The Physics of Getting a Job

F + t + T = J

First, a word of warning: Don’t rely upon me for physics or algebra.

That having been said, if I am not mistaken, I now have to say the following:

Where F is force; t equals time; T is thought; and J is a job or, to be more precise, a job offer.

It seems to me, someone who knows very little about physics and understands even less, that there is a relationship between force, time and thought. I also believe that if you properly combine all three, you may get a job offer. Let me try to explain with the goal of helping you and not making a complete fool out of me!

Let’s start with “F.” Everything we do involves force. When we take a step, we put force on the ground using our feet. When we sit, we put force on the chair using our derrière. When we type, we put force on the keys using our fingers. If the thing with which we are coming into contact can resist with greater force than the force we are expending, nothing bad happens. If, however, we use greater force against an object than that object can withstand, the object will change. Like clay in the hands of a sculptor, it may change for the better. But a sledge hammer meeting a wall…not so good for the wall.

The point is, force is something we do all the time. Constantly. Even in our sleep. Just ask your pillow and mattress! So force is not a negative. Force is a positive we need for our survival. So don’t be afraid of using force for anything. You just have to use it correctly.

I am not suggesting that you be rude, violent or offensive in a job interview. (In a world where pharmaceutical companies, advertising a product on television, have to include a warning not to use their medicine if the person is allergic to the medicine, I thought it wise to include that statement!) What I am saying is that you have to have force behind your views. When asked your opinion, you cannot waver. You need to display confidence. Put differently, you have to have the courage of your convictions. That’s the type of force I am referencing. It is not physical force, but mental force. (Anyone thinking Star Wars and “May the force be with you,” does not get dessert with their next dinner!)

Next comes time. Time is truly the only non-renewable, finite thing we have. And we don’t know how much of it we have. We don’t know when it will end. Yet it is one of the most wasted resources. How much time have you wasted trying to save a relationship which you knew was doomed to end, and end poorly? Think of the mantra: “Hire slow; fire fast!”

But to continue, how much time have you wasted on a project that had little if any chance for success when you could have been working on something you knew you could complete and would be successful? And how much time have you wasted talking and saying nothing? That’s the time with which I am concerned.

I cannot tell you how many employers have told me that candidates have talked themselves out of job offers. They simply talked too much. “I could not get a word in edgewise” is a common refrain.

Just as you can do more with less, you can say more with fewer words. The greatest speech ever written in the United States took less than two minutes to deliver. It is nine sentences in length. At Gettysburg, Lincoln said more in 275 words than most “men,” to quote from the speech, have said in their lifetimes.

In most interviews, you will not even have two minutes to answer a question, so you have to choose your words carefully and then deliver them, in the least amount of time, with the force of a person who believes in what they say.

Which brings us to the capital “T,” thought. You have to think before you speak. You should always do that but it is even more important in a job interview. So, when asked a question, take two-three seconds to come up with an answer. Even if you already know what you want to say because you have prepared well for the interview, take the time. The silence will work in your favor. It will have an impact. (Isn’t “impact” related to “force?”) The interviewers will hopefully say to themselves, “That’s a person who thinks before they speak.” Who would not want an employee with that characteristic?

And with that characteristic, you just might get the job offer.

Overcoming Shyness

Congratulations! You got the interview. Now you have to get the offer. And that comes down to your perspective. It’s all about your attitude. To coin a phrase, It’s attitude, stupid.

You have to be able to see the big picture. What does the employer need? Can you provide it? What does the employer want? Do you have it to give? As with everything else in life, needs are more important than wants. But you have to be able to see the big picture, understand the needs AND appreciate the wants.

This means listening. This means asking the right questions. But it also means taking possession of the room. Showing that you can take charge.

