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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Killing The Interview

If you've been following my blog, you know I spend a fair amount of time drawing on the past and speculating on the future. Being on the wrong side of my career, I can look back on some of the successful -- and not so successful -- experiences of that career, drawing on what I can to help anyone who will listen.

If you're on the early, uphill side of your career, this one just might be a keeper. So settle in and think about the following items that worked for me and might work for you, regardless of the career path you're seeking:

1.  EVERYTHING IN YOUR FIRST TWENTY YEARS IS A LIE
Okay, not everything, but about 95% is pure junk, based on gaining the approval of those in your life whose authority is not only arbitrary, but meaningless.  Parents, teachers, employers and peers all benefit from your seeking their approval, but you actually get nothing from it, other than a fair amount of frustration and a massive sense of failure.  If you're over the age of 22, you should be feeling the pain any minute now, as you begin to realize that it doesn't matter if people like you, all that matters is that people will pay you for what you offer.  Nobody needs more friends; everybody wants to make money, and if they see you as a means to do that, you're in. Finally, accept that your first twenty years has been structured to keep you in line and crush your own self-image. The more you work for others' approval, the less confidence you cultivate for yourself -- and that makes you easy to manipulate.  Fuck that. The truth is that most of your teachers and professors and the system as a whole are/were dead wrong about everything other than keeping you in line. If you want to break out of that prison, the first thing you need to see is that there are no locks on your cage.  You can walk out any time you please -- you just have to want to.

2.  LIFE ISN'T STRUCTURED
Also, understand that after your first twenty years, advancement is no longer a question of checking boxes and fulfilling requirements.  That worked just fine for getting through kindergarden and grad school, but out here among the savages, it's random. There is no standardized system.  Out here, if you don't kill, you don't eat, which means if you work the job you have instead of working for the career you want, you'll stay right where you are until you wake up and realize you're being used until you make a move.  You want it? Go get it. Nobody is going to promote you for simply showing up.

3.  GET INTO THE OTHER GUY'S HEAD
Sorry, no matter how special your mother thinks you are, nobody else does. Nor does anyone care about what you've done or to whom you've done it.  If you're there, it's because there might be something you have that they want. That's it. And the cruel truth is that if they think you want to run and get them coffee, that's all they're going to hire you for. If they think you can save their company, that's all they're going to hire you for. So before you get all caught up in getting what you want, get into the other guy's head and figure out what he's trying to get.  The two may not be anywhere nearly as similar as you might have thought.

4.  KILLING THE INTERVIEW
If you really want to launch upward, you need to know how to crush the interview.  Fortunately, I've always had good success with my own three step system:

  • Start by asking how much time the interviewer has.
    You'd be amazed at how many candidates show up completely unaware that the interviewer has no interest in being bored by self-indulgent fantasies. When the first question you ask is, "How much time do you have for this? I want to respect your time," the interviewer instantly realizes you're not the typical applicant, but a more business-like person who respects both his and your professionalism.  That's a great way to start, and very few competitive applicants do that.  Every interviewer will tell you how much time he has, which serves as a benchmark for you: As you approach that time limit, ask if he needs to end the call/meeting.  If he extends the meeting, you know you're doing well.  If he decides to talk more with you over lunch, you're home free.
  • Get straight to the point.
    Remember that you're not there to make friends, you're there to do business. One of the best tactics I've ever used is a simple, professional discussion along the following lines, in which you admit you're good at some things, but not everything and that you've heard that your interviewer is "the go-to guy" for all those things you lack. By structuring the quid pro quo as a money-making arrangement for both of you, your interviewer realizes you're perfect fit for each other. When he sees you're offering a business proposition, not pledging for a fraternity, he'll sit up a little straighter and pay more attention, because he'll see you're about business, not friendship.
  • End by asking for "next steps."
    A big mistake most applicants make is by leaving the meeting empty-handed instead of pushing for the next step. If you don't end the meeting asking, "what are our next steps," you're telegraphing the other guy that there are no next steps -- we're done.  That's a fatal flaw. But if you do ask, your interview signals his intentions right then and there.  If you get the "we'll keep you in our files and reach out" line, you're out.  But if there's a personalized "I'm out next week but why don't we circle back on the 24th," at least you have a reason to follow up, knowing you're not out of the running.

5. AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA AT ALL COSTS
That's right, lose all that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram crap. All they're going to do is suck more time out of your life while allowing other posers to make you feel inadequate. As long as you're at it, forget everything digital in your quest for success, because the promise of digital media is just another lie.  Understand that virtually all apps and services are not portals to the business world, they're data aggregators for services to sell your information to third parties for marketing purposes. Your data is what they're after, which is why their services are free.  Submitting a resum√© online does nothing more than feed your data to those aggregators.  If you really want a career, get out there, meet and connect with real people in real time.  Don't fall for the digital lie: human nature hasn't changed in tens of thousands of years. Pointing and clicking may get your protein powder delivered to your door overnight, but it won't get you a job -- or a date. People want to shake your hand and look you in the eye.

6. NEVER WORK FOR FREE
The classic mistake most younger people make is working for free as an intern, thinking that if they just prove themselves, management will recognize their potential and promote them into a real, full-time paying job.  By now you should understand that all they're going to recognize is that you're a fool who is so unprofessional, you'll get their coffee and not even ask to be paid for it.  The fact is that professionals are people who offer their services for remuneration. If you're not going to make money, you might as well go play in the park with your dog.

At least he'll appreciate you for being a wonderful guy.

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