During the interview process for the ten trainers needed for our training center, in walked an applicant for one of the entry-level training positions.  The position was paying above median salary for the position and the regional location and this information was included in the external position posting, along with a list of the expected minimal skills sets.  Trainer candidates were advised that they would be required to interview with a 3-person panel, including the Sales Director, the Training Manager (myself) and the lead trainer.  This interview included a 15 minute “teach-back” on a subject of the candidate’s selection.


Although, I generally focus on the content of the interview as my decision making criteria, I could not help be feel exhausted when observing the approach of the casually dressed trainer candidate.

  • Had I been remiss in specifying that business attire was required for the interview?
  • Was that level of detail truly necessary?


I had ten slots to fill, therefore, I braced myself and moved to greet the candidate.  During the ensuing event, the candidate answered the interviewing panel’s questions hesitantly.  I wasn’t sure if it was nervousness, or general lack of confidence.  However, given the entry-level nature of the training position(s), I kept my focus and prepared to be wonderfully surprised during the teachback.  It had happened before.  The interviewing panel advised the candidate that she had 15 minutes, the use of an instructor machine (already logged in with generic password), access to projector (already logged in), and any additional resources within the training center classroom.  We set the timer, and exited the room for a quick break while she “prepped” for the training teachback.


After 15 minutes, we re-entered the classroom, took our seats, and proceeded to be “participants” in the candidate’s workplace training class.   The resulting event was less than expected.  It was obvious this would be the first training opportunity for this candidate.  Her apparent perception was that standing in front of the room reading the information on the board (with her back to the participants) constituted a learning event.  First mistake.  When the Sales Director interrupted with a content-related question (as a participant would do), the candidate was flustered, and frustrated.  Without understanding the questions, she did nothing to gain clarity from the participant, nor restate the question, etc.  She lost her place within the content she was delivering and appeared on the verge of tears.  After 4.5 minutes, I concluded the teachback and offered her an opportunity for a break.


A short time later, we visited one-on-one regarding the position requirements, expectations and goals.  Thankfully, she requested feedback on her teachback performance, which I was able to provide in an encouraging manner.  Interestingly enough, that resulting conversation gave me the opportunity to know the current telephone customer service representative – who had aspirations of becoming a future trainer. She had inquired at the junior college without success.  She was a single parent and unable to afford a university level education.  She simply admired the great trainers she had experienced in her customer service training, and knew she wanted to be “that person” – she “wanted to do that”.  I observed her come to life visually in front of my eyes.  Her enthusiasm and desire encouraged me to take a chance.  After all, I had several other positions to fill and nothing to lose.


Ultimately, we developed a two-week, intensive Train-the-Trainer program for all the newly hired, entry-level trainers that included topics for:

  • appropriate business dress
  • handling audience questions during training
  • collaborating with customers
  • using hands-on learning activities for audience understanding
  • classroom management
  • agenda management
  • providing training support during sales calls
  • assessing customer’s needs
  • using different questioning techniques to verify participant understanding through the training
  • preparing for the class before class start date
  • creating a backup plan
  • and of course – learning the actual course content

Our newly hired trainer (and her peers) soaked up the opportunity.  In fact, she became one of our highest rated instructors in the training center.



Upon my departure from the organization a year later, she thanked me for giving her the opportunity to move up her abilities to  her dream career.  If the knowledge shared within these words or within this blog, inspire someone else to stretch their abilities and go out on a limb with the fear anyway – then my goal has been reached.  If the situation encountered within your workplace is identified within this blog and you are able to take one tip, one idea, or suggestion and make it your own successfully – then my goal has been reached.


Years ago, a trainer named Kathy took one look at me and saw something no one else did – ability.  Years later, when I was leaving the city for a new promotion, she refused my thanks and said simply – “Pass the opportunity on”.   This is my attempt to keep my promise.


One thought on “Pass the Opportunity On

  1. The blog entry “Pass the Opportunity On” is a refreshing reminder about the interview process. I truly enjoyed reading your comments.

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