But beware: That will intimidate some people. They will see you as competition. On the other hand, it will make others happy because they don’t like taking or having responsibility. How do you know? Body language. It’s called “reading the room.” You proverbially take out your binoculars and look at the interviewers. Are they smiling, frowning, or not reacting to you. You need the binoculars because some reactions are very slight, very important, but very slight. And you can’t even proverbially (or is it “metaphorically?”) bring a telescope into an interview. Are they moving in their seats to get comfortable because you have made them feel uncomfortable? Are they leaning forward to listen? Or, are they leaning back to contemplate what you are saying? Or, are they leaning back to take a nap because they have already decided against you?

The truth of the matter is, you can never know for certain. As long as you are not rude, lie or make claims which you cannot support, you can only do your best. One person can lean back because you fascinate them, and another can lean back because you bore them. Who knows?

So you can spend all of your time second-guessing yourself, in which case I can almost guarantee that you will not get the job offer, or you can bring with you the secret sauce of successful interviewing. It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.

The secret sauce is confidence. It is not over-confidence, which is arrogance. It’s confidence. Pre-COVID, you could establish confidence with a firm handshake. You can’t anymore. So now you have to do it with your body language. You have to look the interviewers straight in the eye (camera). You have to speak with a firm tone of voice, friendly, but firm.

Some people, perhaps many, are shy. They do not enjoy public speaking. For them, a job interview is public speaking. There is a trick I was taught about overcoming shyness. Pick an actor or actress whom you respect. Whose performance resonates with you. In my case it could be a Humphrey Bogart. A Cary Grant. A John Wayne. This does not mean that I touch the corners of my mouth like Bogie. It does not mean that I employ Grant’s voice modulations. And it certainly does not mean that I imitate Wayne’s walk, tone or mannerism. What it means, or actually because I no longer need this tool, what it meant was that I said to myself that I should pretend that Bogart, Grant, Wayne, whomever, was in a movie playing me. And then I would play them playing me. It sounds crazy but it worked.

Don’t Overthink in a Job Interview

Years ago I had a candidate for a senior sales/business development position. While he was a candidate, and not a career counseling client, I naturally gave him some advice. It may have been a mistake.

What are they really asking? That’s a question a lot of career counselors or coaches pose to their clients. They tell them that employers ask one question but really have something else in mind.

For example, What are your strengths? Do they really want to know what you are good at? Don’t they already know from your resume? So what are they really asking? They are trying to figure out whether or not you will stay on the job if offered to you. Will you be bored? Will they be able to utilize all that you have to offer? Or will you feel that you are being underutilized, not being allowed to contribute to your full potential, and leave? All of which are quite true.

Now the reverse question: What are your weaknesses? Yes, they want to know. But they really want to know that you are self-aware and that you do something to overcome your weaknesses. “I have a problem with X. To deal with it I do A, B and C.” They also really want to know if they are going to have to provide you with training to overcome your weakness. All quite true.

But the problem is, sometimes, (I think) to paraphrase Freud, a question is just a question. There is no hidden agenda. But, if your mindset is that there is something sinister behind every question, you may overthink things. That is what happened to my candidate.

Both he and the employer, my client, gave identical reports on what had happened at the interview, so I know this is accurate:

Everything was going fine. The owner of the company was asking questions focused on the job description. The candidate was able to answer each question, giving examples of work he had done. And then it happened. The employer ask a question right out of left field. “What was the last movie you saw?” The candidate’s brain went into overdrive. What does he really want to know? What will he think if he knows I like stupid comedies? What will he think if I admit that my girlfriend dragged me to a “chick flick?” Will he think I am weak? Will he think that I’m the type of person who can be manipulated?

It took him what appeared like a lifetime to respond. According to the employer, it was only about 10 seconds. And he finally said, “I honestly don’t remember,” which could have been a perfectly good answer if it were not for the fact that the employer thought he was lying, which he was. He had been dragged to the “chick flick.”

Of course, it is always best to simply tell the truth. If he had said, “My girlfriend dragged me to this God-awful movie. I don’t remember the name of it and it will be two hours of my life I will never get back,” he probably would have gotten the job. But he lied. And he knew it. The owner of the company knew it. And the candidate, immediately regretting the lie, was thrown for a loop and, from that point on, performed poorly.

