I have been interviewing people virtually my entire adult life — as a crime writer and investigative reporter, as an M&A developer and for 25 years as an executive recruiter. People stumble in the job interview because they are not prepared. This lack of preparation leads to unfocused answers — noise that distracts from an applicant’s message.

The best advice I can give a job applicant who is preparing for an interview is to focus on the  client’s needs and do the best she or he can to eliminate the noise.

The “noise” as defined by Donald Miller who wrote the excellent how-to branding book “Building A Story Brand,” is the things people say that the prospective employer is not really interested in.  So, look at the employer’s job description, look at your research on the job or the employer that you have assembled, and focus your messaging on the three or four critical points the employer seems to need.  Anytime you can tie your answers to one of those desirable must-haves from the job posting you will improve your chances to advance in the search.


Eliminating the noise is not an easy thing to do.  It takes a lot of practice, a great deal of practice.   So much of what you say in a job interview is akin to giving an extemporaneous speech, and for most people, extemporaneous speech is not one of their core strengths.  You have to be able to address the prospective employer’s needs in your answers but with a skilled coach you can get there.

Remember, the job search process, especially the interview, is not about you, as my former colleague Nancy Swain liked to say, it is about the needs of the prospective employer.  Everything you tell them that is not focused on their needs is just noise.  

Next:  The Art of Storytelling In An Interview Without the Noise