3 Great Ways To Crush The Job Interview

One of my clients recently told me about a job interview he went through that didn’t turn out so well.

After what seemed like 20 minutes of relaxed, friendly chitchat, the hiring manager straightened up in his chair and abruptly announced, “Well, I guess we better get started. Tell me where you want to be in five years.”

My guy was a bit stunned. He thought “the interview” was already in progress. His reply to the question was ” They still ask that question?” Oops.

Things apparently got a bit awkward after that.

He didn’t get the job.

Picture of applicant and hiring guy
When we try to be too clever in interviews, it can often backfire.

Solution #1: Be honest.  Yes, they still ask that question. I wish they wouldn’t. The average employee stays at a job less than 5 years. This is especially true for Millennials.

So they’re basically asking you “What’s your next job?”

My favorite answer for this: “I don’t know quite yet. But if you hire me for this position, it’s going to definitely change the arc of my goals. At my last job we increased revenue in the southwest region by 25% because…”

When they ask if you know how to use their workflow, and you don’t, say so. But because you did your research, you know all about it, and your answer should be “I haven’t used it. But I did take some online tutorials so I will be able to pick it up really fast.”

 Solution #2: Have your paragraph ready.

I go over this with students and clients constantly, and wrote about it awhile ago.  Your paragraph is 20 seconds about who you are. I recommend they write it down, edit it, then memorize it. You can use this paragraph at cocktail parties, professional mixers – and job interviews.

One of the first questions many of us get asked by strangers (and hiring managers) is any number of versions of “Tell me about yourself.”

In an interview, this is code for ” Tell me why you will be a good fit in our culture and be an interesting team member.” Most people blow it within the first couple minutes of the conversation.

Your paragraph is honest. When you believe it, everyone else does.


Happy email from student

My LinkedIn profile summary is a version of my paragraph.  It takes about 20 seconds to read it. When I meet folks I don’t know, I use a version of it.

Solution #3: Prove you have read the quarterly report.

Chances are the hiring manager has not read it!  But there is gold in company reports, gold that most have not taken the time to pan for. Many times, within these documents are a company’s look over the horizon, some forward-looking statements that tell shareholders how they intend to evolve. When you do real research, you’ll have a pretty good idea of not only what’s happening now, but what’s coming down the road. You, of course, are the solution for these challenges!

It’s worth mentioning that quarterly reports are a great resource for discovering future jobs (…we are going to open a video production house in the Boston area…) and you will be one of the first to seek contacts to get to the front of the hiring line.

We tend to over think the process of the job interview. We believe when we are asked questions we have to deliver clever answers. It’s easier said than done, but if you:

  • prepare
  • know the company and the culture
  • have a strong sense of who you are
  • be honest

You won’t have to huff and puff your way through the conversation. Your confidence in your abilities combined with your belief that you are a good fit will rub off, and give you the best shot at nailing it.

You have some thoughts on this. Tell me what you think.

Signature photoJohn Scott is a media instructor, online education coordinator and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. John’s debut book  ” Destination: Reinvention”drops on Groundhog Day.

Follow John on Twitter @johnscottsf.

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