The employer’s motive in asking the question was simply to see if the candidate was any good at small talk. He failed that test, miserably.

The moral of this story: Don’t overthink an interviewer’s motivations. And, most importantly, never lie!

Speak to the Gap

Congratulations! Your cover letter and resume were effective. They did their job. The cover letter got them to look at your resume. Your resume got them to pick up the phone, confirm your interest and qualifications, and you got the interview – the Number Two Holy Grail of the job search process.

And then, there you were, seated (virtually) across from the interviewers and you blew it. Sure, you did your homework. You knew the job description inside out and backwards. You memorized their website. You knew the professional, and some personal, details about the interviewers. You even knew about the person you would be replacing. You had a list of really good questions to ask, not the normal nonsense. And you knew exactly what you needed to tell them to convince them that you were the candidate for the job. And then you blew it.

You forgot one little thing. Well, not so little a thing. You forgot the most important thing of all. You forgot to listen.

Most – no, that may not be fair. Allow me to start again.

Far too many employers talk to much. They are so desperate, literally and figuratively, to fill that empty chair, that they talk too much. They are so frustrated that they have to get the proverbial off their chests. So they talk too much. They tell the candidate, the interviewee, you, what they want to hear. What they need to hear. What they are longing to hear. What they want you (Stop eating!) to regurgitate back to them. And then…you blew it.

What did you do wrong? You were so focused on sharing with them everything that you had learned about them as individuals, and about the company, to prove to them what a great researcher you are and how well you prepare for meetings, that you did not bother to listen. You were waiting for your chance to tell them what you wanted them to hear that you totally missed out on what they wanted to hear.

It happens more often than you think.

I had a career counseling client who came to me, totally frustrated. He was in real estate business development. Sales. And he was good. He was averaging an interview every couple of days. But no offers.

His first mistake was that he was applying for the wrong type of jobs. He was the king of residential sales, but he was only applying for commercial real estate sales positions. Why? Because he wanted new experiences. He wanted new challenges. All very noble, but not what the interviewers, the employers, wanted. They wanted commercial and he only had a little commercial experience.

After they lectured him for five or 10 minutes on their commercial real estate problems, they simply asked, “How can you help us?” And what did he do?

At that point he took a deep breath, smiled, and lectured them for five or 10 minutes on his residential sales experience. They were not interested. Interview over.

What should he have done?

He should have spoken about the commercial real estate experience he had. Even though it was slight, he had some. And here’s another mistake he made: He forgot that they knew that. After all, he had not lied on his resume. They knew he was heavy on residential and light on commercial sales. Yet, there he was, virtually sitting across from them on the Zoom call.

He should have talked commercial and then added, “This is analogous, of course, to my residential sales experience. We had the same problems that you described. This is how I overcame them.”

By presenting, if you will, the painting of his residential sales career in a commercial sales frame, they would have listened. And, after a few mock sessions with me, that’s what he did, with positive results.

Put differently, he spoke to the gap, in fact the gaps (plural): The gap between what the interviewers needed and what he had to offer, and the gap between what he had to offer (great residential sales experience) and what they wanted to hear (commercial).

Just as in the London Tube the signs read, “Mind the Gap,” in an interview you should “Speak to the Gap,” the difference between the interviewers’ needs and what they have, and what you have to offer. Otherwise, you’ll fall in the crack! Granted, it’s a less deadly gap, but still, you don’t want to trap yourself.

Conducting an Agile Job Search

First, I must give credit where credit is due: I am stealing from Mark Shead’s excellent (Well, let’s be honest. I’m not an IT guy so I really don’t know if it’s “excellent,” but it was great for my purposes!) video, What is Agile?.

Agile, if I understand it correctly, is a framework for software development. Anyone who would be interested in hiring me to develop software for them, to oversee the development of software for them, or to test software that has been developed for them, should seek psychiatric attention. I make that clear from the beginning so that you will understand that what I write about Agile is as basic, fundamental and simple as possible.

