John Kerry Interview Secrets

I’m driving down the road yesterday listening to the radio when I hear about John Kerry’s joke:

You know, education — if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq. (from

John Kerry, November 1 (just 10 days before Veteran’s Day), 2006

It’s hard to ROFL (roll on the floor laughing) when you are driving, but I got pretty close. Of course, this made me think of something with the job search: the interview.

This idea also applies to your elevator pitch, and anything else where you have ONE chance to hit or miss. And this miss by Kerry caused a bunch of turmoil for his party, the Whitehouse and lots of others.

How’s your pitch? Is there anything too personal, possibly offensive or distracting? Do you have the urge to talk about why you are looking for a job, or why people around you think you stink (but you really don’t)? Do yourself two favors:

1. Find someone that will give you honest feedback for your elevator pitch as well as your interview skills (role play! I hate role play but you get one chance to impress!).

2. Pick up a copy of “How to Become a Rainmaker.” This is a great book that has tons of examples of how salesmen botch a potential sales opportunity, which is too much like a job interview! I read this about 2 years ago and think about some of the examples almost daily!

If you just can’t get over that urge, and feel you need to break the mold and say something “impressively different,” do yourself a favor and DON’T. If you are tired of politicians constantly jabbing eachother, don’t you think that interviewers get tired of someone trying to be cute or clever? Sure, be clever, but know your boundaries. And don’t do anything that will distract!

Don’t distract with flashy clothes.

Don’t distract with lame (or even funny) jokes.

Don’t distract with… get the point?

Disclaimer: I know he botched it, and apologized, and what was in his heart was different than what he said. I don’t care. My point is, he botched it, and no one cares what his message was going to be. Don’t screw up the interview, or that’s all they’ll remember, and laugh about for years.

4 thoughts on “John Kerry Interview Secrets”

  1. Jason

    I think it is safe to say that politics in general should be avoided in an interview. The best tip I have ever been given in an interview is to try and find a commonality with the interviewer. That way once you have something in common the conversation can flow much better. If you aren’t sure how the interview feels about a particular subject avoid it like the plaque. It is always better safe than sorry.

    justin driscoll

  2. I agree with that… but my point here is to try and minimize ALL things that could be a distraction… politics, tangents, etc. You may only have 30 – 60 minutes with the interviewer to impress them. How much time would you give to a tangent? Anyway, the message here is about distractions… don’t distract… don’t distract… don’t distract… 🙂

  3. You hit it on the head with the comment about not making jokes, at least with regard to the example. I like John Kerry, but he’s not a funny guy and his lack of expertise in delivering a punch line gave his opponents every opportunity to misconstrue the statement (nobody actually thinks he meant service personnel, do they?). John Kerry, leave the jokes to Jon Stewart.

    I have been in interview situations where it seems the candidate felt the need to be funny…filling the dead air I guess. And I have found that when the humor comes out of converational desperation, it has a higher likelihood of being insulting or offensive.

    One thing that I will add to your recommendations above though, is that eliminating distractions does not mean eliminating your personality (well, at least when it comes to the positions I recruit for). You don’t want to come off as being too robotic in the interview. I find that asking questions is a good way to get some light conversation going. Nice, light, neutral, non-political questions : )

  4. Thanks Heather 🙂 🙂 I totally agree about the personality thing… it is a fine line I think, because you are already nervous. But I couldn’t sum it up any better than you have.

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