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A Brand Called You

Lesson 14 of 22

How to Achieve Success at your Interview–Part 1

Debbie Millman

A Brand Called You

Debbie Millman

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Lesson Info

14. How to Achieve Success at your Interview–Part 1


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:12:41
2 Defining Brand Duration:09:34
3 Finding Your Mindset Duration:04:57
5 Busy Is A Decision Duration:02:45
6 Honing your Mindset Duration:07:35
7 Generators vs. Drains Duration:19:39

Lesson Info

How to Achieve Success at your Interview–Part 1

The first thing you have to do is prepare. The same way that an athlete would never consider going to a match without preparing for that race, you are not going to be able to go into an interview and wing it. And designers are masters at winging it. Somehow, and I don't know what it is about designers, but somehow we think, maybe because we're always making connections between one thing and another in the work that we do, that we somehow think that we're gonna just show up and design our way out of the interview. Doesn't work that way. You have to prepare. And I was reading Rudy Giuliani's book on leadership, and he talked about how when he was a lawyer, before he was Mayor of New York City, he was a defense attorney, or prosecutor, I think it was a prosecutor. And he wrote that for every hour he spent in the courtroom, he spent four hours preparing. Four hours preparing, for every hour that he was in the courtroom. I would contend that for every hour you spend in an interview, and if ...

