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The Big Ask: The No. 1 question to ask before job interview

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 12:34 p.m. CDT

Be honest now — what is the No. 1 question you ask yourself before a big job interview?

If you’re like most people, that critical question is something like, “How could I be so demented as to think a Bozo like me can get hired for a job like this?”

But you’re not like most people, as we well know. When you sit in the reception area in your itchy interview outfit, your nerves stretching and your deodorant failing, and the clock ticking as you await the big interview, your No. 1 question is “Why was I born?”

Fortunately, this is a question I can answer. You were born to read this column. As to the first question, that’s a little more difficult. To think that a Bozo like you could get hired for any job at all does indeed require a degree of dementia.

But if calming your fevered psyche is what it takes to get you to and through an interview, the least I can do is offer you some help.

Actually, the help I have to offer you is what Lisa Swan offered me in a recent blog post on Huff Post Business, “4 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Your Next Job Interview.” Basing her questions on a Q and A with Seth Kaufman, a certified career coach at Creative Vision Coaching, Ms. Swan came up with the following four questions. My advice is to imagine you’re a suspect in a particularly creepy episode of “Law and Order,” and start interrogating yourself right now, before that hard-hearted interviewer begins grilling you for real.

Question No. 1 is “Who is the best you?” In career coach talk, that means “think about not just the nuts and bolts of job interviewing, but what do you want to project as a leader.”

This won’t be easy for you, since your major area of expertise is your ability to be a follower. Now, don’t be modest! No one is better than you in mindlessly obeying management orders, no matter how misguided and totally idiotic they may be.

The over-performing underling that is the best you will not only be good for the hiring manager’s ego, but you’ll be right on hand when a fall guy is needed to take the blame.

(Think this is not a matter to tell an interviewer? Think again, Glen. Who doesn’t want a subservient lackey who will do our bidding, while constantly reminding us how brilliant we are?)

Question No. 2 to ask yourself is “What are you most likely to be asked?” Career coach Kaufman suggests, “You should do a self-assessment first about ‘what questions you are most comfortable or uncomfortable answering.’”

This is an excellent idea, and when you get a question that makes you uncomfortable, such as “Where do you want to be in five years?” don’t be afraid to raise your right hand and announce that you “refuse to answer this question because to my right against self-incrimination.”

Yes, taking the Fifth could put you in a bad light, but it’s a lot better than telling the truth — that in five years you want to be on a talcum-powder beach, with a Mai-Tai in each hand and the company’s IT budget in a numbered bank account in an island-paradise without an extradition treaty.

“Is this really your dream job” is question-to-self No. 3. If the answer is in the affirmative, and you “can communicate why you are the perfect fit for the job,” Coach Kaufman says, “This can be a great selling point.”

Even if the position is looking more and more like your nightmare job, you may still want to point out why you are the perfect fit. Simply explain that “no one else is desperate enough to take a job this terrible, and if you don’t hire me, I’m going to hold my breath until my face turns red.”

If the hiring manager buckles, you may indeed have found your dream job — a gig where you can make up for your inadequacy as a worker with your brilliance in throwing fits and sulking.

The fourth and final question to ask yourself is “How do you handle being rejected?” This is definitely a question you can answer in the positive. After a lifetime of constant rejection, handling one more turndown is something you can manage with the grace of a prima ballerina.

It’s acceptance that you can’t handle, and who can blame you? Any business that would hire you is certainly no place you would ever want to work.

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