One time Red Bull called out of the blue and offered me the chance to fly to California, have all the blood-pumping-energy beverage I guzzle into my greedy mouth, and interview for a position they wanted to create. I jumped on the opportunity. Not because I was trying to move to California to work for Red Bull (though I might have for the right opportunity and some free beverage) but because I LOVE interviewing.
Interviewing is a game. One might call it “Keep The Stupid Stuff To Yourself and By The Way, You Look Nice Today”. The key is to keep the stupid stuff to yourself and spend as much time as you can to make the hiring manager feel good. Of course, part of what makes hiring managers feel good is hearing about relevant bits of experience you bring to the table that will make the hiring managers’ life easier but really, it’s still a game. There’s skill involved in being able to filter through all the possible examples, answers, and stories to share the right one at exactly the right time…without being too chatty, of course. That filtering and choosing is what I consider ‘the game’.
But then today I came across a new reality show (shocker of the year alert, Marisa is still watching trashy reality TV) called Get To Work where ex-gang members and ex-convicts go to a four week interviewing boot camp to help them get jobs. I couldn’t help but wonder how good I’d be at ‘the game’ if my life had turned out a bit harder. These ex-gang members and ex-drug addicts who are struggling to get jobs don’t have a lot of work experience to fall back on and that hurts their confidence and their answers. Even the
best interviewers in the world would have a hard time feeling good explaining a five year gap in their employment when the only answer is, “I was in jail”.
I cringed as I watched them answer mock interview questions like, “Why did you lose your last job?” with answers like, “Sometimes I’d mouth off to my manager and they didn’t like that”. They'd clearly missed the memo that honesty is overrated.
By the time the final mock interviews roll around 45 minutes later it’s clear they’ve been coached on how to answer the tough questions, how to confidently talk about their achievements, and how to make the hiring manager feel good. I have to say, a little coaching goes a long way and I was glad to see that this group was able to experience that. I think that sometimes it's easy for people like you and I to find interviewing for our own jobs a little easy because we interview candidates all the time. We see the good, bad, and the ugly and we learn from that and are able to use that information when we're on the other side of the table looking for our next job. The people on this show are starting from scratch and have never had exposure to the things we'd consider common interviewing sense. The show is definitely worth checking out.
I’m not going to lie, my favorite trashy reality show is still the one where people volunteer to live on an island to sit in the rain, eat bugs, and fight for a ration of rice, but since that has very little to do with HR it feels nice to be able to point all of you in the direction of a more relevant program. You’re welcome and enjoy.
Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.