you're lucky you'll get an hour, you should probably spend 12 hours preparing. 12 hours preparing. You need to be able to know every single thing you can about that organization, and about that person, prior to going into the interview. Now, you might think, how on earth could I do that? And I'm going to say one word: Google. (crowd laughing) I interview people for a living now, I interview people on Design Matters. And I think that for anybody here that's ever listened to one of my shows, one of the questions that I often get is how did you find that out. I didn't pay anybody to become a private investigator and go through somebody's garbage to find out something about their childhood, I just researched. It was a pleasure to actually be able to online or into the books and find out everything I possibly can about who I was going to be talking to. You owe that to the person that is going to be interviewing you. To know everything that you can about who they are, what they've done, the journey of their life, the arc that their life has taken, so that you can show up as your best self, recognizing who they are as their best self. So where did they go to school, what did they study, where did they work before they were working at the company that they're at. If it's a publicly traded company, you have to look at the annual report. You have to see what the CEO's statement is, you have to see how well they're doing in the marketplace, you can see what kind of employee retention they have, go to Glassdoor, go to all of these organizations online that will tell you everything that you can learn about the organization. You might not use any of it, but you might. And if you do, chances are you'll be much further along to getting hired for that job. Question, make sure you use the mic. My question is about, I think that sometimes it can be dangerous to think that you know certain things about people from Googling. Absolutely. And so where, like what, in your opinion, what is the balance between information that you find online and being present with the person. Yeah, absolutely. When you're there. Yeah, absolutely, this is a really important question. You're not finding this information out to prove to the person who's interviewing you that you've done your homework. You're not. You're not going to sneak it in there, I know that you went to SUNY Albany back in 1983, what was that like for you? That's not what you're there to do. You're there to really understand where the motivations for their questions are coming, and if it's possible, to connect with somebody about something that they like, have done, or are interested in, with something that you're showing them. So it's not about proving to somebody that you've done the research. I don't ask the questions to have the question come back, where did you find that out. I ask the question to get the answer, because I'm really interested in what they're going to say. So, the reason that I'm saying that I love when people will say, where did you find that out, it means that I have found everything that I could possibly find on them, and therefore it gives me something interesting and new to talk to them about, that they haven't been asked about before. And that is also something that you can use when somebody says, do you have questions. You should always have some questions, and we'll talk about what some of those questions can be in a little bit. But I saw there was another, did I answer your question? You did. Okay, good. Good. Yes. Hi, so what happens if you have individual clients, like private clients. How do you find more information outside of the paperwork they share with you. How do you approach that? So, what kind of paperwork do you mean? So, I train people in yoga therapy, Pilates, and nutrition and I try to be respectful of, I try not, not try not to, but I just use the information that they share with me. But like, is there any pointers on like, when you can't necessarily find information on Google about them, I feel a little weird about that. Oh, absolutely, I think it's a little bit different, because somebody's coming to you for a service. Yes. You're not interviewing for a job, necessarily. Yes, but I am So that's a very different. It's sort of interviewing for a job, because you're interviewing for a client, like. So, Michael Bierut had a great statement regarding this that I heard him say a couple of years ago, the first thing that he asks anybody that he's talking to for a project, and he'll say, why do you need to do this. Why do you need to redesign this, or why do you need to create this. What is the motivation for this happening right now. And so what you might want to ask your clients, or your potential clients, is a very simple question, why are you here. How can I help you, what can I do to alleviate whatever issues you have that are plaguing you. And as soon as somebody feels open to sharing that with you, they will, if they don't, then you need to try to establish trust to begin with, but that might also be what your reputation helps to provide, whether it be a referral, or whether it be the reason that they're coming to you in the first place. It's a little bit different when you're going into an interview, and the person's never heard of you before. You have to suddenly make an impression as soon as you walk in the room, and you need to be able to start to establish credibility and trust instantly, without anything to fall back on. So, part of what gives you the ability to show up full engaged, is being fully prepared about why they're potentially hiring for this position, what is the culture of the organization like, what is the history of this person's trajectory in their own career, what do they find important, and all of those things aren't questions that you should necessarily ask the person about, but they certainly help inform the way in which you're talking about your work, or the way in which you're presenting the things that you have in front of you, so, if you know, for example, that one of the organization's priorities is women's equality, and you've worked on a project that was about women's equality, then you would have that in your portfolio and be able to share that in a way that shows that you have some shared values. You're not going to say, I know that this is a priority in your organization, so this is something that I thought you'd be interested in, but you would show it and indicate by the mere, the sheer virtue of showing it, that this is something that's also important to you. It's never a gotcha kinda thing. You don't ever want to try to intentionally show someone how smart you are. The minute you start to intentionally show someone how smart you are, they turn off. Because what they're actually feeling is that you're trying to show them that you're smarter than they are. And this is a very intense dance that goes back and forth between people when they're first meeting. How smart are they, how smart am I, do they think they're smarter than me, do I think that I'm smarter than them. There's so many sort of hidden types of cultural biases that we have that we're working out when we first meet someone, and the last thing you want to do is try to prove something to someone, because the minute you try to heavy handedly prove something to someone, the more likely they are to disbelieve you. Has anybody ever been in a situation where you're with somebody that sort of thinks they know everything? (crowd laughing) Right? So they're sort of arrogant and, most people that have to show you that they know more than they, more than you might think they know, are people that are really really afraid of not knowing enough. And so what happens is, we engage with people like that and our own insecurities get kicked up because we start to feel like, if they're trying to show me how smart they are, maybe they think they're smarter than I am. What they're really trying to do is just show you that they're smart. Let somebody else be smart. Let somebody else be smart. Most of the time we engage with people that come across in an arrogant way, and we try and sort of up the ante, try to meet them where they are. Let them be as smart as they want to be. And be yourself, and don't engage in that dynamic, it never ends well. Whereas, most people, as I was talking before about, people don't like people that don't, that we think don't like us, people love to be around people that we think really like us. So if you're with somebody that is that, sort of, intense about showing off how smart they are and need to be right, let them. And then they'll like the way they feel around you, because you're not combating with them all the time. And then they might relax. The more confident somebody is that you like them, the less likely they are to put on airs. And that's what you would like to try to get people to feel in your presence, just okay as is. But if you engage in that arrogance fight, you can never, ever, ever create a mutuality, ever. So, preparing. We're learning everything that we can about the organization. Again, not to show off, not to be better than, but just to be knowledgeable about where we're going, in the same way if you were running a race, you'd want to know what that journey around the track looked like, you want to know what you're getting yourself into. Then, when you get there, and this goes back to what I was saying about this sort of arrogance clash, you have to check your ego at the door. Now, this might upset some people, because you might be thinking, but I am who I am and I want to show up as I am. I'm not suggesting that you don't be fully present, but I am suggesting that you show up authentically, and without having to show off. You show up, not off. Show up, not show off. And we go into these interviews with the notion that we have to be show-offs, that we have to talk about who we are as these amazing people that have accomplished so much, and done all of this, and done all of that, and we can never be wrong, and everything that we've done is great. Never, ever, please ever, use this phrase in an interview. This is really great because. And I hear this all the time. You cannot opinionate on your own work. You can't tell someone why something is great, and you laugh, and we're all laughing, because we all have done it, and we all know it. And we've all heard it. You can never, I'm begging you, never tell someone why they should think something is great. Because immediately they will be defensive, because not only are you telling them what you think they should think is great, they then think that what they might be thinking might not be right, and then they get defensive. You never opinionate on your own work. You talk about the process, you talk about the strategy that you took in resulting in this specific thing that you show, but the reason for somebody to believe that it's great, isn't because you think it's great. And that's mostly all we ever say. Let people come to their own conclusions, based on the sound, strategic recommendations that you have made along the journey of creating the piece that you've made. Talk about the benefits, talk about the results in the marketplace, talk about the intention, but don't ever opinionate on your own work. It will turn people off, and they will begin to evaluate the work in relation to what you think of the work. So rather than thinking, this is awesome. They're gonna think, this person thinks it's great, I don't know that it's great. I think it's just okay. And then all of the sudden, there's this whole dynamic that's going on where you are definitely not establishing trust because they suddenly don't agree with you on something they didn't have to agree with you to begin with. And then, there's absolutely no opportunity for a mutuality. Because you're just telling them what you think, as opposed to inspiring them with your beliefs. And there's a big difference between prescriptively telling somebody what to say, or how to say it, or what to think, or how to think it, and inspiring somebody to realize that or discover it on their own. And when they discover it on their own, it is because you have been able to lead them to that point through the contagious nature of what it is that you're sharing, not telling. So, you've walked in, you've checked your ego at the door, and then you walk in, and you're in an organization's reception area. And what do 99.9% of the population do. They sit down, and they pull out their iPhone, and they start checking how many people like their latest Instagram photo. Don't do that. Don't have your phone anywhere near. Turn the damn thing off. Because the last thing you want is it to go off in your bag or your portfolio while you're in the meeting. Turn it off. And what you're going to do, is stand in the conference room, in the waiting room, you're going to stand, you're not going to sit passively by, waiting for the person to come out and retrieve you. You're going to stand at attention. I see people saying, why should I do that. Why do you think you should do that? Why do you think you should stand? Pardon? It shows your ready. You're paying attention. You're ready. You're getting in the zone. You're not thinking about Instagram, you're not thinking about Twitter, you're not thinking about Facebook, you're thinking about the job. Do you think that any of the Olympic athletes were checking their Instagram feed before they ran the race? No. You're thinking about what you need to accomplish in that interview. So you've checked your ego at the door, you are then going to have already been dressed, but let's talk about what you're going to be wearing. (crowd laughing) Let's talk about what you're going to be wearing. So there's a whole range of thinking about what you should actually wear to an interview. People, I have many many students that say to me, I'm not going to dress a part, I don't want to show up as anybody but myself. Great, that's not why you're going to get dressed for the meeting. You're not going to get dressed for the meeting to declare your independence to the world. You're going to get dressed for the meeting to show that you respect who you're seeing. That's it. You respect who you're seeing, so you clean yourself up. You don't have to wear a tux, you don't have to wear something that would think would be inappropriate in that environment. This is a great quote I saw yesterday on LinkedIn. "Men in suits look really successful, until you find out they work for people in t-shirts and jeans." Now, would I recommend that you wear a t-shirt and jeans to interviews? Unless you're interviewing with Mark Zuckerberg, probably not. But I wouldn't recommend that you would wear a suit and tie either, if it's not appropriate. You have done enough research prior to being there to know what the company clothing vibe is. And then you look one notch nicer, not 15 notches, not two notches below, because you need to make a statement about your independence this isn't the moment to make statements about your independence. This is a moment to show up as your best self. So it's one notch nicer than how you might look on any given day that you're not at home watching reruns of Law and Order SVU. (crowd laughing) So, you want to feel proud of who you are and what you're wearing. And if you don't feel proud of who you are and what you're wearing, it doesn't matter what you're wearing. No gum, now I'm probably saying a few things that you're like, really, you need to tell us this. But yeah, I do. For the many, many people out there (crowd laughing) that I have met in interviews, that were chewing on hard candy or blowing bubbles or any number of things, nothing should be in your mouth when you're presenting your work. Avoid hats, especially baseball hats backwards. Unless you're Timothy Goodman. He's the only person that can wear a baseball hat backwards anywhere he wants to go. Timothy Goodman, he can pull that off. So, I want you to dress going to a meeting, as yourself on your best day, one notch nicer than you would imagine everybody else in that organization is dressing. Just one notch. Stand and pay attention, I just talked about this. I want you to be standing, ready to go. Amy Cuddy has a great TED Talk about a power pose, and that might be something you might want to watch, and it's really about having that inner command, about feeling fully present in your body and ready for anything.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