When I was first introduced to Agile, I thought the person was talking about flexibility. Given that one component of the approach is the willingness to change, I may not have been entirely wrong. After all, they must have called it “Agile” and not “Inflexible” for a reason.

There are similarities between Agile software development and a job search:

  • There are some things you have to do quickly. In our case, the cover letter and resume. Get them out of the way. They are tools, albeit important tools, but only tools. The real work should be in networking, securing informational meetings, and honing interviewing skills.
  • You have to revisit what you have done to make sure it is working properly. If you are not getting networking and informational meetings, and if they are not productive, something has to change. If you are not getting interviews, redo your cover letter and/or resume. If you are not getting job offers, your interview skills need work.
  • And you have to keep focused on the end result. In our case, getting the interview and, ultimately, the job offer. That’s the test, the only test, of success. Yes, securing networking and informational meetings are important, but they are small successes on the road to the main success.

Consider this article the presentation of another way to look at conducting a job search, this time with somewhat of a scientific basis, but really a moralistic one.

Agile tells software developers to focus on, or stay true to, a set of values and principles, if you will, beliefs, they have decided upon at the outset of their work that they must follow. It also means that they have to be flexible, and change their plan if circumstances change. In a sentence, it’s not about what they are doing, but why they are doing it. (Perhaps some nice IT guys and gals would be so kind as to explain, in the Comments section, what values, principles and beliefs are when it comes to software development. A few examples would help. Thank you and have a nice day.)

No, I do not mean why you are applying for a job. It could be for any number of reasons. I mean why you are applying for a particular job. And that brings us back to values, principles and beliefs. They should inform your decision not just about where you want to work but, more importantly, for whom you want to work.

At the beginning of your job search you should decide on the type of boss you want to have. Most people search for the company. I have come to believe that that may be a mistake. After all, the Number One reason people quit their job is because of their boss, not their company. Look for the right boss, the person for whom you would want to work. The person from whom you believe you can learn. The person who you believe shares your values, principles and beliefs. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’ll be working for a company where you would want to work.

So how do you find your next boss? Look around on LinkedIn, reading articles and posts written on topics of importance to you. See whose writing resonates with you. For that matter, see whose “likes” resonate with you and their comments on articles and updates. Read articles from professional journals and on websites. But don’t just concentrate on the authors. Pay close attention to whom they quote; those may be the people for whom you really want to work.

After all, if you are interested in software development, would you rather work for me or Mark Shead?

Two Keys to Getting the Job Offer

Let’s look at the job search in a totally different way. Instead of being nice, and convincing the prospective employer that you are the person with whom they would most like to spend eight hours a day, convince them that you are someone with whom they cannot afford not to spend eight hours a day (despite the double negative).

Now, just because there may be some fool out there in Readerland who does not understand sarcasm, exaggeration, or being figurative, I neither endorse blackmailing prospective employers, threatening them, nor being anything other than nice. Now that we have gotten the foolishness out of the way, let’s get back to our subject.

Every day I receive a resume that begins, front and center, with a paragraph fool (Sorry. Freudian slip) full of adjectives and self-praise. The individual is a “consummate professional.” They are “well-respected.” And, of course, they are “accomplished.” But nowhere in the paragraph do they actually enumerate any of their accomplishments. A candidate can claim to have worked on a multi-million dollar project, but it could have been a complete and total disaster – because of them! So it is a misleading statement. Being misleading on your resume, will paint you in a corner, when you are interviewing, from which you will never to able to escape. Don’t mislead! Don’t misrepresent! Don’t Mississippi! (I needed three “mis”es for the alliteration but could not think of a third one. Sorry.)

Problem is, and please remember this, there is not an employer in the world who cares what you think of yourself; they only care about what you can do for them. Take a few minutes and reread the part in italics a few times until it sinks in. Excuse me while I go get something to drink.

That was refreshing!

So now that we have eliminated the paragraph that your mother wrote for you, or you a paid a “professional” resume writer to write for you (and, yes, I have received resumes with exactly the same adjectives and in the exact same format, from different candidates, all of whom paid a fortune for that nonsense!), let’s get to the fun part: threatening and blackmailing.

