Take Control of the Job Interview

A primer on answering your own questions and getting in front of the people you need to talk to.

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Karen Burns
The problem with many job interviews is that their substance is abstract instead of concrete.

Woo-woo questions like “If you were a breakfast cereal, what kind would you be?” might reveal something about your personality, character, or eating habits. But what do they say about your ability to do the job?

It may be up to you to steer the interview to the actual job at hand:

First, talk about your experience and success. If possible, bring samples of your work. Or photos of samples of your work. Be brief.

Second, talk about how you would do the specific job you’re interviewing for. Show that you understand the problems confronting your potential boss and that you have ideas for how to solve them. Ask intelligent questions. Extra points for dropping in a real-life usable suggestion for solving a problem your potential employer is currently facing.

You may read that and say: “But I can’t do this. My interviews are always with an HR person.” Ha. We love HR folks, but it’s always been true--and it’s more true now--that you greatly increase your odds of getting hired if you interview with the person you’d actually be working for.

Nobody said it would be easy! Use your networking and contacts to help you go directly to potential bosses. Yes, it’s OK to do this. Once you get there, talk about the job and prove you can do the job. That’s what employers care about.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com .