Successful Interviewing: Handling the Good (Abby Donnelly)

by Greg Silverthorne

abby-donnelly-ldrlegacysite032315Abby Donnelly

As I reflected on an excellent Interviewing Workshop I recently attended, I felt I needed to share some of the insights of the gifted Workshop Presenter, Abby Donnelly.  Sponsored by the Employment Initiative of Jewish Family Services (JFS/Greensboro NC), Donnelly recently facilitated a well-attended workshop, “Insights into a Successful Interview: Handling the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (March 3, 2015).  By the way, I used a March 2010 workshop -led by Donnelly- as the sole basis for a frequently-used Interviewing handout for the Dare to Work Ministry.  I was so moved by her 2010 presentation, the first time I saw her, that I knew I’d struck gold!

  • In this post I’ll touch on a few things, including the two aforementioned Donnelly-led Workshops. She is a dynamic, engaging speaker. She is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Master’s degree in Statistics.  Yes, Statistics; she’s surely not a bland, communications-challenged nerd!
  • Having seen Abby Donnelly do 4 workshops (JFS-hosted) since I spearheaded the Dare to Work Ministry in December 2009 (post), I felt I really needed to share some of the wisdom she provided – as I did when I created the ministry handout in 2010.

When I read Donnelly’s biographical profile last weekend, I was able to ‘connect the dots’ and see why she’s so effective.  Her professional and community service background is impressive (link).  Her interviewing strategies are powerful!

Handling the Good (Interviewing, Abby Donnelly)

March 3, 2015 workshop

How does one achieve a successful interview which is “good”, and not ‘bad or ugly’?

Be ”Interested, and Interesting”.  If you can be engaged, and engaging, Donnelly expressed, that is much easier. In being interested and interesting, there are two key objectives, namely:

  • Sell your self to them
  • Determine, during the interview, if you’d “fit” there


  • In ‘selling one’s self’, one should think of 3 aspects: Skills, Experience, and Accomplishments (S.E.A).
  • Thinking of the job, and the problems and challenges that your prospective boss is facing, one succeeds by telling stories.  Asking the interviewer “great questions” is very important too.  Being a good listener helps a great deal too.
  • Those stories should reflect your S.E.A. – and potential “impact” if you worked there.


  • Is it a fit for you?  Part of your determining, she noted, if you’d want to work there is whether you feel you’d fit in.  The culture, people, job, industry, and the direction the company is currently heading are all part of your judging if the fit is good for you.

 March 2010 Interview workshop (Abby Donnelly)

Abby Donnelly gave a well-attended, interactive “Secrets To A Successful Interview” Greensboro workshop (March 10, 2010). Sponsored by the JFS Employment Initiative (Betsy Gamburg, Executive Director), Donnelly ably provided insight into how job seekers could optimally position themselves as “the candidate of choice during the interview process.”

  • Donnelly presented the ‘communication wheel’ – which shows that only 7 % of communication is based in the words spoken. 58% is based on body language and facial expression; 35 % is based on tonality.
  • Employers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. She suggested that job seekers: 1) Be thinking what they could do to benefit the interviewer; 2) Seek to learn what they can about their prospective boss’ needs, challenges, & priorities.
  • An interview should be a two-way conversation. Candidates should be prepared to ask strategic questions; raise them, she suggested, about two-thirds into an interview.
  • Donnelly energetically reminded people that managers “buy” emotionally & “justify” intellectually.
  • Energetically draw on 3 – 5 stellar examples where you had an ‘impact’. These stories should be practiced in advance – and reflect your accomplishments. They will allow a candidate to demonstrate that they are the right player to join the manager’s ‘team’.
  • In making a “good choice”, employers will often choose someone seen as a ‘safe choice’ over a ‘great, but risky’ choice.
  • During the meeting, a job seeker should decide if they’d “fit in” – or even want the job.
  • Before the interview ends, employers owe potential employees ‘a clear future’ she firmly believes. You are entitled to tactfully ask what the next step is, how long that step will take, and if you may contact them if you haven’t heard from them by that date.
  • Voice appreciation for the interviewer’s time at the end of your meeting.
  • Lastly, send an email and hand-written Thank You note (3 short paragraphs) promptly afterwards.

