Interviewing for a Job Right Now?

Today has been another interesting and stimulating day. Many meetings and many interesting people.

At the end of the day, I finished a meeting at a hotel in Cambridge and found a quiet place at which to catch up on email. Unbeknownst to me until later, I was sitting next to meeting rooms where a leveraged buyout firm was interviewing Harvard B-School students.

As I watched them file in and out, in new suits and with freshly-cut and well-coiffed hair, I remembered my own days of interviewing for jobs. The stress. Learning to knot a tie property. Getting shirts to the dry cleaners.

I chatted with one of the candidates. Man, was he nervous. I told him I was an alumnus and I too was in his shoes once. I tried to give him a pep talk. As I left, I told him, “Don’t worry–life gets much better.”  “Thank you very much,” he breathed, “that’s so good to hear.”

I realized that it would have been helpful as a young man to hear from the future. So what would Jo Tango today tell Jo Tango when he was 25 years-old?

So, I write this to all students deep in interview season. My experience of course may not apply to yours, but here are three lessons learned below.

Not getting the job could be great. I love telling the true story of my friend Tim Brady. He and I were section-mates at b-school. Insanely smart guy.  Everybody really liked him. Well, he interviewed for some summer internship jobs, and he was turned down. So, he went back to Palo Alto to work with some friends who had started a new company. He was employee number 3 and the first business person whom they hired. He wrote their business plan.

That company was Yahoo!  His friends were Jerry Yang and David Filo, the company founders. Tim was an officer of the company and ran the Yahoo! site. The rest, as they say, “is history.”

There are plenty of fish in the sea–and, the biggest fish usually don’t come to campus. Seriously. There are tons of jobs, and many of the best ones do not come on-campus to interview. In fact, many of the firms that do interview on campus need to because employee turnover is so high. They need to replace the ranks. So, if the jobs are so awesome, why is turnover so high? Why are they coming to you? Shouldn’t you be going to the best jobs?

Good interviews are false positives. OK, say you’re a high-powered student who isn’t used to rejection. You have great grades. You lead some cool clubs or play some varsity sports. Your friends love you and your family is proud of you. Then, rejection letters come, and likely, in droves. Naturally, you’re going to feel awful.

But, here’s the cool thing: studies show that nailing a job interview is a poor predictor of success in a job. Really.  In fact, when I interview someone to join one of our companies’ teams, I don’t put a lot of weight on those meetings. I instead do a ton of off-list reference checks.

So, there you have it.  My 2 cents.  If you persevere, I promise that good things will happen.

I wish you all the best.

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