Chapter 2: Ultimate Guide to Interviewing – Flip the Script Approach

[Pssst – If you’re looking for specific interview questions & answers, go here]

I was the world’s worst job interviewee. 

You name it; I made the mistake.

  • I called interviewers by the wrong name.
  • I told interviewers that I didn’t appreciate that my paid-for flight had a connection and whomever organized my hotel was not an organized person. (I still cringe thinking about this one. I didn’t get the job, and I can pinpoint it to this exact moment).
  • I name dropped people the interviewers didn’t get along with.
  • I opened up my Dell laptop while I was waiting for my interview at IBM Headquarters (When IBM was in the computer business and direct competitors of Dell).
  • I arrived late to interviews because I went to the wrong office.
  • I screwed myself out of thousands of dollars during salary negotiation because of things I said during my interview. This unfortunately happened multiple times.
  • I had 17 interviews with Google. 17! I kid you not. This was for one job. I messed it up at the end by talking smack about a bad boss. To be fair, the question was “Tell me about your worst manager.” I fell for it, and I’m 99% certain I lost the job because of the way I answered it.
  • I took phone interviews while I was half asleep during the middle of the day. (This was for Google attempt #2.  I still lose sleep over how stupid I was to pick up the phone after I was taking a midday nap, AND THEN PROCEEDED TO TAKE THE INTERVIEW.)

The good news is that I’m alive and I’m here to tell you everything I know about interviewing.

I’m going to teach you how to flip the script and have a competitive advantage before your first interview is even conducted. In flipping the script and learning my new interview skills and techniques, you can significantly improve your odds of getting what you want, and avoid cringe-worthy mistakes that will haunt you.

If it works for me, it can work for you.

Ready?

Change your mindset. Everything you know about interviewing is wrong.

The actual interview doesn’t happen during the interview.

It happens before the interview begins.

Before the first HR phone interview. Before the first on-site interviews. It happens even before you get the first email inviting you to interview.

Read this little quip from the former SVP of People at Google.

“In other words, most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless”.

If you’re like me, you’re probably the worst first impression maker of all time.

So, if 99.4% of the time, the interview is a waste of time because they are too busy confirming their bias, what do you?

You make the first impression before you speak to them.

Remember, the five steps from Chapter 1?

Step #1 –  Be the best at what you do.
Step #2 – Tell the world exactly what you’re good at.
Step #3 – Show undeniable proof that you’re the best at what you do.
Step #4 – Bypass the traditional hiring system by building direct relationships with executives.
Step #5 – Become better at what you do, even if you’re already the best.

If you did Steps #1 – 5 correctly, interviewing should be a breeze. How you got the interview is 10 times more important than the interview itself.

Let me lay out a real life example.

I received a random Facebook message from a college friend. Their company was hiring, and she thought I would be a great fit. She introduced me to the SVP of the division. I had one somewhat formal phone interview, and he invited me to attend the once a year company party and also speak with the other people in the division.

I was the only person invited to the party who didn’t work at the company. The people I had interviewed with the day before the company were astonished that I was invited to the company.

“How did you get invited to the company party? You don’t even work here yet? I’m not even sure why I’m interviewing you.”

I still remember when one of my interviewers told this to me. I had the job in the bag BEFORE the formal interviewers even began. All I needed was the SVP to give his blessing, and the rest was downhill. Keep in mind, HR and Recruiting have no idea I even exist. I submitted my resume as a formality after our interviews were complete.

I proceeded to have a blast at the party and meet everyone I would potentially work with.

Now, I’m not telling you this to brag. I’m telling this to you so you understand that you don’t have to follow the traditional hiring system to go through the process. The faster you can get an SVP to endorse you for a job, the better everything comes.

So, how did I get an endorsement from an SVP before formal interviews even began?

I wrote about productivity and project management. My friend, whom I haven’t spoken to in 4 years loved my post and thought I would be a good fit for their growing company. She also had a great relationship with the SVP.

I told her I was happy where I was, but I would be interested in learning more.

The productivity post had over 400,000 views, and that was amazing social proof that I knew what I was doing.

That’s all the SVP needed to hear. Our phone interview was less than 15 minutes before he invited me to the company party.

Social Proof makes every interview a breeze.