If you begin your resume with a bullet point list of your quantifiable, objective accomplishments, the employer (or their representative) will say, “I have to meet this person.” Remember, the purpose of a resume is to get an interview, not to get the job. So you need to be nice in the interview, not in the resume. In the resume, you have to brag and get to the point. You don’t have time to charm. The resume reader is tired. They will make mistakes. They will miss things. (Yes, me too!) So don’t make them work. As journalists say, “Don’t bury the lead.” Get to the point!

Front and center announce, without shame, what you have done for others. By so doing, you lower the employer’s level of concern. You appear to be someone who can do the job because you have shown that you have done it for others. And therein lies the subliminal blackmail and threat.

When the employer is finished reading your resume you want them to think, “If they don’t work for me, they’ll work for my competitor, and, unless they turn out to be a jerk, I don’t want that. So let’s bring them in QUICKLY!”

And there’s the blackmail. There’s the threat. If I don’t work for you, I’ll work for your competitor. Or, if you prefer,if I don’t work for you, I’ll work against you! Or, if you don’t hire me, your competitor will!

The only way to achieve that result is by focusing on objective, quantifiable accomplishments, not adjectives and self-praise.

Oh, and remember, be nice in the interview. No one hires someone with whom they would not want to spend eight hours a day.

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In a Job Interview EI Trumps IQ

It’s maturity over intelligence. Or, maybe, it’s maturity over knowledge.

Candidate A appears for a job interview for a programmer, an IT software developer. She’s given a puzzle to solve. (Puzzle may be the wrong word, but let’s not quibble.) The interviewers asks her to write on the board (In these politically correct times, I don’t know if I can say whiteboard or blackboard, so I’ll just leave it at “board!”) three three-letter words. Then they ask her to write a program that will automatically rearrange the words in every possible configuration. In other words, A, B, C; B, C, A; C, B, A; etc.

The woman then proceeds to write a program that does not rearrange the words into every possible configuration, but the letters in each word.

They politely thank her and point out her error. She apologizes. She explains that she is nervous. One of her weaknesses is public speaking. An interview is public speaking and she is rather uncomfortable. She says that in order to overcome this deficiency, she has joined Toastmasters. She then offers to write the proper formula.

They tell her it is not necessary and ask her to wait in the Reception area. (For the record, the program she wrote was correct, simple, clean and neat, so they knew she could do the job. She had the hard skills.)

The second candidate enters. After the normal pleasantries, the interviewers give him the same challenge. He makes the same mistake as the previous candidate. Just as before, they point out the error. But his reaction is different. He says:

Of course, you are correct. I did make a mistake. But let’s think about it for a minute. Did I really make a mistake? In a matter of only a few seconds, less than a minute, I wrote for you a clean, neat, simple beautiful program that achieved what you wanted in principle, only it was more complicated. It’s more complicated to rearrange the letters in three words than three words. All I have to do is to make a change here, here and here, and you have the correct answer to your assignment. Since I can accomplish the more complicated, you know I can accomplish the simple one.

They thank him and tell him that they will be in touch.

Now why did the guy get the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” response, while the gal got called back into the room and offered the job?

She had what he lacked: Emotional Intelligence. It is sometimes referred to as the Emotional Quotient. It’s also known as soft skills. I simply call it “maturity.” The guy is always right, even when he is wrong. The gal knew she was wrong, was self-aware (an important component of EI) about her personal weakness, admitted it and explained what she was doing to improve. The guy did not have a clue.

He will not be, and probably never will be, a team player. He is not self-aware. He probably went home certain that a job offer would be awaiting him in his Inbox. One of the worse colleagues I ever had was a fellow who thought he was always right. He would never admit to making a mistake. I don’t remember his name, but years ago I looked him up on LinkedIn. I was not surprised to see that he was employed at all of his various jobs for only a matter of months. I was also not surprised to see that he listed all those jobs on a public website. And I will guarantee that in a job interview it was always someone else’s fault that he did not last long. After all, when a perfect person is fired it cannot possibly be their fault! (What I don’t understand is why anyone hired the guy after the first few disasters!)

