Bob Goldman
Talk about tension. You've come across a super job, and it's just perfect for your -- let's be honest here -- skimpy and strange skill set. Apparently, the potential employer is also under the delusion that you make a good candidate, because you have been granted an interview.

A big, fat make-it-or-break-it interview.

Naturally, you're nervous. You don't make a good first impression, and your second, third and fourth impressions are not so hot either. Somewhere around Impression No. 16, your unique personal quirks start to become somewhat lovable, but the chances are that well before the magic happens, someone else will have already nabbed the gig.

It's a dilemma, but thanks to Catherine Conlan, a contributing writer at the job resource Monster, you now have access to the "5 Best Things to Say in an Interview." They won't necessarily get you the job, Ms. Conlan admits, "but they can certainly pave the way."

Do you know the No. 1 best thing to say in an interview? Would you like me to tell you? Would you listen if I were to tell you? Are you getting really annoyed I'm asking you all these questions? The reason I'm asking questions is because, according to Howard Pines, CEO of BeamPines Inc., "the best thing a candidate can do at an interview is ask good questions."

If you're not sure what makes a question good, Mr. Pines suggests certain inquiries guaranteed to show you're engaged in the process. Two of his questions are "What are the biggest short- and long-term issues I would need to focus on in this position?" and "What would I need to focus on differently than the previous person in this position?"

While Pines certainly gets points for being focused on being focused, I suggest you stick to your usual questions, like "Why am I here?" and "What in the world makes you think I can do this job?" (And don't forget the classic question that shows you've put this interview and this job into perspective, while also demonstrating your focus on critical economic issues, "Do you validate?")

"I'm flexible" is the theme of the second set of things to say. As Ms. Conlan explains, "whether it is about possible job duties, a potential start date or simply timing for the second interview, stressing your flexibility makes you easy to get along with."

Of course, in real life, you're almost impossible to get along with, so it might be more believable if you can be flexible about saying "I'm flexible." There are lots of candidates who can say, "I'm flexible," but no one is more believable than you when it comes to saying, "I'm desperate."

Using "The Company's Own Words" is Technique No. 3. Olivia Ford of Adeptio, suggests that "these key words might include team, leadership, simplistic, culture or growth." I say, to make a really positive impression, put all the key words together in a single power sentence that is sure to impress, like "The simplistic thinking of this company's leadership team has created a culture that is sure to crush any chance of growth."

Yep! Consider this interview nailed.

"Instead of blurting out, 'I don't know,'" Ms. Conlan suggests in Tip No. 4, say "that's a good question," which "can give you a few moments to come up with an answer, and, in the meantime, strokes the interviewer's ego a little bit."

If you really want to stroke the interviewer's ego and get yourself a few moments to come up with an answer, I suggest you plead the Fifth. "I invoke my right not to incriminate myself" is the perfect answer to sneaky, probing questions like "Did you really graduate from Harvard?" or "Do you want milk in your coffee?" Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to think of the answer after security has escorted you out of the building.

The final interview tip is to be prepared to explain your motivations in applying for the job. If your motivations are as mysterious to you as they are to the interviewer, Ms. Conlan suggests you talk about how this position fits into your future plans, how it fits your values, and what you can bring to it. Since the answer to these questions are "It doesn't," "I don't have any," and "nothing at all," you may need to be more direct in demonstrating your motivations for applying.

Don't say nothing. Simply slip out of the chair, fall to the floor, curl up into a fetal position, and start weeping inconsolably. Just make certain your tears don't smudge your resume.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

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Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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