Job interviews: What do we know?

A humorous YouTube video that I like to use as an example of framing also happens to be a job interview (at least in the mind of one of the participants), and can be illuminating for our discussion of what expectations we bring into an interview as the interviewee.


Guy Goma had shown up to BBC News 24 for a job interview as an accountant and owing to a mix-up in reception, he gets mistaken for Guy Kewney  editor of the technology website news wireless and is interviewed on air about the court battle between apple computers and apple Corps over trademark rights.  For more on the case, you can click here


Here in the interview, you can see the moment of realization on Guy’s face where the coin drops that something is very, very wrong, but you can also see in his performance that he does many things right.  Take a look:


Now, remember, from Guy’s perspective, he has just shown up for a job interview.  His frame or mental model for the interaction will determine how he will behave.  He has already dressed the part, he has presumably showed up on time, and he because he is operating under the assumption that he needs to be cooperative, he sits for stage makeup and gets led onto the soundstage, thinking that at the BBC this must be how they do things, maybe they are so interested in TV that even the accountants need to be prepared to appear on camera in stage makeup at a moment’s notice.


So what does Guy do right?


He demonstrates interest and enthusiasm

Guy Goma is not an expert in technology or trademark rights, but he shows that he is interested in the industry by relating this question to examples drawn from his personal experience, noting the prevalence of cybercafés and people’s need to have downloadable media.  Ideally, you would be being interviewed for something that you were both qualified for and had prepared for in advance, so this would be your moment to demonstrate the effort that you have put in ahead of time by demonstrating your enthusiasm for how your skills and abilities match up with the organizations needs with an example for something that you have done or could do for them.  This also shows that you have shifted your deictic center, that you have put yourself into the mindset of your interviewer and anticipated their question of what you could do / where you would fit into the organiztion.


Be friendly and open, talk

In a job interview, silence can send unintended metamessages of being uncooperative, unhelpful, or difficult.  Talk shows that you are willing to hold up your end of the conversational bargain in this context.  This conversational work serves as a metaphor for your willingness to do the literal work of your job, to be a high performer you will play the game, and lob the ball back.  If you are nervous, you may perhaps want to find a way to just mention it so that signals which you may be sending do not get in the way of sending the metamessage “I am professional” “I do my share of the work.” we can see here, that he talks at least twice as long as the interviewer when she poses him a question:


Interviewer Guy Goma
4 seconds 14 seconds
10 seconds 20 seconds
6 seconds 12 seconds


Interviewer: Hello good morning to you

Guy: Good morning

Interviewer: Were you surprised by this uh verdict today?

Guy: I’m very surprised to see this verdict to come on me because I was not expecting that, when I came they told me something else and I’m coming “you’ve got an interview” that’s very, a big surprise anyway

Interviewer: A big surprise?

Guy: Exactly

Interviewer: Yes yes

With regard to the cost that’s in- in- involved, um do you think now more people will be downloading online?

Guy: Actually, if you go everywhere you’re gonna see lot of people downloading through the internet and the website everything they want.  But I think it is much better for development and to empower  people what they want to get easy way and so fast everything they are looking for

Interviewer: This does really seem to be the way the music industry is progressing now that people want to go onto the website and download music

Guy: Exactly, you can go everywhere on the cybercafé and you can take, you can go easy, it’s going to be easy for everyone to get something through the internet

Interviewer: well, I think we can go now to Rob Pitten…..


But, at the same time, he does not dominate the floor!


Keep your answers short

Even though Guy may have no idea at all what he is talking about, and thus the content of his utterances are a bit off, the structure of his contributions are perfect.  A great practice to adopt in your own interviews might be to check in quickly with your interviewer after you have given your answer. “does that answer your question?”


And another thing that we can learn from Guy is that

you don’t have to be afraid to say “I don’t know!”

you, unlike Guy, are not being interviewed on national television!  Check in with your interviewer if you need further clarification, if you are not sure that you have understood.  Speaking as someone who has sat on the other side of the desk, this does not signal incompetence, to me it shows me a respect for my time, but as ever, this is something to ask for advice about in your informational interviews with industry contacts.


And as ever, I want to hear from you – how did it go?

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