Job Interviews for Dummies

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If you read the news, you’d think every company on the planet was laying people off. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot more people heading out for job interviews — and getting shocked at the Interview Gauntlet.

So I asked Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition, published in January of this year, for a little interview advice. Today’s question:

Cube Rules: In the book, you tell us to “expect new kinds of interviewers.” I’d agree with this position given my recent interviews. What kinds of interviewers are you seeing now?

Joyce Lain Kennedy:

One size no longer fits all when describing the face across the interview desk.

As I explain in my new theatrically-themed book, Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition, if the last time you trod the boards of job interviewing you went one-to-one with a single interviewer — usually a white man or woman — get ready for a different set of questioners.

By now you’ve probably experienced a faceless phone voice calling to determine if you’ve got the chops to be brought in for a closer look.

Or perhaps you’ve met a talking head through the increasingly popular first-cut interviews conducted by Webcam technology. Many of the interviewers who initially contact you are outside contractors who may be not be able to accurately answer all your questions about the job and the company. Why? Because, as de facto outside vendors, they may not themselves know how all the pieces fit together within an employer’s environment.

But assume you survive the first cut. That’s when the surprises really begin.

Generational shifting may fuel your biggest jolt when you unexpectedly encounter an individual who would be your boss but who looks young enough to be getting student discount tickets for the movies.

When the boss is your kid’s age

Tony G., a reader of my newspaper column, wrote to me to say that at age 60 he had just landed an excellent position with a start-up company after being interviewed by the 33-year-old company president, who coincidentally is the same age as his son. The other three employees are in their late 20s, as are Tony’s daughters. Tony credits his success to his lack of neophobia (fear of new things).

“I think I was offered the job because of my attitude during the interview. I made it clear to the young boss that I would rather work with people in “your age bracket” because there is so much energy and new, fresh ideas. That’s the environment where I want to work,” Tony said with conviction.

Advising other prime-timers, Tony added: “Think young, think responsibly, and always be prepared to put something solid and attractive on the interview table.” © For Dummies. Excerpted by permission from Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition

Even when you’re aware of that possibility and are confident that as the elder experienced actor in the room you can handle the juvenile lead, you won’t really appreciate the upside down dynamic until it happens to you.

Another potential surprise: How will you respond to an interviewer of a different racial heritage or ethnic background, especially one from another land whose accent confuses your ears?

Still another surprise you may not yet have confronted: Are you ready to explain to a veteran team of six managers —individually or collectively — why you’re the best candidate for the job?

When you meet in a one-on-one serial interview, you may make strategic calculations to address specific anxieties of each manager but take care; if you seem to tell different stories, you risk being seen as an inconsistent candidate. Alternatively, to those unfamiliar with group interviews, the experience may feel like a gang bang.

In a fast-forward world of interviewing marked with a diversity of players, your best strategy is to avoid seeming surprised at anything, from faceless screeners and interviewers younger than you , to multiple interviewers and interviewers who look or sound very different than the way it was.


Interviews have become a gauntlet and are done by many different people — all with different perspectives on you and the work to be done. Joyce captures this diversity very well.

Just remember that as a Cubicle Warrior you bring great skills and talent to a position. The people interviewing you need to fulfill your needs as well.


Joyce Lain Kennedy is the nation’s first syndicated careers columnist. Her work, Careers Now, is distributed by Tribune Media Services and appears in more than 100 newspapers and Web sites.

Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition is an authoritative theatrically-themed guide that takes readers’ problems seriously but not itself. Richly complete with both fresh and timeless interviewing solutions for job seekers at all levels and size of employer. Special attention is focused on new graduates, career changers, and prime-timers over 50.

The 3rd edition is loaded with scripts and tips to use in a reinvented world of eye-popping technology, workplaces without borders, and a changing generational mix.

Chapters 1,2,3,4, 15,16 & 17 (68 pages) are totally new with game-changing topics. Additionally, the 3rd edition is chock-full of updates and revisions throughout, reflecting important changes in job interviewing practices and tools over the last 8 years. (this is a serious update — Scot)

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Thanks, Wendy. Well, as you know, the world is changing. I’m really grateful that Joyce is sharing her knowledge on all of this here on Cube Rules.

    There are hoops, that’s for sure.

  • What an excellent post, Scot. Having sat on both sides of the table — both as an interviewer and an interviewee — jobseekers typically have to jump through hoops to get through the gauntlet. And it is especially challenging as an older worker. Great job on bringing all the bumps in the road to the table.


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