The Two Minute Crash Course on Interviews

Author: Dick Bolles

In his book, "Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut," author David Shenk argues (cogently) that whereas information was once something we just couldn't get enough of, now we are all drowning in too much information.

Of course, David isn't the first to make this point. That honor belongs to Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament: "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh."

Which brings us to our subject for today: the job interview. What a superb example of David's (and Ecclesiastes') point! Go look in any book superstore, and you'll drown in information about the job interview.

David argues that we all need to acquire a new skill in this Information Age: learning how to sift information, and boil it down to its essentials. (Excuse my mixed metaphor!)

So, let me offer here "The Two Minute Crash Course on Interviews." Everything you need to know about interviews, in just two minutes reading time. (Three, if you're a slow reader.)

It divides, predictably, into Before, During, and After.

Before You Go On a Job Interview:

Do an inventory of your skills, knowledges, and traits, before you go to any interview. Figure out what makes you different from 19 other people who might be applying for that same job.

When you're ready to go out on job interviews, don't just look for places that have known vacancies. Approach any organization that interests you, even if you have to walk in off the street.

Research your 'targets' ahead of time, thoroughly, in a library or on the Web.

Once you've chosen your target(s), use every personal contact you have, rather than resumes, to get in to see the-person-who-has-the-power to hire you for the job you are interested in (that's not likely to be the human resources department).

During the Job Interview:

Always remember you are coming to the interview as a potential resource person for this employer, not as a job beggar. Keep in mind that the only purpose of a first interview is to be invited back for a second interview.

Know what you want to ask about the place, and the job. Plan on doing 50% of the talking, and let the employer talk 50% of the time (or more).

Realize that the employer has many fears about this whole hiring process, and that some fear is beneath every question the employer asks. (Figuring out what fear is behind every question can help you answer the questions most helpfully.)

Never bad-mouth a previous employer or a previous place where you worked.

Your answer (to any question) should be no longer than two minutes; it can be as short as twenty seconds. Don't run on and on!

Take into the interview room with you any evidence you have of past accomplishments. (An artist, for example, has his or her portfolio. A computer programmer has a printout of programs they have written.) You'll know whether to use this evidence or not.

No matter how many thousands of questions an interviewer could theoretically ask you, they all boil down to just five:

  1. Why are you here?

    What is it about this place that attracted you?

  2. What can you do for us?

    What do you have to contribute to what we do?

  3. What distinguishes you from 19 other people who can do this same job?

    See your homework, above.

  4. Will you fit in?

    Will you get along with, or irritate, all my other employees? And:

  5. Can I afford you?

    Never do salary negotiation until – in the second, or third interview – they have definitely said they want you. Always let the employer name a figure first.

After the Job Interview:

Always write a thank you note the same day, and send it to the employer. Always. (Get their card, while you're there.) Also send one to any secretary or receptionist who helped you.

Being able to do the job well will not necessarily get you hired. The person who gets hired is often the one who knows the most about how to get hired.

Hopefully, this crash course has helped make you that person.