Now our gal friend, she’s a team player. She is someone who is willing to learn. She’ll admit to her errors and stay late to correct them. Metaphorically speaking, she’s the person you want beside you in the foxhole.

Even if the guy was more technically skilled than the gal, you should always go with the candidate with the high EI. It will make your life a lot easier and your work a lot better.

Applying for Jobs for Which You are Unqualified

I recently read Jill Lepore’s book, If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future. It provided much food for thought (and a few ideas for articles!).

Years ago I attended a seminar. I don’t remember the subject but I remember how the presenter began. He asked everyone who was in “Sales” to raise their hand. Then he asked everyone to lower their hands and for those who had not raised their hand to stand up.

Personally, I do not appreciate speakers who embarrass their audience. In any event, he said to the people who were standing, “You don’t understand your companies. You don’t understand your role. You don’t understand business. Everyone is in Sales.”

Of course, he was right; everyone is in Sales. He was just wrong in the way he went about making his point. You might not actually sell the product or service offered by your company, but you do impact Customer Service. And if you do not do your job well, the customer, or client, will seek another provider. That is why we are all in Sales.

Which brings me to Lepore’s book. In it she notes that between 1950 and 1955, due to the manufacturing sector, the advertising industry grew from $6 billion to $9 billion. She quoted one manufacturer as saying, “We don’t sell lipstick. We buy customers.”

The same is true for job seekers. They don’t just have to have the attitude and perspective that they are selling themselves, as I have written multiple times previously, but also that they are buying employers, which I am now writing about for the first time.

Many career counseling clients come to me, frustrated, because they are not getting the interviews they want, meaning interviews for their dream jobs. When we review the job descriptions for those dream jobs for which they applied, it becomes clear that they are unqualified for the positions. They may want the jobs, they may honestly believe they can excel at the jobs, but the employers do not want them! If you will, they have not “bought” the employer, they have only sent them Spam, slid a flyer under their door, or mailed them an advertisement postcard!

How do companies buy us? How do they buy you? Why do you purchase their products or services and not those of their competitors’?

Employers, in our present example, do not want you. They don’t consider you qualified. You are not the soap that, as far as they are concerned, is going to clean their hands. So they go with the brand they trust. And why do they trust it? Because on some level – an impactful commercial or ad, a referral from a trusted source – they have established a personal relationship with the brand, product or company. They think they know them. They are comfortable buying them. And, ironically, because you are comfortable buying what they are selling, they have bought you!

When you apply for a job for which you are unqualified, the employer does not know you, trust you or like you. In fact, they are probably asking themselves, “Can’t this idiot read English? The job description clearly states that candidates must have X, and they don’t. And what’s this rubbish in their cover letter about ‘transferrable skills?’ I don’t want “transferrable” skills, I want actual skills!”

And, it’s true. You don’t have what they want. But you have the potential. Problem is, they don’t know that. You are trying to sell yourself when you should be trying to buy them, the employer.

There are three ways. The first is to do what we are doing right now. (I’m writing; you’re reading.) Write on LinkedIn. Don’t be political; be professional. Let potential employers learn about how you think and how well you know your business/industry/profession. Let them see how good you right and prufreed. (Beware: While politics will always be catastrophic, humor can sometimes be dangerous! Test question: Name the 3 errors. The first to respond in the Comment section below wins absolutely nothing! Void where prohibited.) Share your articles in the relevant groups. But not just on LinkedIn, also on Facebook. And share a link to the articles on all your social media platforms. (That is what I do and how I have now built a social media following of 45,000 people!) That way, you will not be “the best kept secret in town.” Employers will know about you and they will run after you, which is much better than the alternative, you running after them!

