You are not going to get a job that deserves you by sitting in the chair like a Good Little Job-Seeker and answering questions.

You have to get your interviewer off the script!

A ‘screener’ or HR interviewer who interviews you before you meet your own hiring manager may have a hard time getting off their interview script. They may not know much (or anything at all!) about the job you are interviewing for.

In that case, go along with the inane interview script. Your goal is to have a second interview with your hiring manager — the person who will be your boss in your new job.

You will have a much easier time getting your hiring manager off the interview script than a recruiter or HR ‘screener,’ because your hiring manager has something those other interviewers don’t. Your manager has this:


What is pain? Pain is whatever problem your hiring manager is experiencing in the absence of a brilliant person like you to perform the job the manager is trying to fill. If there were no pain, the manager would not have gotten permission from the higher-ups to fill the job opening.

You can get your hiring manager off the interview script by asking him or her questions about pain,  like this:

MANAGER: So, what’s your greatest weakness?

YOU: Chocolate, I guess! Can I ask you a quick question about the job?

MANAGER (happy to be interrupted in reading stupid questions from an interview script): Sure!

YOU: Great. I understand that this job has a lot to do with scheduling installations in your customer sites. It seems that you need someone to line up the staff members you need for the various installations, make sure the schedule works on the customer’s end and then create an installation ticket. Is that more or less what you’re looking for someone to do?

MANAGER: Yes, that’s a lot of it. Another big part of the job is to work with our Product Development people to make sure that we have installation plans and protocols for each of our new products as it launches. You’d be the Installation guru in this job.

YOU: What can go wrong as you schedule installations? I want to understand the impact of the role.

MANAGER: Listen, a lot can go wrong. If we send out technicians who don’t know the technology that our customer is using, the installation can be a disaster.

If we don’t make sure that we have backup people available in case an installation is more complicated than we expected it to, customers can be kept waiting and that’s not good, either.

YOU: So when a customer needs an installation, it’s obviously because they’ve just purchased the product, correct?

MANAGER: Yes, or they’re upgrading —

YOU: So that’s exciting news for them, and they’ve invested their company’s money so their reputation is on the line —

MANAGER: That’s exactly right. Sometimes in our customer sites, the CIO or the VP of IT will wander in to check on the installation.

Imagine how it would look if our tech was an hour late getting to the customer site, or they didn’t have the right tools with them?

YOU: It sounds like a terrible experience — and maybe one you’ve run into!

MANAGER: Oh heck yes. This is an exacting job. You have to have eyes on the back of your head.

YOU (Resisting the urge to say “I do!”): And so, is this position newly created to solve that problem?

MANAGER: Honestly, it’s an existing position but the last person was just unequipped. They didn’t have the sensitivity to the nuances of the job and we’ve raised the pay level accordingly.

YOU: Because the stakes are higher than they might have seemed in the past.

MANAGER: And this person is integral to our operation.

Now you’ve heard about your manager’s Business Pain directly from his or her lips. How does this help you? It helps a ton! Now you have your manager in the place where he or she is emotionally in touch with that pain.

Now all you have to do is tell a couple of Dragon-Slaying Stories from your past — stories about times when you came, saw and conquered in similar situations.

What would constitute a ‘similar situation’ if you’ve never worked with product installations before? Your Dragon-Slaying Story could recount any time when you took a snarled-up issue and untangled it with grace and empathy.

MANAGER: I think you have a good understanding of what I’m looking for. What have you done in the past that relates to this position?

YOU: I worked as the Configuration Specialist for Acme Explosives. I coordinated big shipments from several divisions that went out to our largest customers, who are construction  firms doing demolition or quarry work. If one item out of forty in a custom order was wrong or missing, the whole project could be put on hold for days. Millions of dollars were at stake.

MANAGER: Okay. Tell me about how you saved the day in one of those situations.

YOU: We were working with a contractor who was building a massive bridge and overpass project in Missouri. There was a personnel change in the contractor’s shop and their order got placed wrong. They didn’t realize it until the order was en route.

I learned about the problem, got Production  involved and switched out our week’s manufacturing work to make sure we had the products our customer needed.

We air-freighted the missing product out to Missouri and I kept everybody in the loop, from our own guys to the customer’s team and our CEO’s office.

MANAGER: So you’d say you do okay with stress?

YOU: I’ve never worked in a job that had a slow pace. I’d go out of my mind in a job like that. I want to be in the center of things, keeping people posted and solving problems.

MANAGER: Well, this job has a lot of that kind of activity!

Your new boss walked into the interview room with a clipboard in his hand. He was ready to ask you the stilted, scripted questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” but he never got the chance. You got him off the script with your Pain-Spotting questions. Now you’ve got the job!

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