Acing the interview: Page 2

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You: Well, I spent the last six months managing an application conversion.
Douglas: I understand you brought a PowerPoint presentation clip. Do you need to set this up?
You: Well, basically, what you're gonna see are the three foils where I project the two-year application maintenance savings.
Douglas: OK, Don, we're gonna see that clip right now.
Your thought bubble: Good grief!
Douglas: Excellent. I'm looking forward to seeing the presentation. What're you working on next?
Your thought bubble: Well, now that's really up to you, now isn't it?
You: Well, I'm looking forward to taking some time off to spend up in the mountains...
Douglas: Like a Ted Kazinski thing? You enjoy writing?
(Canned laughter)
You: Not exac....
Douglas: Hey, we have to take a break right now...
Your thought bubble: If he needs to use the rest room, why doesn't he just excuse himself like anyone else instead of announcing it to the whole cubicle bay?
Douglas: ... stick around, Frank Gorshin's up next to answer the question, "whatever happened to that 70's singer with the hit, 'I Will Survive?'"

The Kumbaya Attack. The most dangerous interview is the campfire interview. "The campfire interview, also called the 'Kumbaya Attack,' is a mind game," says Shawn Chopek, who is not a psychologist but was a big fan of the old Bob Newhart show. "The interviewee has to be on his toes like a ballerina." A campfire interviewer comes-off not as an administrator, colleague, or even peer, but as a friend--a buddy you can confide with. But as with the Interrogation-or Dick Caveat-style, the goal is the same: to break through the professional fagade and ensure the potential employee will fit into the corporation. "Keep it professional," Chopek says, "the Kumbaya attacker is adept in psychoanalysis. Your pauses, segues, and body language reveal a lot of what you're thinking, as the following sample dialog illustrates:"

Interviewer: Hello, Don. It's good to finally meet you.
You: Thanks, I appreciate your time. May I sit down?
Interviewer: Sure. Or stand, if that makes you more comfortable. Kick-off your shoes, whatever.
You: This guest chair will be fine.
Interviewer: So, Don, how are you doing?
You: You mean, right now? In general? Or, career-wise?
Interviewer: It's actually just rhetorical. Does that question make you uncomfortable?
Your Thought Bubble: What's this guy's trip?
Interviewer's Thought Bubble: I'm sensing some resistance here.
Your Thought Bubble: I might be wrong, but it looks like this guy is giving me the evil eye.
Interviewer's Thought Bubble: I am feeling some cynicism. I need to earn his trust. Maybe I should tell him how we are industry leaders.
Your Thought Bubble: Industry leader, yea, right. I read you just extended domestic benefits to pet fish.
Interviewer's Thought Bubble: And how does that make you feel?
Your Thought Bubble: I don't know.
Interviewer's Thought Bubble: Are you having problems putting your thoughts into words?
You: No. I'm just having trouble resisting the temptation to take your eyeglasses off and jam the temple in your neck.
Interviewer: Good, good, it sounds like you have some anger control issues, but you're opening up.
You: Really, I am more interested in talking about your company.
Interviewer: We'll get to that, but why did you really leave your last job?
You: It's on my application there. I got laid-off.
Interviewer: Yes, yes, I read that, but really, why did you leave?
You: Because they eliminated my job.
Interviewer: Yes, I understand that is your reality of what happened, but why did you stop going to work?
You: Basically, because they took my key card away, suspended my logon id's, and changed the locks.
Interviewer: Don, c'mon. There's something you're not telling me.
You Thought Bubble: Yes, there's something I'm not telling you. Please lean closer so I can reach your eyeglasses.
Interviewer's Thought Bubble:I I heard that.

It's a done deal

If you sent a resume in the old days, a company at least had the courtesy to drop you a card acknowledging its receipt and that your application would be kept on file (albeit, circular) for ninety days, etc. Today, employers don't have the time for such considerations. They are desperate to fill vacant IT slots, and they're not flying you all the way out to their HQ just to see if you wear a funny hat. They're already sold on your resume and references, and they want you.

Relax. The interview is just a formality, and if you keep your cool you have nothing to worry about. So unless you were so disliked at your last job that your only reference is your outplacement counselor... it's in the bag! //

Common interview faux pas

Though a prospective employer has exhausted significant resources to pre-qualify you, and the actual interview is generally just a formality, there are still a lot of things you can do to jeopardize what would otherwise be a formal offer.

Avoid these temptations:

Stealing office supplies BEFORE you actually work there. Neither should you, in the event the interview goes bad, use their Ricoh to make additional copies of your resume.

Name dropping. An interview is a time for the employer to get to know you, it's not a time for you to mention your brush with Larry Ellison at a Jimmy Buffett concert or spew lofty enigmatic quotes like, "I've always subscribed to Alan Napier's philosophy that 'not only do you have to do the right thing, but you have to also do the thing right." Besides, in the case of the former, there were fifteen-thousand people between you and Ellison; and, in the case of the latter, it's only a matter of time before someone realizes Alan Napier was the guy who played Alfred on the TV show, "Batman!"

Being flippant. In this age of startups, more and more executives tend to be young. Inevitably, you'll be asked a question like, "how would you feel working for a fifteen-year-old?" Pausing for even a moment to either compose a witticism or to discard the one you almost shared will damn you. Also, practice your response to the oft-asked, "where do you want to be five years from now" question. If your answer is, "In five years, the statute of limitations will have run out, so I hope to move back to Indiana to be with my family again," you're not trying hard enough.

The interview is a time to be serious. Save the wisecracks for the company's internal employee satisfaction surveys.

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