• Bill Petrie

Lessons from a Job Interview

Not all interview questions are created equally

Recently, I was thinking about a job search I went through about six years ago. Specifically, I was reminded of an opportunity with a company in the promotional products industry where I was vying for an executive sales leadership position. At the time, it was a job I coveted. As part of the process, they sent me a questionnaire to see how I would fit culturally in their environment – a smart move considering cultural alignment is the single most significant indicator of hiring success.

This, however, was not your typical pre-employment screening questionnaire designed to slot the candidate as a particular personality type.

Instead, most of the questions required thoughtful and careful consideration – something that seems to be at odds with current hiring practices that tend to reward homogeneous thinking. The one that still sticks out to me is this nugget: “If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your grandchildren?” After reviewing my answers, which are below, I realized how many of them apply to business success as well:

  • Take risks – Living a full life means taking chances and seizing opportunities, especially those that make you uncomfortable. Life truly begins when we step outside of our comfort zone.

  • Follow your passion – Find what you love to do and do it with hard-driving passion. When you do that, the road to success will often find you.

  • Take the hard road – Very few worthwhile things in life come easy. Relish taking the hard road and embrace the journey. Many times the journey is more rewarding than the goal.

  • Drive Change – Change is a certainty, so get comfortable with it. At the very least, embrace change. Better yet, drive it when needed.

  • Own your mistakes – Mistakes allow you to learn and grow. Take responsibility, apologize, and change the behavior.

  • Give back – Each of us is blessed with many advantages, but it’s essential to realize the world is filled with people far less fortunate. Find causes that move you and donate your time, talents, energy, and money. Leave this world a better place than you found it.

  • Unplug – The world is stuffed with wondrous technology that we never imagined possible only ten years ago. While they are marvelous, it’s critical to remember that your heart and soul will only be fulfilled by connecting with people – looking them in the eye, laughing at a joke, empathizing with a friend during a time of distress, sharing your joys with someone you love. Those are soul-fulfilling experiences that can never be replaced by machines.

  • Help others fly – No one achieves success alone. Give people the treasure of your time and help them spread their wings. There are fewer greater professional experiences than watching someone you've helped soar above the clouds.

  • Think – Take at least 30 minutes a day to simply think. Turn off the music, the computer, the cellphone, and the virtual reality simulator to allow yourself to be enveloped in silence. Let your thoughts drift to magical places without distraction – there’s a reason that many of us do our best thinking in the silence of the shower.

  • Be nice – We all remember this as Dalton’s third rule in the classic movie “Road House.” As 2020 taught us, the world can be a challenging, stressful, and demanding place, so spread joy wherever and whenever you can. Smile at people, take a genuine interest in what they say, help someone because you can, be patient when frustrated, and listen with your eyes and heart, as well as your ears.

  • Be unapologetically you – There is only one you, and that’s a good thing. Protect your individuality as fiercely as possible because there is no glory in blending in with the crowd.

The job opportunity didn't pan out which, in retrospect, was a good thing. Even so, I still smile when I think of the very different interview process that allowed me to learn more about myself than I thought possible in that setting. Sometimes the business advice we need to hear is the wisdom from our grandparents.



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