Is it time in your career to look for a new job? Do you have that interview already lined up? Here are some modern, counter-intuitive takes on having a successful interview. The world has changed; so has job hunting. Be ready, and good luck!

1.Train like an Olympian. Malcolm Gladwell was wrong; it isn’t about 10,000 hours, it’s about 10,000 (more or less) smart hours. If you’ve got a lot riding on an interview, think of it like a race or a meet. How much are you willing to prep for it? Now, make that prep smart by visualizing a successful outcome and running that little video in your head over and over so that when the moment finally does come it’s familiar, you’re cool, and you are on top of your game.

Note: you can’t create a good mental movie in advance unless you’ve done your homework on the organization, you know what you can offer them, and you know how you want the interview to go.

2.Google Yourself. Your interviewer is going to Google you. So do it first, and if there’s stuff you don’t like, flood the feed with positive stuff that counterbalances the not-so-good. What you can’t fix, be ready to explain. The real work should begin six months or even a year before you try for that new job. Start your thought leadership by snagging your own website and starting to blog on a topic in your industry that you’re passionate about. You’d be amazed at the power of an already-existing track record of thoughtful commentary in your field to an interviewer.

3.Structure your answers. Most people think of a job interview as a passive experience. The interviewer asks questions, you answer them. Answer them well and confidently and you’ve got a job. Something like that.

Instead, think of the interview as a chance for a guided conversation you run on the subject you want to talk about: how you’re going to make a difference to this new organization. Have five points to make and be prepared to give both a quick answer and a longer answer on each of the five points. The longer answers are for follow up questions and comments.

Of course, you’re going to do some listening too — do your homework on the organization so that you can anticipate the questions the interviewer is going to ask.

4.Be Ready to Brag. Don’t be obnoxious, but don’t be shy either. At least a couple of those five points should showcase how you’ve made a difference somewhere else, in a way that is arguably analogous to the new organization. What problems have you solved? What insights have you had that led to new processes, more efficient processes, new products, and so on? If you haven’t solved any problems anywhere, then get started.

5.Focus Your Emotions. Spend a few minutes before the actual interview focusing on your mental state. Pick an emotion – a positive one – and remember a time when you naturally felt it. Put yourself in that memory and frame of mind as strongly as possible. With a little practice, you can learn to exclude the mental distractions that most of us experience most of the time. You’ll walk into the interview excited, passionate, happy, up – whatever your focus is. That way, you’ll be the one the interviewer remembers – because your emotion was strong, you were fully present, and it all clicked for you, just like in your mental movie.

Never just ‘wing’ a job interview. With some thoughtful preparation, you can improve the experience – and your odds – immeasurably.

Work on your elevator pitch at our Powerful Public Speaking seminar, one day only, in Boston in October.  Details and sign up here.  



  1. Some great thoughts here Nick, very valuable. I’ll just share a quick story….A while back a former client of mine told me he’d been made redundant and was struggling to get a new job. He’s a lovely guy, very giving but someone who has always struggled with confidence because of a speech impediment (stutter). I suggested we grab a coffee and I encouraged him to relate some things he’d done in the past, stories which weren’t about work per se but which portrayed him in a positive light (like raising money for a charity by cycling from Manchester to Paris…dressed as a butler!). He called me a few weeks later to say he’d got an interview, had mentioned some of that stuff in his interview, but he had to wait until after Christmas to hear the result – happily he was successful. Some weeks later he attended an event I ran and I was amazed to hear how much better his speaking was – stutter barely noticeable. Funny how there are often unexpected consequences to things, but the main learning I think is that interviewers want to know WHO YOU ARE and not just what qualifications or experience you have. Hope you don’t mind me sharing this.

  2. Very helpful. I agree with points 1 and 5 especially. Larry Iverson, PhD and Harvey Mackay both stress that fine -yet crucial- distinction that “perfect” practice makes perfect, in contrast to “practice makes perfect”. We perfect what we repeat, the idea being to improve on each iteration, which is what you describe here and elsewhere. For people needing help with points 3 and 4, I highly recommend Toastmasters, with the caveat that you get what you give….similar to the gym; wish I got points for just showing up, but there’s no app for that yet

    1. Thanks, Michelle — I appreciate the comments and, as always, the reminder that Toastmasters is a good place to go to work.

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