I never got asked, “What’s your greatest strength?” You know why? They already knew what my greatest strength was. They already read my articles on productivity and project management. They saw all the comments on the article. They already read my LinkedIn profile which laid out clearly why someone would hire me.

So, when I walked into my first formal on-site interview, it was immediately a conversation. The SVP already told the interviewers that he liked me. The deal was done before I arrived.

What does this mean for you?

This means that you have to work on building social proof and making sure your online presence tells everyone what you’re good at. If the interviewers don’t know anything about you during your first interview, you lost. You made your life that much more challenging.

When you interview or apply for a job, the interviewer gets as much information about you as possible. Your resume, LinkedIn profile, Social Media, and Google.

Let that sink in. Before you even utter a word to a real person, they have already formed a judgment of you. You’re interviewing with real humans after all. This is human nature. Now, use this as an opportunity for to you take advantage of this knowledge.

I know what you’re thinking. But, Robbie, this is why I created a resume! My resume tells the interviewers everything important about me!

A resume is a factual representation of your professional experience. It doesn’t allow links to your other work. It doesn’t actually allow you to craft a story of who you are and what your work represents to you. It doesn’t allow people to endorse you, or respond to your work. It’s not a good story-telling mechanism. You need to tell a great story.

This is the formula to get a competitive edge before the interview starts.

  1. Your LinkedIn profile is updated and tells the reader precisely why someone would hire you. If you need help with LinkedIn, read this ultimate guide to LinkedIn [Not Released Yet].
  2. You have social proof online. You have a few resources that you can link to that makes you look credible. This is more important than you think. The beautiful part about LinkedIn is that you can include these resources on your profile.

Ironically, the above 2 steps are the same for getting the interview in the first place

Before, During and After.

That’s it! You’re all done!

You’re probably thinking:

Robbie, I don’t believe that Google guy who says 99.4% of interview decisions are made within the first 10 seconds. Give me the details of how to nail an interview. Don’t BS me.

Ok, ok. Do you still want to prepare for the .6%? Let’s do it.

STEP 1: How to Prepare for a Job Interview

You prep your food like this, right? It’s the same process for an interview. Except, you don’t have a nice camera and a hipster wood cutting board.

Got an interview? Congratulations. Now, let’s make sure you close the deal.

The next step is to tell your interviewer everything they want to hear, without lying or stretching the truth.

I don’t recommend lying– ever. Lying is not an option. You want to focus on forming what ideas they will take away from meeting you, within those precious first 10 seconds.

The problem with this is figuring out what to tell them. Each interviewer has their own agenda. You might interview with three people in the same department for the position, but all three interviewers have different reasons for interviewing you.

Jane is too busy and she wants to offload some of her workload to you. Ryan needs your help leading a new marketing initiative, similar to what you did at a previous employer. Frank didn’t like the first person who worked there and just wants to make sure you can get along with people in the office.

So if you knew this information beforehand, you would modify your message for each interview.

Jane: You would emphasize your ability to get things done with minimal supervision.
Ryan: You would talk about the results from the last marketing project and the process you undertook to make it a success
Frank: You would emphasize your ability to get along with others, and provide examples of how your friendships have helped the company grow.

There’s just one small problem. How do you get this information before the interview starts?

Ahhh yes, never fear–Robbie is here.

This is my approach.

Research the company

Use social media to get to know everything humanly possible about the company you’re interviewing with. If you know who is going to interview you, that’s bonus points.

Here are some things I do when researching companies:

  1. I look up their company name on LinkedIn to see how many employees they have.
  2. I use LinkedIn to see how many employees at the prospective employer have my job title or a similar title. Am I going to be 1 of 100, or am I going to be the only one with this job title?
  3. I look for recent news on the company. I do this by going to Google News and searching for the company name to see what comes up. Use quotes when searching the company name to make sure only exact results appear.
  4. I look on Twitter to see if they posted any news that doesn’t show up on their site.

Research the interviewer

You won’t always have this information, but if you do, that’s a bonus for you.

To get this information, I usually ask HR or my first contact within the company about who exactly will be interviewing me.

I also use Advanced Search on LinkedIn and search for “HR” or “Product Manager” with the company name as a filter to narrow down who I will be talking too.

chapter2 linkedin

To get more information when speaking with HR, I’ll say something like “Is it possible to get the full name of the person interviewing me tomorrow? This information helps me prepare for the interview and make sure it’s productive for both of us. Thank You!”

