How Not to Succeed in Business ---"The Interview"
FORTUNE Magazine
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
By Stanley Bing


Hello there. That's right, I'm talking to you, young man or woman sitting in my vestibule with the briefcase that's too big for its contents on your lap. You look good. You smell good. You want a job. And you're not going to get one, because you're about to boot your job interview with me.

I'm gonna do you a favor and tell you a couple of things.

First of all, you're early. Isn't that good? No, it isn't. What you have to understand, teeny compadres, is that while I do want to see you, your interview represents a few moments when I'll have to focus on something, and as an executive I'm not looking forward to that. Also, I'm in the middle of an important duty, in this case watering my ficus. So when my assistant knocks on my door half an hour before I'm supposed to see you and says, "Betty Roover is here. I put her in the small conference room," I have to think about you before I intended to do so, and that peeves me.

Or possibly you're late. This is even worse, unless you called first, and even if you did I'm annoyed because you've shoved my time frame forward. An executive's time frame is his oyster. Inevitably, if you are late, your excuses make things worse. I remember this guy in L.A. once. Came in late and told me there was traffic. Imagine that. Traffic in L.A.

Okay, let's say you're here within a reasonable window of the scheduled time. Here you come! Man, you're enthusiastic. I'm exhausted already. Did you ever wake up next to somebody who was all brisk and bouncy when all you wanted to do was shuffle to the table and slurp up coffee in silence? Didn't you want to kill that person? Well, your interviewer may not be in an early-morning funk, but he's not a Moonie on speed, either. So take a deep breath and chill. Quiet, confident energy is what you're looking to project.

That's better. Now it's time to present your personal information. Whoops. Your resume is too long. It has aspirations on it. Books may recommend putting your hopes and dreams on your resume, but let me tell you something as gently as possible: It's stupid. Nobody cares that you're looking for "A personally expanding opportunity that will help me deliver on my potential as a developer of marketing concepts." I'm cringing when I read it. Just tell me where you've worked and what you did.

Uh-huh. Mm-hmm. That's nice. Yes. I see. Um ... why did you have so many jobs, mon ami? Or so few? What were you doing between 1998 and 2001? Ah, the Internet, may it rest in peace! Well, you can't be blamed for that. Let's see ...

Whoa. Something on this resume smells ... kinda fishy. This job where you "supported the startegic objectives of this multinational corporation." You were an assistant, right? You should probably say so. And I don't mean to be rude, but I'm not interested in the fact that you play clarinet and do hot yoga. And unless you want to be a secretary, you probably shouldn't tell me you type 75 words per minute and know Word and Excel. But it's not a bad resume. Except you misspelled "strategic."

But the heck with that. Tell me about yourself and what you want to be doing.

Er ... I don't really understand what you mean when you say "a lot of different things." Yes, you're young, and the world is all ahead of you, but when you tell me that you could be in communications or marketing or production, it makes it kind of hard for me to see you in a specific role--do you get that? If you were buying a product, you'd want to know if it was soap or breakfast cereal.

Uh-oh! I'm starting to feel like dozing! You're boring to yourself so you immediately became boring to me, and I'm already boring to myself--and I'm falling asleep! You have to get out of here! Go! Did I say that out loud? No? Only because common decency says you have another five minutes to rescue yourself.

But you're not doing it! You're ... oh, Lord, you're interviewing me because you read in a book that that's what you're supposed to do. But now I'm sleepy and cranky and I have no idea whether you're right for any job and it's time for me to tell you that we'll be in touch, and both of us know that we won't.

Ah, my friend! How different this could have been! You could have been right on time and researched the job and known what I was seeking and looked me in the eye and told me how you might be able to help me, because I need help, I really do. You could have made me feel that being with you for a couple of years would be fun. You could have made me like you. I wanted to!

But good luck to you, job seeker! Write if you get work! And please accept my most sincere good wishes and hopes for your future--and mine!

Because, God help me ... I never want be in the chair where you just sat.


By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.