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Navigating the Interview Process at Different Stages of Your Career

Lucinda Jackson recounts her transition from interviewee to interviewer plus tips she picked up along the way
Candidate interviewing for a job

My first job interview was in high school, and I’m still having them today, even in my post-executive career of 40+ years. The number is in the hundreds now, counting sessions as both the interviewee and the interviewer. Harkening back to that first one, they’ve changed a lot over the years. Though some fundamentals remain consistent.

What’s the same today: I had enthusiasm for that first job (knocking the mud off horseradish as they came in on a conveyor belt from the field). I really wanted that job—and for every job since, I’ve let the interviewer know that I do.

Also, the same: I tell the interviewer why I would be good for the job. In high school, I swore I could work night shift with no problem, I had a car, and was top in my class in school as I tried to show that I was responsible and dependable.

What’s different from that first interview and the ones I’ve had since then:

My answers are more concise. There’s no need to ramble; I’ve got it down. I’m much more polished and have a ready, brief answer to the question, “Tell me about yourself.”

I have a trove of stories tucked in the back of my mind, ready to illustrate anything they ask me. I don’t just list my qualifications or my strengths and weaknesses, I relate clear examples, with real numbers and metrics if possible.

My questions for the interviewer are more direct. I expand beyond asking about the job responsibilities and simply understanding what the job entails—such as “What are the tasks of this position?” Now I inquire, “What does success in this position look like?” and “How would you measure success for someone in this job?” I want to know what they most need from me for meaningful results for the company.

Instead of listing my skills, I’ve learned storytelling—how to weave isolated experiences into a compelling narrative. I have my “story of you, us, and now,” meaning defining and stating what they need, what I can bring, and why now is important for us to work together.

In interviews for jobs in high school, college, graduate school, post-college, mid-career when I’ve changed jobs, and post-career when I’m pitching to new clients in my consulting business or applying for volunteer activities, I’m still enthusiastic and let interviewers know why they should hire me. But I’ve added what I consider essential interviewing materials now: conciseness, clear examples, direct questions about success, and compelling storytelling.

Oh, and one other thing that’s the same: I still find interviewing fun and a challenge! I’ve discovered going in with that positive attitude can help me land the job! 

Lucinda Jackson, Founder, LJ Ventures
Lucinda Jackson, Founder, LJ Ventures

Lucinda Jackson is the author of Just a Girl: Growing Up Female and Ambitious about her struggles to succeed in the male-dominated chemical and oil and gas organizations and Project Escape: Lessons for an Unscripted Life coming out in April 2022 about the transition from career to retirement. As a PhD scientist and global corporate executive, Jackson spent almost fifty years in academia and Fortune 500 companies. She has published articles, book chapters, magazine columns, and patents and is featured on podcasts and radio. She is the founder of LJ Ventures, where she speaks and consults on energy and the environment and empowering women and scientists in the workplace and in our Next Act. Connect with Jackson or find her books at:

Copyright 2021 American Chemical Society (All Rights Reserved)

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

Lucinda Jackson, Founder, LJ Ventures

Lucinda Jackson is the founder of LJ Ventures and author of Just a Girl: Growing Up Female and Ambitious.

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