It takes work to get the work you love. It takes knowing how to interview well, how to communicate flawlessly, how to articulate your own purpose and to simultaneously do this while facing tremendous rejection. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. In her class you'll learn how to:

  • Create a meaningful philosophy that will guide your career
  • Present yourself in meetings and interviews
  • Network and standout from your competition
  • Find discipline in your approach to work
  • Sell yourself with more confidence

Are you spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job? Are you doing everything you can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? What else should you be doing?

Join Debbie and answer these questions you should be asking yourself...


a Creativelive Student

B R I LLIANNNNNNT !!!! I love the such solid human being that she is and her grandiosity of holding our shoulder and say : go head! Dare to be your best self, own it. Here are some tips .... !!!! Uhuuuuuuuuu!! So inspiring! Thank you so much, Debbie. For couple of days you were my very BEST FRIEND :) Thanks Creative Live!! This is NOT a live "manual" on technical skills. If that is what you are looking for go some steps down and there are plenty of people teaching that, like traditional schools do. You will only learn what is "there" for you to learn if you are open TO HEAR with sincerity. Debbie tells several things that works and that doesn't in professional field besides showing what successful business look for in the people, or partners. Out standing!! I would love to watch another class with her.


I loved this course. Five Stars. I was initially drawn to this course because of the title. I had read Tom Peter's article (with the same name) in Fast Company magazine many years ago, and found it really inspiring. This was before 'brand' was a household word. Anyway, the course is geared more towards designers looking for their dream job than a typical branding course, but as it happens, I am a designer, so it was quite informative. I can also use much of the advice and lessons and apply them to my own business. From contacting potential employers or clients to creative self promotion, there's valuable lesson to be had. I watched and listened to this course in one day, almost straight through. I highly recommend it. Great insight, great advice - whether you're a design student or not. If you're the creative type, I think you'll find this both enlightening and very enjoyable.