Once you get this info, look them up on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and any other social media platforms. Your goal is to understand more about them so you can customize your answers based on what they want to hear.

Let me repeat this again. The key to a successful interview is telling the interviewer exactly what they want to hear. They are asking you questions, not because they don’t know the answers, but they want to hear your take on them. They already know what a good answer is. The more you know about them, the more you can understand what answers they will like or dislike.

For example, they might have Tweeted or wrote an article on LinkedIn about how they don’t think MBA’s are worth the investment.

So now you know exactly what to stay away from if you have an MBA. You now know not to say things like “Well, I learned this in one of MBA classes at blah blah University.” This information from stalking helps tremendously. So stalk away my friends.

No blackmail.

Just legal, professional, informational gathering stalking!

Use any of your connections to get the inside scoop

Go on LinkedIn and search for anyone that has worked at the company or still works at the company you are applying at.

If you’ve been good a job searcher, you’ve been keeping strong relations with your LinkedIn contacts. Reach out to them and tell them you have an interview coming up and you would love to ask them a few questions.

People are more open to helping you than you think. They’ll also provide more information that can be helpful for when it comes to interviewing.

STEP 2: Make sure the company knows exactly why someone would hire you before they interview you.

Kramer gets fired from his job he technically never worked at.

You know how OJ Simpson got away with murder?

His lawyers told a better story than the prosecutors.

What I’m saying is that your story matters more than you think. Your story matters more than a list of facts, which is basically your resume.

Your goal is to tell the best (and most truthful) story possible.

The goal is to feed as much information to all of the interviewers about you before the interview starts. This is possible even if you don’t know who’s interviewing you.

This is how you do it.

Feed them your LinkedIn Profile before the interview starts.

Remember, your story sells. Facts are important, but the story sells. Telling a story is scientifically proven to activate our brains. If you’re an Android user and can’t fathom for the life of you why everyone loves Apple so much, then that article is for you.

Resumes’ are too hard to tell stories. That’s why I love LinkedIn so much and so should you. LinkedIn profile, your articles, your story and any published articles that you’re mentioned in to establish social proof.

LinkedIn is the center of your online brand. You should do everything in your power to get them to look at your LinkedIn profile, assuming it’s up to date and you followed my comprehensive LinkedIn guide.

If you do this properly, you will find the rest of the interviews to be dramatically easier and more productive.

Work with the person who referred you within the company or HR if they are facilitating the interview.

STEP 3: DURING THE INTERVIEW – FLIP THE SCRIPT

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OK, you’ve got your story down. You’ve got enough information about the employer and interviewers. Now comes the actual interview.

I’m going to assume you look good, smell good and have extra copies of your resume (that matches your LinkedIn profile, of course) with you.

You have to make another small, but mighty mental change.

They are hiring you for you to teach them something, not the other way around.

I only learned this trick after becoming an independent consultant. The rules are different when you’re an independent consultant. The expectation is clear from the employer. They are not hiring me so they can train me to grow into the role. They are hiring me because they need my help with something specific. If I don’t know exactly how to do it, they aren’t going to hire me.

That’s the change you have to make. You’re approaching this interviewer with a proven track record of you being able to do.

The key to this chapter:

Let’s assume each interview is 30 minutes. I’m going to break it down into 4 sections:

  1. You arrive at the office before the interview officially starts.
  2. First 5 minutes.
  3. 6-16 minutes
  4. 16-30 minutes

The new goal: They talk. You listen. You should know how to handle the basic interview questions, but ideally, you want the interviewer to spend more time telling you about the job than grilling you. 

TIP #1:

Establish credibility with real stories from your career as early as possible in the interview.

I don’t want to be grilled with hard questions for 30 minutes. I want to establish credibility right away, so I can spend the rest of the time grilling them.This is the core of “flipping the script”. Let’s turn the tables on them.

When I establish credibility, I do this by telling very candid and specific stories to how I achieved a goal specific to why they are hiring me. For example. I was interviewing for a project management role. And the question was “Do you feel comfortable managing large projects?”

I nailed the response:

“Great question, Lisa. I’ll tell you a specific story about a project at Deloitte Consulting. I was the lead Project Manager for a global project. It was a 300 person project, and I was the global PM for the project. It was the most complex project imaginable.

