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Secrets of Success

Goodbye Interviews

DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF AN INTERVIEW (IN’ TER VYU) – a meeting generally of persons face to face, to talk over something special (example: a job).

MICHAEL BRYANT’S DEFINITION OF AN INTERVIEW – an exchange of pre-rehearsed sound bytes between a potential employer and a job hunter. The goal of the exchange is to make the contrived sound spontaneous.

I hate interviews.

I hate how nervous people get before them. I hate how unsure of themselves people are after them. I hate how contrived they are while they are taking place. I hate virtually everything about them.

The late career consultant John Crystal referred to resumes as “expletives deleted.” (For those too young to remember, the phrase was coined during the Watergate scandal. When transcripts were being made of the Nixon White House tapes, there was profanity that was so offensive it had to be accounted for without being quoted. To solve the problem, transcribers replaced each obscenity with the phrase “expletives deleted.”) John then adopted the phrase to express how “fond” he was of resumes.

Resumes meet the new “expletives deleted.”

I have been counseling people for well over twenty-five years. This means I have seen thousands of people before and after the interview process. I have seen them struggle to prepare for the conversation. I have listened to how nervous they were walking out of the meeting. I have watched them second-guess themselves.

In preparing for an interview, clients are often taught the art of the subtle lie. If someone asks “What are your weaknesses?”, give them an unweakness weakness. Tell them something like “I’m really demanding of myself and I guess sometimes I can be a little too demanding of others.” If a potential employer asks, “What do you see yourself doing in five years?”, tell them “If everything works well, I see myself working here.”

None of my clients have been taught how to interview. Yet they do very well when talking to potential employers.

What I teach them each of them already knows. All my clients are experienced in it. They have done it thousands of times. I teach the art of effective conversation. Have you ever had someone tell you “The interview went really well”? It was almost like it wasn’t an interview.”

It wasn’t. It was a conversation. The best “interviewers” it turns out, are simply excellent conversationalists.

There are vast differences between an interview and an effective conversation. An effective conversation is a spontaneous exchange of information. An interview is often stilted and contrived. In an interview, the assumption is that you will be able to answer all the questions. Conversations, on the other hand, often contain responses like “I don’t know.” or “I’m not sure.” A conversation is free flowing. An interview can often feel pre-packaged. (This can sometimes backfire. The employer can become confused. Is the person a good candidate or are they just good at interviewing?) An effective conversation often sheds real light on a subject. The goal of an interview, however, is often to simply create a perception.

With all these objections, am I recommending clients just show up when asked to meet the potential employer? Do I believe no preparation is necessary? Of course not. I tell my clients they have to know the skills they can offer and the kinds of problems they can solve. They need to know their strengths. They need to communicate their passions. Most importantly, they have to know what their values are so they can make sure they and the organization share common beliefs. (If, by the way, there is not a match of values, I tell them to run not walk to the nearest exit.)

What I tell them to do is very important.

However, what I tell them not to do is even more important. I tell them not to rehearse lines or compose scripted responses. I tell them not to make up answers. If they don’t know the answer to a question, I tell them to say they don’t know. (“I don’t know” is often the real answer to the question “What do you see yourself doing in five years?”) I tell them not to lie or give answers that are technically correct but don’t answer the question.

I think a conversation with a candidate is vital and necessary. I simply think the conversation is much too important to dissolve into the farce that interviewing can become.

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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488