Working Wounded: Nailing the Interview

DEAR WOUNDED: I have a great resume. I get a lot of interviews. But I can't seem to turn the interview into a job. What's up?

ANSWER: I heard an interview with a football player who said that he wouldn't want to have Terrell Owens on his team. The player said that T.O., suspended by the Philadelphia Eagles, would be a bad fit for his team. Ironically, the football player who didn't want who's arguably the best receiver in the game came from a team that had a losing record and really needed a player of T.O.'s caliber.

Skills are important, but few organizations are willing to gamble on someone they believe would be bad for team morale. It's no different in the corporate world. Below I've listed strategies to remember in your next interview. For more, check out "Boost Your Interview IQ" by Carole Martin (McGraw Hill, 2004).

Do you avoid bad-mouthing anyone? Sure your last boss was a jerk. However, you'll get much further with some bland statement like "I had creative differences with my last boss" than going on a rant about your boss in your next interview.

Do you avoid rambling? There are questions that require a 10-minute answer. But they are few and far between. Most questions can be answered in three minutes or less. Keep it short, and let the interviewer ask a follow-up question. It's also important to remember that the more you ramble, the higher the risk that you'll say something that you wish you hadn't.

Do you avoid inappropriate language or slang? Vulgarity in a job interview is like a typo or misspelling on a resume. This just makes it too easy to pass on someone when there are so many other candidates who know better.

Do you avoid controversial topics? Sure, the job interviewer might enjoy getting into a conversation with you about abortion. The interviewer might even agree with your stance. But to most interviewers this will be a huge red flag, so it's best to leave this conversation out of a job interview. However, there are times when controversy won't go away, for example, if the CEO of the company has just been indicted. If the interviewer brings it up, I always like to ask how it is being received in the company before I offer my opinion.

Do you do some homework before the interview? Even if you have 20 years' experience in an industry, things change. The language, the rules for doing business and the competitive landscape can change. That's why it's so important for you to keep up on what is happening. Read trade journals, talk to people doing the job you want to do and get all the training you can to improve your skills.

Terrell Owens' skills may be considerable, but organizations don't hire a set of skills. They hire a person. That's why it's so important in an interview to convince the company that you are the right person for its team.

We'd like to hear your strategy for getting the job after your next job interview. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name and address via: or via email: Entries must be received by Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Online Ballot and Contest

Here are the results from a recent online ballot:

What wounds you the most at work?
   Your boss, 39.5 percent
   Your co-workers, 39.5 percent
   Your customers, 6.1 percent
   Yourself, 14.9 percent

Winning Strategy

Our winning strategy for avoiding wounds on the job comes from R.A. in Los Angeles, Calif.:

"The most important lesson that I've learned is that I do my job, I'm not my job. As long as you identify totally with what you do, you will not only be tortured at work, but your company can really take advantage of you. It's important to have some distance, dare I say to have a life outside of work. If your life revolves around your job, then go and get a life. Find some hobbies. Read a book. Do something to get a life outside of your job. Ironically, you'll probably find that a having a life will help you to do your job even better."

List of the Week

Parallel universe…bosses and employees often disagree on simple workplace concepts

  There's an opportunity to improve my skills -- 80 percent of upper management respondents agree; for nonmanagement, only 54 percent agree
  The opportunity for advancement is very good -- upper management, 66 percent; nonmanagement, 41 percent
  I am encouraged to be innovative on the job -- upper management, 85 percent; nonmanagement, 64 percent
  Teamwork and cooperation exist among departments -- upper management, 65 percent; nonmanagement, 48 percent

From: OfficeTeam

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. His newest best-seller, "Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide" (Wiley, 2004), is a business comic book that trades cynicism for solutions. Ask Bob a question: or publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.