4 minutes, yep FOUR minutes. That’s all it took, for my interviewer to figure out the limits of my domain knowledge.

Brent Gregory one of the earliest employees at Synopsys was the fella interviewing me for the role of a product marketing manager. 

His R&D team had developed the tech that was going to be productized and I would be marketing it if hired. 

The first six odd years of my career had been in technology development in manufacturing. A job rotation program let me try out a corporate marketing role for six months. I never went back. 

Then business development/sales/marketing roles in two startups overseas before returning to interview for a tech marketing role at Synopsys Inc in Mountain View. 

Earlier that day I’d had lunch with the VP of Marketing, now friend and former boss Sandeep Khanna, with whom I’d had couple of phone calls. We’d hit it off like a house on fire. 

Now came the true test. What will the tech folks feel about me? I’d never had an interview like I did with Brent. Soft-spoken and polite to a fault, he began asking me what I knew about electronic design automation. Since the answer was very little, that was short conversation. 

Without accusing me of modesty, Brent spent a few minutes probing, using direct questions as well as analogues. Once he had a measure of my technical understanding, he spent the rest of the 41 minutes educating me—about the problem, their approach, the current status and his expectations what a marketer would do for them. 

He not only had me excited but I left the meeting a whole lot smarter. Even if I didn’t get the job, I was better off than when I’d walked in the room.

What I learned that day has stayed with me to date and helped me and others in innumerable occasions.

  • Every interviewer can be a different audience with different needs
  • Understand their careabouts (with your own questions) and
  • Shape your message appropriately to address their careabout
    (even if it is to share what you are not a good fit for)
  • While your desired outcome from the process is to get hired, 
  •  Outcomes for each interviewer can and will be different 

And yes, interviews may go well yet employers can ghost you—two ways to benefit are:

  • Treat each interview as a practice run—to understand your audience & hone your message and the stories 
  • Capture your learnings explicitly so you always benefit

What are you favorite interview (good or horror) stories?

Keep the faith and good luck hunting!