The project spanned 7 countries and we had consultants flying in from all over the US. I was tasked with interfacing with 2 functional leads for the client. It was one of the biggest and one of the most important projects for the client as well.

In the end, the project was delivered on time and on budget. Don’t get me wrong, we had our issues and I still have nightmares about it, but we were able to get it done. The biggest thing I learned from managing this project is that with so many moving pieces, you can’t control everything. My main job as a Project Manager, was to make sure different teams were communicating with each other and manage team dependencies. I made sure to over-communicate deadlines and the importance of the deadlines.

I went out of my way to speak to the leads individually at their desk, during lunch and before we wrapped up for the day. Communication was key, and it also gave me the confidence that I can manage large projects, should I be asked to do so again”.

 

BOOM! DONE. Notice how I didn’t just say “Yes. I feel comfortable,” and talk about how I was Project Manager for 8 years. I went straight into the details that I know will not have any follow-up questions. Lisa can’t refute what I said.

Then this is when flip the script happens.

TIP #2:

Don’t ever say “I’m a quick learner”. I go into more detail in this article.

From Chapter 1 of this course, you already know how to answer the dreaded “So tell me about yourself.”
You also know how to prepare by stalking your potential interviewer, and that you should try to anticipate what their stance might be on issues (like that MBA) that can cause unnecessary awkward moments.

You know that you should be doing more listening than talking. This will save you from the impulse blurt of “I’m a quick learner” or “My greatest weakness is caring too much about my job.” Be real, be honest, and use these tools I’ve given you to try and head off these questions before they become a reality.

The more you talk in terms of tangible, evidentiary description about who you are and what it is you can do for their company, the less likely they will be to rely on vague interview questions that haven’t changed in decades. There’s a reason there are so many articles that pop up in response to “What to say to ‘So tell me about yourself’?” It’s a dreadfully posed question, but you don’t have to subject yourself to it. Take my advice and use it to earn a competitive edge in the interview process, avoiding such questions and providing ample time to discuss what you want: salary, schedule, projects, etc.

IN CONCLUSION

You’re screwed before the interview even starts. Do the necessary steps to make sure your online presence is an enabling you to advance. It all starts on LinkedIn.

I would love your feedback on this post. Answer the following questions in the comment section below:

What part was your favorite?
What part was your least favorite or least helpful?
What part was missing or do you want me to expand on?

  • good points; The first section really hooks the reader abt you being the worse interviewee.
    -The SVP story makes you realize the best wasta is your competence and what you call ‘social proof’
    -The google news advice was really good. Just used it and will tell you what happened by email.
    To improve;
    – So I like your ‘fireside chat’ style of writing, but I’m a scientist and most people I deal with ask for proofs and studies. I was thinking you could add studies (I think the book pre-suasion by robert caldini has some research on the social proof aspect – didn’t read it but heard the author on a podcast) – not Persuasion by Jane Austen :-P.
    -Kramer gets fired from his job he technically never worked at. Didn’t understand the reference because didn’t watch the series. And I feel it didn’t add much to your piece. Keep the OJ Simpson one – even if people dont get the reference, it’s more relevant.
    -Wish it was longer. Will brainstorm and see if I have further ideas on what to put.
    -What about first appearances – clothing, yada yada yada.
    -Also am assuming the “I’m a quick learner” will be embedded in the chapter – though I would recommend it be rewritten. Again it’s perfect for a blog, but I would rewrite it for a book.
    P.S. Read this after work hours this time.

    • Thanks @ahechoes:disqus Great feedback as normal. It was meant to be a caption to the photo and not really intended to add value to the piece 🙂 I can see the confusion.

      Here’s all you need to know about appearances: Look good and smell good! The quick learner is on the career advancement (START HERE) page. I haven’t embedded the complimentary posts to the main chapters yet. I’ll do that soon.

      Thank you for the feedback!

  • Lisa Dibble

    I like that you share exactly how to get information on them prior to the interview. I would like to know more about how to tell my story on Linked-in so I have my account up to date and viable. Tell more about how you do, indeed, deal with that awful question of “Tell me about yourself” if you get caught having to answer it.

    • You’re always jumping the gun @disqus_YvFAgylo8X:disqus 🙂 That’s coming up in a future chapter 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!

  • MrDee

    Tip #1, pure gold

    • Your comment is pure gold! Thanks @disqus_8agnUgLtNA:disqus