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Interviewing 101: You, the Candidate

Interviewing Tips

Part 1b: You,The Candidate

This is the second segment of several concerning the employment interview. Read part 1a HERE.

It is critical that we examine the interview closely, since it is pretty much a given that you won’t get a job without one or more, and the vast majority of people looking for a job tend to approach the interview from entirely the wrong standpoint.

In the main, when I address the interview, I’m referring to the one-on-one, face-to-face interview with the hiring manager. There are, of course, interviews with others—peers and others in the hiring manager’s work environment or hierarchical chain, human resource representatives, et cetera. There are also panel interviews. I’ll deal with these at other times. I view the interview with the hiring manager as the most critical, because if the hiring manager doesn’t want you, you aren’t getting the job, unless the hiring manager’s boss, who is your brother-in-law, informs the hiring manager that he will, in fact, hire you, and that will present its own series of problems and challenges!

Let’s move on. Earlier we took a look at the hiring manager, and discovered a few things. The hiring manager:

- is not the hiring manager because he is good at hiring;

- has had little to no training in how to hire, and it is likely that any training he has had was abysmal;

- has a problem, or wouldn’t be hiring;

- is playing defense, i.e., is trying to rule you out, not in;

- assumes that he has the power, and is in control of the interview.

Now let’s talk about you, the candidate for employment.

When you were a child, did you do pretty much what your parents told you? Of course you did. Why? Fear! Alright, maybe also respect. But they were a whole lot bigger than you, and were clearly the authority figures in your life. “Consequences” is probably one of the big words you learned early on. Ignoring authority figures, or disobeying them, frequently results in pain!

Then you started school, discovered another authority figure called a teacher, and learned on the first day to do what that teacher told you. Same reason. Then you had a bunch of teachers, and by the time you reached the world of work, you were trained.

So here you are now, grown adult, professional, master of your craft, the candidate for employment.

As you walk into my office to interview with me for a job, what do you discover? Yet another authority figure! Immediately, a little switch flips in your brain, and suddenly your evert back to that student-child, thinking, “If I behave myself, and I please this person, and I answer the questions correctly, I may be rewarded with a job! And I need a job! I need this job!

Standing out in the hallway you were the candidate for employment.Entering my office, you have become the supplicant for employment, the beggar. I don’t hire those.

What has happened here? What has turned the elite, successful professional in the hallway into the quivering mass of insecurity seated before me now?

Human nature.

Upon entering my office and discovering one more authority figure, you gave me power that I didn’t have until you got here and gave it to me. And now, in what most people see as an adversarial process, you have to fight against the power you just gave me!


This is not going to end well unless you change things.

First, read the book, How to Argue and Win Every Time, by Gerry Spence (I have no financial interest). This is where I got the concept of the student-child. It isn’t about arguing. It’s the best book on communication I’ve ever read. It’s actually one of the best books I’ve ever read.


Second, if you’re one of those who relates to giving power away, read Emily Madill’s HuffPost blog post, How to Stand in Your Power and Stop Giving it Away ( as part of your interview preparation.

Third, replace the student-child with the consultant.

If I have a problem in business, I may not hire. I may call a consultant. Who is a consultant? A consultant is someone with knowledge and expertise in a specific area of business.

When the consultant comes to see me, he doesn’t enter my office telling me what he’s going to do for me. He enters asking questions. “What are you trying to accomplish? What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Why do you think it hasn’t?” And so on. The consultant does this to find out what my problem is, because he can’t be the solution to my problem until he knows what it is.

Your salvation in the interview is to be the consultant. You have specific knowledge and expertise, or you wouldn’t be interviewing with me. But you can’t be the solution to my problem until you know what the problem is, and you won’t find out by hoping I’ll be nice to you, and by trying to answer my questions!

We’ll be talking a lot more about how to be the consultant and reduce the hiring manager’s perceived risk in the interview process. Stay tuned.