Very Top Five… Ways to do well at interviews

Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Interviews are the crusts on the toast of society. Nobody likes them, but you have to bite through them before you reach the moist goal of buttery employment.

Do you have any idea what the difference between a 'skill' and a 'quality' is? No? That's because both of those words are buzzwords with almost no relevance to the job that you are applying for, and are used as a way of trying to form poor, approximate structures of similarity between two or more subjectively different applicants in order to vaguely compare them to each other. Harumph.

Anyway, here’s how to learn what they’re looking for and maximise your chance of success, or, in other words; cheat:

5. Use good body language

This doesn't have to be very hard. Sit straight, make eye contact and don't look shifty. Apparently this is easier said than done for some people, who automatically generate an 'I'm-going-to-steal-the-office-stationery-if-you-leave-me-unsupervised' sort of aura. Remember to smile and gently laugh at any small joke the interviewer makes about the weather/ the interview process/ your choice of clothes/ your face/ etc.

During the interview you should nod along with the interviewer's questions like an idiot concentrating on memorising a shopping list; use emphatic hand actions in your answers, as if you were applying to be flamboyant art director of a hippy theatre company; and look really serious about your amazingly fake, airbrushed sentences coming out of your mouth. (More on the (lack of) content of those sentences imminently.)

4. Empower yourself! Throw those buzzwords right back at them… strategically

Let’s kick things off with an example:
Question: What skills do you think you possess?
Answer : Well, I think I am a good communicator, and from this stems my drive to cooperate with others around me and contribute to the team ethic in a pro-active way. I also believe that I am proficient at analysing and assessing issues that bear relevance to the working environment and implementing my solutions in an efficient way.

Oh yeah, that's one sexy answer. You'll have noticed that almost every noun, verb, adjective and adverb in there was a buzzword. In fact, looking at the answer without buzzwords we get:

Answer: Well, I think I am a good BLANK, and from this BLANKS my BLANK to BLANK with others around me and BLANK to the BLANK BLANK in a BLANK-BLANK way. I also believe that I am BLANK at BLANKING and BLANKING BLANKS that BLANK BLANK to the BLANK BLANK and BLANKING my BLANKS in a BLANK way.

Here’s a good rule of thumb. For every buzzword the interviewer uses in a question, use at least five in your answer. They are sure to be impressed with your contribution to the joint-knowledge-share. It shows initiative.

3. If you don’t know how to answer a question just re-use an answer you’ve already given.

It's laziness on the part of the employer to bureaucratically assign someone with a people-management qualification to interview you for a job that, as a manager, he knows nothing about. Any, the interviewer just wants to hear words coming out of your mouth, so that he can tick off “can communicate effectively” on his tick sheet.

However, if the interview asks a particularly stupid question and your mind suddenly succumbs to the bleak chill of tedium and new words simply freeze lifelessly in your larynx, then simply reheat some old ones; thusly:

"I believe that my answer to this question links back to what I was saying about my Skills/ Qualities/ Experience. As I said..." then simply repeat a segment of a previous answer about team-work, independent initiative or your skill base.

Trust me, the interviewer won't even notice. He's looking out for buzzwords, not actual intelligent content in your answer. If he does notice (slim chance) he’ll think you are demonstrating some top notch situational cross referencing.

2. Keep your strategic goals firmly in sight

…See how I tricked you into thinking there was going to be actual content for this section by using buzzwords. I bet you felt all fuzzy and warm, thinking that I was going to tell you how to keep your goals firmly in sight, whatever that means.

Tickle the interviewer’s vague feeling of well-being by skilful manipulation of your mendacious metaphorical feather of persuasion.

Let’s have a closer look at how that works:

You say: "I believe that I can achieve an operational workload while not losing sight of my strategic goals."

Translation: "I can do little things without forgetting about the big things." - kind of obvious for any one with more than one brain cell, but interviewers love for their salaries to feel justified by watching innocent sentences being tortured beyond reason.

And remember, everything is a goal or a target and should be in sight. If you haven't mentioned goals at least half a dozen times in the interview then you aren't pro-active enough.

What about saying: "I have a wide skill base, which encompasses aspects of both team interaction and individual goal pursuit."

Always stress that you are a team player with initiative. Don't say "I'm a mindless drone who does what he's told. Nothing more or less." and, equivalently, don't say "Team work? I’d rather rape myself with a pen." What the interviewer wants to hear is that you can work in a team and on your own simultaneously- he wants to know that you have personal synergy. And speaking of synergy…

1. Use compound and chain words pro-synergistically

So what if you mess up? If it becomes clear that you’ve no idea what you're saying and you know that they know that you’re only saying what you think they want to hear (know what I mean?).

If you are not a gifted nonsensorator then it could be the case that this will happen and the interviewer will notice that you are simply memorising mesmerising stupid phrases. If so, tough for you. You should have spoken with more conviction.

However, if they say this to you, you can try something as a last ditch attempt to rescue yourself…

You: "I am sorry that you feel that way, but this is my normal mode of speech and register for interviews. I am trying to convey to you an impression of the skills I possess in this way because I believe it to be an appropriate interview manner." (And try to sound slightly offended, that’ll help.)

If the interviewer disagrees with you this time then you are really screwed. He may say "I see," and write something on his management issue clipboard. What he has written is "Arrogant cock" and you won't get the job. However, he may say "Ah, right..." and nod, and in that case you may get the job. But tone down the buzzwords from then on. Don't mention your personal synergy again, for instance, or your evaluative qualities, as the interviewer will definitely realise that you're talking crap. However, If the interviewer says "Admirable, admirable," then you should insert more buzzwords, as those are what he wants to hear.

This is the time to whip out the big guns; compound and chain buzzwords, such as Personal-Evaluation-synergy and Predictive-Forward-Thinking-Initiative-Quality, if you think you can get away with it. Use acronyms; PFTIQ, for example, which has the ring of almost-scientific veracity that ALL acronyms possess.


Good luck. The job’s yours, you go-getter, you.