Posted by Brian McCullough
I once gave you my one best tip for writing a better resume. This has prompted several people to write and ask if I have a similar one “best tip” for job interviews.
I do, and it’s a very simple one.
Zen And the Art of Job Interviews
When it comes time to prepare clients for a job interview, I go over all the usual common sense tips: dress well; be clean shaven; try to use proper language and grammar; familiarize yourself with your own resume (you’d be surprised how often people get tripped up by info on their own resume) etc.
I also try to concentrate on the mental stuff: be confident; try to give the impression that hiring you will be a boon for the organization… i.e. you’ll be able to deliver results; seem eager to work at this company. To this last end, I encourage my clients to do actual research on the employer. You want the hiring manager to think they’re about to hire you for your dream job; knowing something about the company goes a long way to leaving them with the impression you’re super motivated to join their team.
But the one thing I always end the preparation session with is this advice:
What? Be likeable? Seems like a trite bit of advice. But my reasoning is based on my own experience as someone who does the hiring.
The secret to the job interview is the human element. After all, that’s what a one-on-one interview is for: to find out the intangible qualities you have that can’t be put down on paper. People forget that.
Your resume has already indicated that you’re qualified for consideration. What the one-on-one interview is really all about is determining if you’re normal or if you’re a wacko.
Let’s say you’re applying to work at one of my two companies. If you are applying to be a writer, I would only have considered you if another writer has vouched for you or if I know you by reputation in the industry. In all cases, I’ve only agreed to interview you because your resume showed you to be qualified. The unqualified resumes didn’t even get callbacks.
So if you’ve made it to the interview, chances are I think you’re qualified. Or, at least, amongst the qualified. All I’m worried about now is confirming your qualifications, and more importantly, figuring you out as a person.
So, a good portion of the interview with me will be questions based off your resume. I basically just want to make sure you aren’t lying. So, I’ll ask some questions to try to trip you up. If your resume was all truth, you should have no problem with any of this.
And yeah, I’ll ask you some questions about your work history and your professional philosophy (and maybe some personal or personality questions, though that’s usually not not my style). But I’m really just asking any of these questions so I can get a handle on who you are and how you operate.
The interview is mostly about, will I enjoy working with this person?
In fact, almost every part of this entire process is me trying to suss out a couple of basic questions: Can I work with this person? More importantly, will I enjoy working with this person?
In other words, the interview is… at it’s bottom… Are you a psycho? No? A jerk? No? Then will I enjoy working with you more than the last person I interviewed?
And I would argue that this is really what 85% of interviews are all about: likeability. Weeding out the jerks and psychos and picking the person you think you can get along with best. It’s the personal element that counts.
So the best thing you can do in an interview is be personable, friendly and likeable.
Now, this runs counter to most traditional interview advice which has built the job interview into this bizarre nightmare grilling session where the interviewer is out to get you and any wrong answer means certain rejection. Reading some job search advice books, you get the sense they’re preparing you to testify before a judge or, at least, get interviewed by Bill O’Reilly.
I think this is wrongheaded. At best, it over-prepares you. At worst, this sort of advice scares the crap out of you and turns you into a nervous wreck. And as I’ve said before, you don’t want to be nervous, you want to be confident, competent and pleasant.
And yeah, some companies will put you through the wringer, asking literally hundreds of questions to try to trip you up. But they’re doing that, again, to weed out the jerks and psychos. If you answer honestly, as best you can, then you’ll do fine. Cause I’m assuming you’re not a jerk or a psycho.
So, in summation…
- If you’ve gotten to the interview, the interviewer probably already thinks you’re qualified. You just have to make sure to prove them right.
- Just answer honestly.
- Don’t try to over-think questions. Answer the way you would answer, not the way you think you’re supposed to answer.
- The interview is about finding out who you are as a person. So, just be the person you already are.
- Be truthful, thoughtful and most importantly, likeable.