Make it a conversation.

That’s it. That’s the most important thing. Make your interviewer Joe have a good time; make your interviewer Joe enjoy himself in interviewing you. Make your interviewer Sally have something that she can say back at home to her spouse about how her day went. Make something you say able to be repeated by your interviewer Marcel at a cocktail party.

Make it a conversation.

Well, what do I mean “make it a conversation?” Specifically, I mean:

These may be a lot of bullet points to remember, but you don’t need to remember them. All you need to think about is “How can I make this into an interesting conversation?” I work with clients frequently on interview practice, specifically the interview start.

Two specific tips:

1) How to start the interview in a fun way

  • Ask the first question. Intrerviews follow a path of inertia once they get started. If the first question is to you, you’ve alredy turned the tides into a routine interview. So ask the first question. Ask about the company. Ask about the specific position. Learn something from the answer, and then address what you have learned in some of your follow on questions.
  • Be curious. You don’t know everything. No one expects you to. Ask for clarification when you need it.
  • If boxed into answering first, clarify the question to create a sense of back-and-forth.

2) How to have a conversation within a question

  • Clarify the question. If you’ve been asked something and you don’t want to fall into the routine, “Interviewer asks, interviewee answers,” then clarify the question.

    Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you’ve shown leadership.”

    YOU: “Would you like that to be in some recent experience or my overall largest example of such a time?”

    Interviewer: “An example from your current job would be great.”

    YOU: “Ok…”
  • “To answer this, could I first ask you a couple of things about [the position, the work environment, the projects]?”
  • Respond to conversational invitiations. Sometimes your interviewer Reggie may take an important call, and then after hanging up, may say, “That was from Operations. We’ve announced that we’re looking to buy a new plant.” Respond to this. Feel free to ask, “Is that good news or bad news?” Be open to these parts of the conversation.

In tenth grade, my English teacher told us the best way to prepare for an English essay-writing exam. He said, “Think of a question that covers many of the books we read this term, such as “What is the role of death in our readings?” and think of a concrete, wonderful answer.”

Then he tricked us. Or he gave us a lowball. Depending how you think of it.

We walk into the exam, and there were three questions – each worth 33%. The last question was, “Write the question you wrote to prepare for the exam (unless it was about the role of death), and write the answer you wrote to prepare.” !!!!!!!!! Exactly!

Sure, I’d prepared, and done as he had suggested, but I could have put more time into that pre-exam!

That’s what today’s game is about. Penelope Trunk writes about media training that she took in preparation for the radio and TV interviews for her book. She excerpts a section of the training manual from Clarity Media Group:

“Don’t try to prepare for every possible question that could arise. Determine the 6-8 topics that are likely to come up during your interview and then:
a. Hone a key message for each topic.
b. Identify anecdotes you can tell that illustrate each message.
c. Prepare specific examples or compelling data to prove your point.
d. Think of clever analogies if appropriate.
Think of these interviews as the equivalent of a good movie trailer, in which your quest is to independently drive to the very best scenes, anecdotes and newsworthy revelations in the book.”

You know when Joan Rivers or Carson Daly have come up to celebrities on the red carpet with the big microphone to ask one pointed question? That’s you – the celebrity! And that’s you – Carson Daly! You’re both the interviewer and the interviewee – you’re on both sides of the mike.


* When preparing for a job interview

Goal of the Game:
* To prepare well for a job interview – just like for that English final.

How Long to Play:
* 20 minutes. Play by yourself to prepare, and later potentially run your answers by a friend.

1) Prepare 6-8 questions that the interviewer might ask you (“Tell me about yourself,” “What is your greatest professional accomplishment?” …)
2) Prepare stories for each answer.
3) Prepare specific examples or SARI (situation-action-result-interesting thing) answers.
4) Run these by trusted advisors and friends.