In the September 22, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader has the right idea to impress a manager but needs a nudge:

I agree with your advice to do a demonstration in the job interview to show what you can do. But I seem to lock up during the part where I am telling the hiring manager how I will do the job. How do I explain to the manager what I’m about to do so he won’t be thrown for a loop?

How to Say It: For many people it’s easier to answer a question than to launch a presentation. So get the manager to cue up your answer! At some point during the meeting, say this:

“I’d like to make our meeting as profitable as possible for you. I don’t expect you to hire me unless you have evidence that I can do the job. In that spirit, would you lay out a live task or problem you’d want me to handle if you hired me? I’d like to show you how I’d tackle it as best I can right here in the interview, by explaining the plan I would use.”

That gets some very interesting discussions going, and if the manager is really focused on getting a job done, he will welcome a motivated candidate who wants to get specific. Is this risky? Yah, of course. But so is sitting there waiting for the next interview question…

How would you cue up your effort to impress the manager?


  1. In my previous job search I gave this method a go unfortunately to less than spectacular results. The interviewers would either brush it off and continue with their set of questions, or they couldn’t come up with anything. Maybe something completely simplistic and abstract but no real problems to address. It was rather frustrating and I did not win the job in any of those interviews. I do suspect that I wasn’t approaching things the right way though, so I am not writing it off entirely. Interestingly enough, though, the job that I currently have the guy who brought me in was pretty sure he wanted me right from the start. He put me to the test with a 2 week contract project and after that made me an offer. More places should work like that. They would get much better results.

  2. @Jeff: This approach also serves as a filter for the candidate. Some managers just have a hard time talking about the work, and that can be a warning sign.

    Sometimes this can be a career saver. A guy I know was head of an R&D operation. Interviewed with the top guy at an even bigger company. Interview went very well. At end, the candidate asked the top guy to outline a problem or challenge he’d be asked to tackle if he were hired.

    The top guy took quite a while to think about this… candidate told me it was clear the boss was thinking carefully and actually liked the question. Finally, the boss turned and said, You know, I can’t think of anything. They parted on very positive terms. But no offer. Candidate learned a couple of weeks later that the position he’d interviewed for was eliminated – they hired no one. He’s convinced to this day that his question revealed to the top guy that there WAS no position…