Second, network. Attend networking meetings. Meet new people. Have “one-on-one”s with them so you can get to know each other. In other words, build a relationship with them. Maybe they will hire you, or, maybe, and this is the third way to buy an employer, they will recommend you to an employer who is looking to fill a position. Put differently, they will become your ad agency.

Through writings, meetings, and recommendations, employers will not care that you have not done everything that they require per the job description, they will care about your potential. And that is the key word for being considered for a job for which you are technically unqualified. By being able to have your potential considered, you change the conversation from what you have done (the safe conversation) to what you can do (the unsafe conversation because it takes the employer outside their comfort zone and necessitates their having to defend to staff why they are even talking to you). Then you will buy the employer, just as the ad agency has bought you for the soap manufacturer.

Procrastination in a Job Interview

A number of years ago a man came to me for interview guidance. We knew his cover letter and resume were fine because he was averaging two interviews a week. But hard as he tried, he could not close the deal. He received no job offers.

My rules are simple: If you are not getting interviews the problem is either with your cover letter, resume or both. And you will never know which. No one is going to call and tell you why they are not calling you! If however, you are getting interviews, but no offers, then the problem is clearly with your interviewing skills. (For those of you who prefer, The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves…)

Some people will rightly point out that people are rejected not because they do not interview well but for any of a dozen perfectly legitimate reasons. But two interviews a week and no offers? Sorry, it’s your interviewing.

Another gentleman had come to me after getting his first interview. He had been laid off after 20 years with the same company. He was perplexed. After all, he had not been interviewed for two decades! But his daughter had. A year earlier she had graduated. In preparation for her job search, she had purchased a number of books. He took them and made a list of all the questions that the “experts” said he could be asked. When he came to my office he had a list of 75 questions, or maybe it was 100! In any event, he had written down answers to each and every one. But at the actual interview, not a single one of the “experts’ ” questions was asked.

The truth of the matter is, the only questions a candidate knows for certain they are going to be asked are those directly related to the job description. Yes, there will be surprise questions. But by their very nature, you can’t know in advance what they will be – that’s why they are surprise questions.

Nevertheless, there are some standard questions that can be anticipated. When the first person I referenced came to me, we sat for two hours doing mock interviews based on the job descriptions he had brought with him. They were all for jobs for which he had interviewed.

He confirmed that the questions I was asking were, in fact, the questions he had been asked. I could find nothing wrong with his answers. The man was professional, articulate, knowledgeable and engaging. It made no sense to me why he was not getting any offers.

So, frustrated, I said, “Let’s go through the standards!”

The first question I asked was, “What is your greatest weakness?” He smiled and said he was always asked that one.

His answer: “I procrastinate.”

I asked him if he said anything else. He said, “Nope, just that I procrastinate.”

“And why,” I asked, “do you think someone would make you a job offer if you announce that you are a procrastinator, period, end of sentence, end of interview?”

I then asked him what he did about his procrastination. He said, “It’s silly.” I told him I did not care. He explained that he likes Snickers bars and whenever he finishes a project early he buys one.

I explained two things to him: First, you never end an answer on a negative note. You can’t get much more negative than admitting you are a procrastinator. Second, it is not what you say that counts, it’s what the interviewers hear. In this case, it was what they did not hear. They did not hear that he had a solution to the problem. And, no, it was not silly. It was effective. It worked. Not silly; good!

Next interview, when he was asked about weaknesses, he again said he was a procrastinator but, he added, that in order to overcome his procrastination he buys himself a Snickers bar whenever he finishes a project early. And, given that he was not overweight, he added, as we had discussed, that he now finishes all of his projects either early or on time, on or under budget, and exercises to “pay” for the Snickers bars.

That was the last time he called me. He got the offer and accepted it. He credited my advice. Now I am not opposed to accepting a compliment or credit but, as I told him, there can be a hundred reasons why a person does not get the offer, and a similar number as to why they do get the offer. But if you leave your interviewers believing that you know you have a problem but don’t do anything about it, that will be the reason why you do not get the offer.

Now go have a Snickers bar!