Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Helpful Hints for Happy Hunters

 Hello, class. Today’s lesson is How to Nail a Job Interview.

This happened at work today. I met a candidate for employment who showed up to my IRL office, who was the closest thing to a Seinfeld character I’ve ever met in real life. Elaine would have called them The Talker. In the Seinfeld universe, J. Peterman probably would have ended up hiring them, with hilarious results. My boss, thank the stars and little caterpillars, is not J. Peterman.

Feel free to read and heed the following advice in case you ever feel tempted to do these things during an interview. I thought about calling it “Things People Won’t Tell You About the Interview Process,” except until today, I didn’t think any non-fictional adult needed any of this to be explained.

Don’t arrive an hour early.

You should always give yourself plenty of time to get to a job interview. Account for potentially hitting traffic, missing an exit, not knowing where to park, an 18-wheeler spilling ping-pong balls all over the freeway, or what have you. If you end up being a little early, great. You can sit in your car and mentally prepare yourself. Or rock out to Jeff Beck (RIP). Or park yourself in the building’s lobby, freshen up in the restroom, play Candy Crush. What you should NOT do is show up a full hour early, partly because you read your email wrong and thought the interview was a half-hour earlier than it actually was, and plant yourself in the reception area. No one wants to deal with you, and no one is going to rearrange their schedule to talk to you. To that end…

Don’t annoy the staff.

Even though you’ve broken the first rule like it was the heel of a cheap pair of pumps, you will be greeted cordially, invited to make yourself comfortable, and offered a beverage. That is called being polite. It is not an invitation to draw the staff into a 20-minute rambling conversation. The staff is busy. The staff has other things to do, and other people to do them with. The staff enjoys a few minutes of idle chit-chat as much as the next person, but this ain’t it, hun. Also, the person you’re here to see will definitely ask the person who greeted you and offered you a beverage for their first impression of you. Believe me, that first impression will include things such as…

Don’t show off your scars.

I just…How can this need to be spelled out explicitly? The staff, who by now has deployed “wow,” “really,” “ha ha right?,” AND “that’s crazy,” just wants to end the conversation. Your failure to recognize those cues notwithstanding, you should be aware that the appropriate next phase of this interaction is NOT to expose and explain your surgical scars. There is no planet in the multiverse on which this is a good idea. What - and we can’t emphasize this strongly enough - the actual chicken-fried fuck? Oh, and showing them to the building’s security guard? Also no. And during the actual interview? Bold, not gonna lie. But…

Don’t use all the oxygen.

In every interview, there are times when you will answer questions. There are times when you will ask questions. There are also times - very important times - when you need to not talk at all. Like, at all. A job interview is an audition. But it’s not the kind of audition where you get up and do a monologue so the director can hear how much and how well you can speak. It’s also not the kind of audition where you do a little soft-shoe, just in case you’re thinking of adding that to your repertoire. But in any event, you should remember that the person interviewing you has as much right to speak as you. More, in fact, as that person will decide if you get the job. Believe it or not, the likelihood of that decision going in your favor is directly proportional to your ability to take a damn breath. Not only that…

Don’t riff.

Some questions require long answers. Some don’t. Really. No, really. If the interviewer asks you to name important milestones in your career, this may be an occasion to give a fairly comprehensive response. If the interviewer asks “Did you find the office OK?” this does not require a multi-part story with an ensemble cast and two plot twists. Similarly, you may be asked about a previous company you worked for. Keep your answer confined to that company and the job you did there. Do not mention your cat. Do not share your best friend’s opinion of the hairstyle you wore while working there. Do not talk about your scars again.

Don't overlook context clues.

At some point, you may allow the interviewer to speak. Congratulations! The interviewer may ask another question, or explain the nature of the position being filled. Or he may look you square in the face and say, "This really isn't going well." This is a hint! A sign! An opportunity to take stock of what you're doing and how you're handling yourself! You may want to change your approach. You may want to realize you have little chance of yielding a job offer. Or you may want to continue babbling about irrelevant topics until you are finally asked to leave. Which will you choose? This is an exciting time!

I hope this has been helpful to some of you. Thank you for coming to my CHUCK talk.


  1. Job interviews really do provide some remarkable instances of "How did you get this far in life without knowing that?" So I would add: Don't make negative gender-based comments about your previous co-workers. To illustrate that I once helped interview a guy who started off his interview by saying, "My biggest problem at the last place I worked was all the women."
    My boss, who was running the interview, was a woman, and if he'd been paying attention he would have noticed that everyone he passed on his way through the office was a woman. But even if they hadn't been I can't imagine why he'd think that was a smart thing to say.


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