Interviews: Promote Benefits, not Features (Felix Tarcomnicu)

In an insightful blog post that came to mind as I listened to Abby earlier this month, Tarcomnicu asks: “So, how do you sell yourself to land a professional opportunity?” In The Best Ways to Sell Yourself and Get the Job You Want, he offers five suggestions.  As I listened to Donnelly on March 3rd, the ‘benefits’ tip below popped into my mind.  As I reviewed the blog post a few days later I realized something. That a lot of what Tarcomnicu states in his 2013 piece I’d learned already – by attending Donnelley’s interactive 2010 workshop in Greensboro!

His five suggestions are, namely:

1. Don’t sell features; sell benefits.
2. Be the solution.
3. Communicate nonverbally. (this tip speaks to a key point raised well by Donnelly in the 2010 workshop)
4. Talk about specifics in your resume. (More broadly, tell stories which demonstrate your benefit to them)
5. Show some passion. (If you are genuinely interested in the job, the Mutual Benefits that you can effectually and fervently demonstrate will help you convince the hiring manager to offer you the job)

I feel Tarcomnicu’s first point is very powerful and often overlooked.

  • When you buy a product at the supermarket, are the benefits -that you’ve personally found using it- more important than the ingredients listed on the label?  Yes, I’d say.  Proven benefits, and commercials promoting promised benefits, are what move products off store shelves.  In interviews, promote your benefits, not your ‘features’.  Regarding his first suggestion (‘Sell benefits’), Tarcomnicu states:

“This is the golden rule in sales, and it’s the same concept when it comes to interviewing.  Yes, you can tell the employer about your impressive GPA, Ivy League education and vast experience in the field.  But expand on that.  Expand on how your education and experience will benefit the employer if they hire you.  What can you do that would make the company better?  What can you do to make the company more money?”


Go to the Mountain TopAs a Christian worker seeking a job or promotion, one skill you need to hone and master is Interviewing. Your God-given talents and years of experience can only be leveraged, I feel, if you:

  • Interview well
    • If Mutual Benefits are revealed, an offer is more likely.  If they find you to be ‘interesting’, and you are indeed interested (in them), the Seeds for a mutually beneficially work relationship will have been sown.  Asking good questions, being a good Listener, and telling good stories -which reveal your potential impact and ability to meet their challenges- are at the root, Abby Donnelly feels, of successful interviewing.  I agree fully.
  • Network (connect) well
  • Know yourself well

As well, you must refuse to stray from your Christian values. Ever. Just as your Christian faith doesn’t negate the need for a competent Doctor when you have a health problem, your faith doesn’t negate your need for learning critical career skills (like Interviewing) from Pros like Abby Donnelly. To put it simply, ignorance isn’t bliss!  Interviewing ignorance may cause you to miss your next Career Victory!

During your Career walk, please keep these four habits in mind.  If you do, you are destined to be ‘more than a conqueror’!  You deserve nothing less.

Personally, even after hearing Donnelly 3 times before, I chose to attend her early March workshop . . . and frankly still feel like I’ll never get tired of learning from this wise, eloquent, and personable woman!

I’ve thanked Abby Donnelly and Betsy Gamburg for what they do for the Greensboro NC community.  Every city in the U.S.A. should have two people like them!  If the city you live in does, please let them know that you greatly appreciate what they do.  If it doesn’t, you just might be the one to change that, right?

In closing, keep one thing in mind: If you Interview well, your ‘morning joy’ (after a job search) WILL surely arrive sooner.  Have faith & ‘search smarts’.  If you do you’ll be a Winner in the end.  Grace, mercy, and peace to you.

 Greg Silverthorne, 66 Assurance Way

Photo credits:

Abby Donnelly (The Leadership and Legacy Group)

Man on rock (iStock)


2 thoughts on “Successful Interviewing: Handling the Good (Abby Donnelly)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s