Shhh Secrets to a Good Interview

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There is a ton of advice out there about successful interviewing.  It basically boils down to a list of things to say and not to say.  Please Ladders, stop emailing people the 10 things that will ruin an interview.  These articles have the effect of making us more nervous than we were in the first place. Not helpful.

Today I’m going to tell you the truth about successful interviewing.  It’s simple and it will put you at ease.  

1.  Imagine you are on a sales call or consulting gig.  Shift your perspective from trying to prove your worthiness to one where you are exchanging ideas.  You have something they need.  You are giving them free advice.  You are not begging for a job or allowing yourself to be judged. 

This is my biggest piece of advice.  I go on every interview like I’m giving free advice or free consulting.  You like it, you hire me.  I’m not there to prove that I'm worthy.  I’m worthy, but they might not be ready for me.  This changes your stance significantly.  You will be qualifying them by asking questions to make sure they are right for you, not bending to whatever they say they want.  

Please note, I’m not advising you to go in there all cocky and superior.    I’m just saying that they are looking for help, and you can help. 

2.  Share some free tips and gain some knowledge.  Interviewing gives you great insights into industry trends.  If you don’t get this job, you can adapt your approach to better address the trends you’ve discovered in the next interview.  Having your finger on the pulse of the industry makes you very valuable to your next interviewer.  This requires you be open and listen deeply to the problems the company needs to solve.

3.  Short-ish answers and then seek feedback before continuing.  I’ve interviewed people who could eat up my whole 30 minutes answering one question. (Uggh). But others who give a few sentences and then ask if they answered my question, or if I would like more detail.  Perfect.  They are conversing with me.

4. Answer in the form of “what I did and what was the result.”  I specifically ask people to do this, and some just can’t do it.  Make sure it's a good result!   I've had interviewees say “Here’s what I did...” I ask what the result was?  “The whole thing failed because of stupid management”.  Not a good answer.

5.  Answer like a human who actually did stuff.  Tell stories.  With specifics.  When I get all textbook answers I ask for specifics.  I look for an answer that starts with “well one time this guy…” Otherwise, I don’t feel like they were actually there doing the work.   

6.  Prepare a bunch of little vignettes that you can pull from depending on the question. Your answer doesn’t have to fit the question exactly.  Like a politician, “this is how you pivot!”  Your answer can loosely fit the question but say what you need to say.  I’m not particularly good at this one because I’m so literal. But I do prep my stories.

What advice do you have for interviewees?  We'd love to hear from you in the comments.