Job Interviews

5 Lessons For An Interview Makeover

5 Lessons For An Interview Makeover

In a two-part series on “Resume Nightmares," I laid out scenarios from reality shows like “The Profit." “Kitchen Nightmares," and “Bar Rescue," where strong statements from the shows' stars harshly attack product (food and/or service) and owners. I suggested that the processes suggested from these shows provide some interesting ways for improving resumes. In reviewing these shows, I was also struck with some key points about interviews. Related: Job Seekers: Prepare For Bad Interview Questions Overall, there was one strong conclusion: the stars of these shows are tough, excellent interviewers. This offers the opportunity for some good interview preparation for job seekers.

Lesson #1 – Start With A Story

In almost every one of these shows, the interview with the owner begins with “tell me about why you started this business" or a very close variation of this. It's clearly better than the ubiquitous “tell me about yourself" because it provides clear guidance on what's expected. While it may not be applicable in all interview settings, I believe that for most, it's very good to know your story of how you decided to become a teacher, or why you joined the military, or why your first job at a fast-food restaurant sparked your interest in a customer service profession. I've made the same argument for describing your accomplishments. Each of your significant accomplishments is a story. It's not just a boring, fact-based description of the tasks you performed. Prepare and practice telling the stories of your career. You may find them boring – because you lived them. As an interviewer, I'm fascinated by the details of your experiences.

Lesson #2 – Tough Love

For many years, I've used a technique that I recognized in these reality shows, particularly “Kitchen Nightmares" and “Bar Rescue" – although I never pushed it to the intensity of the shows. Maybe the intensity is justified. In many workshops, I've discussed that “tell me about yourself" opening. I've asked all the participants to be prepared to answer that question – and warned them that I would “sound the whistle" or shout “stop" if the answer was weak or irrelevant. In hundreds of examples, the overwhelming majority were stopped after the first few words, frequently with the start of life stories that started with birth. Watching these reality shows, I've become particularly intrigued by Gordon Ramsey's “You're deluded!" In an “Interview Makeover" world, I'd like to conduct mock interviews with job seekers where weak answers were immediately confronted with:
  • Stop! Tell me what you accomplished – not this boring repetition of tasks!"
  • You're deluded! What you're telling me isn't the important part of what the result was!"
  • Give me specifics! Stop just telling me how great everything is (was)."

Lesson #3 – Asking Others

From an interviewer perspective, I would love to use one of the techniques used automatically in “Kitchen Nightmares." It's also an element that I want to recommend job seekers seriously consider. When Gordon Ramsey first visits a restaurant, he is likely to talk to staff members about the restaurant, about the food, about the owner – before he meets the owner. He'll ask:
  • What's wrong with the place?
  • Tell me about the food?
  • What would you recommend?
  • Is this fresh?
He will also sample the food and the service before interviewing the chef/owner. Jon Taffner (“Bar Rescue") does similar “recon" before confronting the bar owners. Think about this for a minute. Internal candidates for positions have a distinct advantage over external candidates because the HR representative and/or the hiring manager have detailed awareness of the candidate's performance. They know about the person's strengths – and weaknesses. From that perspective, I want to check references before I interview a candidate, not after. For a job seeker, follow that same path. Whenever possible find out from colleagues, supervisors, and coaches what they see as your significant accomplishments, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Use that information to improve your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and your interview preparation.

Lesson #4 – Willingness To Be Coached

Each job seeker's career skills are different, as is his or her receptivity to coaching. Some job seekers eagerly search for coaching support and follow the advice. I've worked with individuals on resumes who relentlessly submitted revision after revision pursuing the guidelines I've suggested. On the flip side, I've seen the stubbornness of individuals who are just looking for someone to tell them everything they're doing is right. These reality shows raise the interesting issue for individuals who can admit they need a career coach with a tough, “nightmare" style coach. This coach will deliver brutal, accurate feedback. This coach will keep you on track with deadlines and reminders for updating resumes and practicing interviews. “Kitchen Nightmares" and “Bar Rescue" feature tough interviewers who ultimately ask one key question: “Are you willing to listen – are you willing to change?" Very appropriate for many job seekers.

Lesson #5 – Asking Good Questions

It can also be extremely beneficial for candidates to ask good questions during an interview. If the expectations for a job are not clear, and that's often true, ask a strong question as early in an interview as possible. Ask: What are the key expectations for this position? Or: If the person hired for this position was extremely successful after the first year, what would he or she have accomplished? Notice how these questions are strong and direct, just like those from the reality shows? Almost any episode of “The Profit" is a great lesson in asking penetrating questions. Marcus Lemonis is interviewing potential business partners who hope he'll “make an offer." He questions owners, employees, suppliers, and customers with great examples to questions that elicit valuable information.


The stars of these reality shows, particularly “Kitchen Nightmares," “Bar Rescue," and “The Profit," are excellent interviewers who ask penetrating questions that target the key issues. Career seekers can benefit from thinking about how their own preparation can benefit from learning – and practicing – answering and asking this type of questions. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a Work It Daily-approved expert.
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