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Breaking Bamboo: Work is one big performance

Breaking Bamboo runs exclusively every other Monday on AsAmNews to help readers navigate their careers. Send your questions to info at AsAmNews dot com. Your question will remain anonymous

By David Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

1. You have called the interview Show Time. What do you mean by that and how can I make my next interview “Show Time?”

After a long career, I have come to this stark conclusion: what gets one hired and promoted is not what one has actually done but what others think one has done. With this in mind, I view the interview as performance art. It is unlikely that an interviewer will ask you to actually perform the job during an interview and so the onus is on you to give the impression that you can do the job.

The Oscar winning actress, Shirley MacLaine, said it exactly right when she said, “Life is just one big performance.” Work included! Treat every interview like a performance. That means you need to do what all great actors do: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Make sure you try your routine with friends, family, maybe even your pets. That way when the curtain goes up at the interview, you are ready to perform and demonstrate that you have the skill and acumen to do the job. 

Oh and one last thing. “Show Time” never ends. In fact, your entire job is one big interview for a promotion. So the routine you practiced to get the job will continue to be honed as you climb the corporate ladder. 

2. What are some of the worst interview questions I should be prepared for during a job interview and how do I handle it?

You have identified the root cause of the worst interview questions: the ones you are unprepared for! Expect the unexpected. Be ready for anything. Oftentimes the interviewer is not only trying to gauge your competence but also fit with the organization. Know your resume and the projects you worked on. Have a good answer for why you want the job and why you want to work at that company in particular.

Be ready for the moonball questions. The ones designed to throw you off kilter or get insight into how you think. Here are some oldies but goodies that get rehashed more often than Bee Gees cover songs:

  • What is your biggest weakness? 
    • Answer with basically anything that doesn’t relate directly to doing the job well. Like how you care about people too much or get emotional about inequality in the world.
  • How many balloons can you fit in a truck? 
    • This is designed to give the interviewer insight into how you think. Just be sure to talk aloud in a logical manner. No one knows the right answer to these questions anyway.
  • Tell me something no one knows about you? 
    • This is a major landmine. Ideally think of something you might have in common with the interviewer. Such as you both love the Houston Rockets but you live in the Bay Area surrounded by Golden State Warriors fans! 😉

3. Is there a metric by which I should rate my own interview performance so I can make the next one that much better?

Unfortunately, every interview is different and there is no one single metric to rate your performance. In fact, it is a pass-fail exercise where your final grade is determined by the answer to the question: “Did you get the job?” 

However, it is really important to practice continuous improvement. I do this by doing post mortems for jobs I didn’t get. I ask the interviewers for feedback. Why didn’t I get the job? What could have I done differently? Is the door closed to me for today but not in the future? 

I also see who the firm hired. I research their background. What do they have that I didn’t? I see if there are any YouTube or TikTok videos that give me a sense of the person’s personality. I use failure as a learning tool to identify my own deficiencies so I know where to improve.
For bonus credit, try pre-mortems. This is when you take stock of why you fail an interview before you actually go do it. Think about all the reasons why an interviewer might reject you. Then once you have that list, do your best to mitigate or eliminate each one of those issues. If they aren’t rectifiable then at least you know why you might not get the job. Good luck!

About the Author

Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.

He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees.  Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF).  He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history.  As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.

Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America.  He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.

If you want some great career tips and insights check out Dave’s book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior, at TheWallStreetWarrior.com.

You can follow Dave at Twitter @Liucrative or Instagram @LiucrativeEndeavors.

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