With 2024 slowly rolling in, I am faced with a double conundrum.
On one end, I am entering the job market after a failed startup. On the other hand, I am hiring interns for another venture that is in the works. And the conundrum that I am faced with is that I am going to have to endure the slow, boring, monotonous interview processes that we are so familiar with in both cases.
The reason is that I am not only giving interviews. I am taking them too. And it was during one of these interviews that I came across this rather odd train of thought.
Why are interviews so boring?
Is it because the questions are repeated? If that’s the case, then the candidates ought to be well prepared with flamboyant answers to every question. Simply because any two candidates are not the same. Nor are their personalities or their achievements.
So why does their answer feel repeated? It is as if they have all been consulting ChatGPT and blurting out the same answer every time.
To truly understand this paradox, I ventured into the psychology behind the one most common interview question asked. “Tell me about yourself," or better framed, ”You have two minutes to impress me. Your time starts now.”
I never realized the true meaning behind the question until now because I had never stepped into the shoes of the interviewer. Or immersed myself in that experience before. And so I never managed to reflect on what the question was actually asking me.
Let’s try an exercise. Take a look at the question. And I mean, truly, look at the question.
”You have two minutes to impress me." or "Tell me about yourself."
Does this seem like a single question to you? Or is it a mixture of a couple of questions framed together as one neatly baked Tiramisu? The thing is, The question isn’t asking for your entire life story. The question is simply asking you, “What’s your biggest flex?”
As I sit back to reflect and ponder the various interviews I have been involved in, I too have come to a realization. It is not that the questions are boring, nor is the interview process.
What’s boring are the candidates’ interactions and their answers. How do I know this? Because my answers were shit too.
So, how do you impress someone in two minutes? I asked ChatGPT the same question. It too blurted out an unappealing response. And trust me, that doesn’t ever work in the real world. Instead. Here is the refined 3-step version of the approach you ought to take:
Step 1: research the interviewer
Let us suppose you are working in an ice cream parlor. And you are tasked with calling people to promote your product line. If you were to use a generic approach with me, you would never hear back from me, as I am lactose intolerant.
But if you were to pitch me a lactose-free Madagascar chocolate gelato, you would have an instant buyer (since my weakness is good chocolate). The same magic works in interviews, too. Why?
You took an interest in the life of the interviewer. You already stand out compared to the rest of the candidates. You can ask relevant questions and come up with a more fine-tuned answer.
Now I’m not going to teach you how to do the research. That’s your job. You wouldn’t be here reading this if your research game wasn’t strong.
Step 2: engage with the interviewer
This is something I learned through my first startup. How to effectively approach and convert leads. There are two kinds of people. One who goes up to the client, asks about their problems, and simply pitches the solution that seems like the best fit.
Then there’s the second kind. This kind goes to the client, greets them, and talks to them about their life, their family, their cat, and so on. Poke around to find the juicy bits. And builds rapport. 9 out of 10 times, this is the kind of person who best succeeds at such tasks.
I think the best example of this kind of approach would be Vince Vaughn’s character in the movie “The Internship." Watch the movie if you haven’t already. This can be your research.
A very wise person once said, “Interviews are all about control. The one who controls the conversation controls the interview.”
Step 3: make it flex
Final step. Make it flex. What is it that sets you apart from the competition? What makes you, you?
You can do this in numerous ways. Crafting a story around your life and experiences goes a long way. The goal here is not just to entertain but to demonstrate your abilities, problem-solving skills, and the value you can bring to the organization. A very good example of this would be the story of George Speck, later known as George Crum and long thought to be the original inventor of the potato chip.
Another approach would be to prepare an elevator pitch. Craft a concise and compelling summary of who you are, your expertise, and what you bring to the table. Keep it brief but informative. The key here is to communicate your value proposition clearly and succinctly while leaving a memorable impression that prompts further interest and conversation.
Here’s your final exercise.
Open ChatGPT. Tell it to give you a summarised version of your resume. Craft a story with it. Go Colourful. Make it shine bright like a diamond. Read it out like a love letter. You do know how to write a love letter, right? And don’t forget to make it flex.
As for me, this is my flex:
“I am a seasoned professional skilled in influencing minds with stories and blending my writing expertise with proficient data analytics. With close to a decade of industrial experience, I have worked as a writer and digital marketer for 5 years, as a data analyst for 2 years, and as a professional bassist for 3 years.
At one of the greatest heights of my career, I worked with the Prime Minister's Office. So, literally speaking, I have had “Chai” with Modi.
In more recent years, I have been involved in one failed startup and am gearing two ventures towards probable success. In one, I influence minds with grammar. On the other hand, I am trying to fix a problem with dating apps.”
And to answer my dreaded question, “Why am I working at two new ventures when I have already failed at one?”
“Because I’m an entrepreneur. Failed startups are kink of mine. They are also going to be the eventual nails in my coffin.”