the setting. However, now is the time to start to think about setting more broadly, specifically where the companies you worked at were in time and place, that influenced your experience. How you operate in a well-established company with hundreds of people is dramatically different than a high-growth startup. The distance the company traveled while you were there impacts your role and responsibilities and contextualizes why you might have pursued a specific path or hit certain roadblocks during your tenure. The more you can connect dots and make your experience come to life in relevant and specific ways, the more the hiring team will be able to assess if your skills and capabilities will be effective in their environment.

As you consider the setting, ask yourself about the situations below to reflect on how they might have evolved during your time in a particular position. This will surface new awareness about how you changed and grew in response to the world around you. With the context fresh in your mind, you might see the events and accomplishments through a new lens and with more clarity about the impact, reasoning behind, or significance of a particular experience.

Examples of Place or TimePrompts to Consider How the Setting Impacted You
Strong economy vs. recessionWere you able to choose the job you wanted, or did you have to take the job that was available? Did you have part-time or contract roles rather than a full-time, regular position? Did your trajectory (title or pay) flatten or slow down? Did you have to take a role outside your preferred industry or function? Did the company have layoffs or did your compensation and/or benefits decrease?
LocationWere you in a role at a company’s headquarters or a smaller satellite? Were you in a city where there was a density of talent to hire and a strong team to work with and learn from? Were you in a larger city or market with diverse industries and opportunities that you could access or were there limits? How did a remote-first or distributed team structure impact your experience in previous roles?
Company success or failureWere there periods of rapid growth (hiring) or contraction (layoffs, turnover) that impacted you? Did the company raise venture capital or go through a merger or acquisition? Did the company have a competitive advantage, was it disrupting an industry or fading out of relevancy? Were there news stories or features about the company, its leadership or products? Were these stories positive or negative? Was the company meeting or exceeding goals or missing expectations? Was there steady and consistent leadership or new executives stepping in and changing the course?
Your own place and timeDid you have a well-defined role or did you “wear many hats?”Were there training programs available or did you have to drive your own development? Were you just starting out in your career, hitting your stride, or angling for the next step? Was work a priority or were you more focused on other aspects of your life?

Map Out Pivotal Moments

Your career, like a plot, is made up of a series of events. There are events of a more significant magnitude—new jobs and promotions, for example. Then there are those that may seem small, but that are, upon reflection, deeply meaningful and important—perhaps that first tough conversation with a direct report or turning a bad relationship around.

Though time facilitates a natural sequence and order of the events that take place, it may not always be the most compelling way to tell your story, specifically within the context of a particular role or period of time. The moments that are most relevant, impactful, and indicative of the journey you’ve been on as the protagonist might need to be put into a structure that will catch attention, build suspense (OK, probably more like interest in this scenario) and keep the reader curious and wondering about what they will read next.

Start to think about events, accomplishments, and activities that were important to you at the various stages and steps of your career and that would be interesting to the reader (like a recruiter assessing your potential, a hiring manager wondering if you’ve got the capabilities, or a future direct report trying to see if you’re someone they think they’ll learn a lot from).

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