How To Lose A Job in Sixty Seconds

Call me crazy, but I’ve always believed in paying things forward. I truly believe that talent will only get you so far and that doors need to be opened in order for someone to be successful. In fact, that’s one of the reasons this blog exists – to give a voice to those who offer a unique and valuable perspective – and experience – but don’t have the platform to do so. I remember several years ago when I was teaching as an adjunct instructor and spoke with a student about her career. She was on the Dean’s List and acing my Flash class when I first started up the word of mouth marketing practice at my current agency. The practice was taking off so I asked her for her resume, which was waiting in my inbox when I got home that evening. I hired her shortly thereafter.

Flash forward a few years and I’ve had the pleasure of hiring people across offices for my agency. I typically will ask them a few of the standard questions and because at this point technology has made it easy to forward a resume and access information I’ve significantly raised my standards of what it takes to impress me. Don’t get me wrong: having knowledge of social media tools, for example, is important but I want to know you’re not just USING, but THINKING.

“What was your favorite project at [Company name]”

“Tell me something that isn’t on your resume”

“Tell me about a challenging situation at work and how you handled it?”

Are a few of the “standards”. I then follow it up with a few non-traditional questions:

“What’s your point of view on social media?”

“Who do you read online?”

“What’s one word that describes you?” (Those who’ve been hired know the answer to this one).

The aforementioned “standard” questions are easy. They’re what’s on your resume. It’s what you’ve lived, breathed and had time to digest, decompress and rehearse prior to your interview. I should hear about a campaign or life experience that meant something to you personally, achieved a business goal or had some other significance in your career development. It’s the non-standard questions that provide me insight into your thought process, your decision-making ability and your self-confidence. And that’s where most people screw up.

A lot of people I talk to don’t have a POV on social media, yet it’s a component of what every marketer – yes, component AND marketer – should know. See, I won’t hire you because you spend a lot of time on Twitter. In fact, I’ve had employees who were phenomenal with marketing and knew social but didn’t spend their lives using it. They got it, processed how it could work for our clients and moved on. The reality is that clients don’t care about your ability to recite the latest hashtag or meme unless you can also explain basic marketing strategy and questions that go along with it. In short, clients (and I) want sound marketing recommendations and ideas, not a list of passing fads.

Who and what you read online is as telling as anything as to whether or not you even HAVE a perspective on social media. If you list off prominent speakers or social media “experts” who are in the top ten of the AdAge Power 150 I can tell you I’m probably not going to hire you. At this point you’re basically regurgitating the same information everyone is. In fact, I can usually tell who you’ve been reading based on your POV answer. If you don’t have one or have a mouth full of bullshit bingo then we’re through. Quoting people is fine provided they’re credible. “I’m not a marketer, I’m in the Human Business!” will get you the hook faster than Larry the Cable Guy performing on Late Night at the Apollo.

So, what am I looking for?

I want to know that you’re a well rounded marketer who gets their information from multiple sources – not all of the same people who don’t touch client business all saying the same thing. I’m happy to share a few examples of the sites I respect if you’d like to email me. I know, I know – how unsocial of me to not give it away for free. 😉

The last question I’ll ask during an interview tells me about who you are, what you think of yourself and what sort of impact you will have on our organization if you’re hired. It’s critical that this answer falls in line with your POV and sources, otherwise you’re creating inconsistency in how you present your argument and offer to me as an employer.

You might be reading this and think “Wow, this guy’s a real hard ass.” Actually, I’m quite nice. Just ask the folks I’ve hired, from current and past employees to freelancers to Mom bloggers, my clients and friends and they’ll tell you the same thing: I’m a no-bullshit guy — Just don’t be a dumass. 😉

0 thoughts on “How To Lose A Job in Sixty Seconds

  1. Lucretia (GeekMommy) Pruitt says:

    Yeah, I'm behind the curve (getting caught up – I've been busy!)… but my favorite interview question to ask has always been "what is your favorite smell?" Always told me whether someone could think on their feet. You get one of 3 answers: 1) 'Um, I don't know – I don't really have one.' Strangely, when pressed, just told to come up with any answer – most of these people still profess they can't think of anything. You've just told me that you a) can't think on your feet and b) won't even try despite the fact that it's critical to your evaluation. No thanks. 2) 'Hm, I don't know. I guess if I have to come up with something… X' okay, so you met the requirement… that's decent. It gets you a passing grade. 3) 'My favorite smell? Hm. X – because whenever I smell it, I think of…' You think on your feet. More? You've just given me a reason to believe that it's a good smell. You've given me a reason to explore it myself. You're at the head of the class.I love the offbeat interview questions. 🙂

  2. dbinkowski says:

    I'd say that it takes an equal amount of effort during the interview. After all, I'm potentially hiring you and you need a job… so impress me. If you feel the interview's going south have a strategy for turning it around or at least redirecting to go beyond what's on the paper.

  3. Vinny says:

    Not to deviate too much from the subject at hand, but I think it's just as easy to tell the kind of people you're interviewing with by the questions they ask. If someone asks me the famous "If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?" one more time, I might have to go Columbine on them.Stock generic questions that show me you didn't even bother to look at my resume, to me, tell me you don't give a damn about me or my thoughts; you just want to get through the interview as quickly as possible.I've interviewed people in the past, and I notice people do one thing really badly: they cite their resume. I don't want you to regurgitate it to me. I have it. Give me a new perspective on what's in it. If you can't do that, then you're not right for the job.

  4. cebsilver says:

    "You might be reading this and think “Wow, this guy’s a real hard ass.” " That's actually quite true. In order to write for Shamable, I had to answer a similar set of questions, but they were all about leather and liver capacity. It was really weird. Actually, it's a very good point but it should be titled "how to bomb a job interview." You can't lose something you don't have. I've always found that when interviewing it's best to be honest and not regurgitate some bullshit you read on the internet or use the word 'synergy.' Don't use paradigm either. Let your experience and background back you up with facts and examples and be prepared to cite your influences. The tricky one is always that one word that describes you. For me, I always say "awesome" with cocky confidence. For me, that works. If you have to think about it though, you're dead.

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