This morning, Marty Nemko interviewed me on NPR's San Francisco affiliate, KALW 91.7 FM. Here are some of the talking points from our lively 45 minute discussion today. You can also listen to the Rise Above the Noise interview sound clip.
MARTY: Standard advice on how to interview focuses on the basics that will only keep you in the running: how to answer questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” And to smile and make eye-contact. But to significantly increase your chances of being the candidate who actually gets the job, for all but low-level jobs, requires much more . That’s why I was pleased to see two books by Lewis Lin. They focus what it takes to be outstanding in the interview. The books focus on marketing and product management jobs but they have far broader applicability. I think that even if you’re not looking for a job and aren’t interested in a career in marketing or product management, you’ll find this segment interesting because it will give you a window into the little-known world of how products come to market and stay there, and the ever more sophisticated, perhaps even scary world of marketing—how companies try to get you to buy. Lewis Lin is CEO of Impact Interview, an interview coaching firm, named by CNN as one of the top 10 job tweeters you should follow, formerly a director at Microsoft and at Google, led product launches. He has a BS in computer science from Stanford and and MBA from Northwestern. And he’s the author of Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews and Rise Above the Noise: How to Standout at the Marketing Interview. Lewis, welcome to Work with Marty Nemko.
To give us a sense of the level of excellence required for most good jobs today, let’s take a concrete example. Teavana is a company that sells tea in shopping malls and in standalone cafes. Their branding is all about how socially conscious they are. If I were interviewing you for a job in marketing at Teavana and asked you to develop a marketing campaign based on their social consciousness branding, how would you answer?
LEWIS: We'd start by approaching it with a plan of action. We'd want to understand the goals, target audience, and positioning. Then, we'd brainstorm tactics such as a memorable tagline like the "100. 100. 100. Campaign." That is, empower 100 million women with education in developing countries, 100 thousand women to start new businesses, and develop 100 female CEOs at Fortune 100 companies.
Let’s tear that apart. What are the generalizable principles about interviewing that were embedded in your answer?
LEWIS: Creativity absolutely matters. So many interviews are dull and boring. Demonstrate a lot of creativity, sprinkle in some vigor and passion, and you'll stand out from other candidates well after the interview.
Let’s take another example. Let’s say an interviewer at Clorox, which owns Kingsford charcoal says, “Charcoal sales are down because more people are using gas grills. How would you try to boost sales?”
LEWIS: Here we want to approach it by asking clarifying questions. This is not a police interrogation. It's a conversation. There are no heat lamps, and there are no one-way mirrors. So if you're not a charcoal market expert, ask the interviewer. They might have information that'll make it easier for you and increase the quality of your response.
MARTY: Let’s do one more: Let’s say I’m Costco and I ask you, “Estimate the cost of a drone delivery service.”
LEWIS: The key here is to have a plan of action. If you think about this question, it's really about two things: supply and demand. For demand, we need to figure out how many Costco customers will use the drone delivery service. For supply, we need to figure out the number of drones to service these customers. By approaching this question with this plan in mind, we now have a blueprint on asking the right questions to calculate an answer.
MARTY: Are there any other important concepts in interviewing you’d like to mention?
LEWIS: Many candidates get really nervous at the interview. To battle those nerves, borrow a tip from your favorite TV news anchor. Figure out what you'll say in advance: anticipate interview questions and writing your response. Practice it a few times verbally, and you'll feel a lot better because you'll no longer have to worry about what to say.