When Can You Start: How To Ace the Interview and Win the Job Book Summary



“You will get a job a lot sooner if you read this book.” — Guy Kawasaki

If you want to find a job, and land a job, here’s a book that could significantly help you with the process. 

It’s When Can You Start? How to ACE the Interview and Win the Job, by Paul Freiberger.

It’s tough enough to find a job.  The last thing you want to do is fail during the interview process, especially early on in the process.

What you don’t know, can hurt you.

Paul Freiberger has helped thousands of job seekers with his expertise on how to find a job, how to make it through the interview, and how to negotiate salaries.  Freiberger is also a New York Times best-selling author.  He is the co-author of Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, which was made into the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley (which was nominated for five Emmy Awards.)

Knowing how to find a job and how to interview more effectively is a core skill in today’s world.

I already have a lot of books on career strategy, how to find a job you love, and how to interview more effectively.   I was surprised by how When Can You Start? is different.  It’s different in that it provides clarity and insight into how to mentally prepare for your interviews, as well as how to avoid a lot of very specific traps and pitfalls that could quickly take away your chances for landing the job.

In fact, the main goal of the book is to convert “We’ll be in touch” to “When can you start?”

The book is an easy read, and what I liked most is that it helps really know what to expect, as well as help you deal with thorny issues and questions that are designed to quickly eliminate candidates from the pool.  What’s great is When Can you Start? actually helps you understand the question behind the question, so that you can better focus your answers to what interviewers are actually looking for, and respond more effectively.

Whether you are trying to find a job or preparing for interviews, When Can you Start? can help you get your head in the game, and master the interview process.

Chapters at a Glance

  • Chapter 1 Preparation: An Oxygen Tank for the Job Interview
  • Chapter 2 Design Your Research Manual
  • Chapter 3 Master the Informational Interview
  • Chapter 4 New Rules for the Phone Interview
  • Chapter 5 The Only Question You Must Be Able to Answer
  • Chapter 6 (Don’t) Tell Me About Your Weaknesses
  • Chapter 7 How To Succeed in a Panel Interview
  • Chapter 8 Where Does the Law Draw the Line?
  • Chapter 9 Trick Questions
  • Chapter 10 Say “Thank You” and Mean It
  • Chapter 11 The New Interview, Courtesy of Google and Others
  • Chapter 12 Turn the Tables: When It’s Your Turn to Pose Questions
  • Chapter 13 A Guide to Salary Negotiation
  • Chapter 14 More Linchpins for Success
  • Chapter 15 The Ideal Interview

What’s In It For You?

Here is a sampling of some of the challenges that When Can you Start? helps you with:

  • How to present yourself more effectively
  • How to prepare for your interview with skill
  • How to respond to “tell me about yourself”
  • How to respond to “tell me about your weaknesses”
  • How to deal with trick questions
  • How to deal with salary negotiation during the interview
  • How to respond to questions that cross the line
  • How not to get disqualified early in the process
  • How to ask the right questions during the interview

Key Features

Here are some of the key features of When Can You Start?

  • Approach for interviews.  Freiberger provides an overall approach you can use to find a job and prepare for interviews more effectively.
  • Gets to the point.  Freiberger gets right to the point.   In each chapter, you can very quickly get to insights and actions you can immediately use.
  • Questions to ask.  As part of your interview preparation, Freiberger provides sample questions to ask including questions to ask headhunters and recruiters, questions to ask HR, and questions to ask hiring managers.
  • Special scenarios.   Freiberger  covers a variety of special circumstances, including:  you are a veteran, you have an accent, you have a disability, you have jumped from job to job, you have been fired, you’ve spent a long time at one job, you’re worried about the age factor, you are concerned you don’t look the part.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite nuggets from the book …

Talk to Your Resume

One of the key strategies that Freiberger recommends is to talk to your resume.  He says that if you talk to your resume, you can avoid many of the mistakes that people make when asked to talk about themselves. 

Freiberger  writes:

“Remember, the interview is part theater and part sales presentation.  Speak to whatever it is that the interviewer is buying. 

To borrow from the accumulated wisdom of sales professionals everywhere, every product or service can use a unique selling proposition, the celebrated USP that gets the buyer to buy what you are selling.  It sets the product apart from the competition. 

By talking to your resume, you get to your own USP.  After all, you will be focused on your resume’s highlights and emphasizing the same strengths that attracted the company’s interest in the first place.  Why abandon your resume when it has worked so well?”

Tell Me About Yourself

According to Freiberger, the only question you MUST be able to answer is, “tell me about yourself.”  It’s a question you can expect and prepare for, and it’s a key question that directly addresses whether you are the right person for the job.   Freiberger writes:

“Speak directly to that need in your introduction.  ‘I’d be delighted to tell you about myself and my qualifications.  The first thing I have to point out is that I am an accomplished, professional ceiling painter with a broad set of skills and achievements in that roles. 

My skills are not limited to ceiling paintings, but many of those skills have also helped me paint walls and canvases.

I am accomplished in all these media, but many of my most prominent successes have been as a ceiling painter.'”

Cite a Skill, But Not in Isolation

As part of “tell me about yourself”, it’s important to talk about your specific skills that are relevant to the job at hand.   When you talk about a particular skill, the key is to paint a bigger picture. 

Freiberger shares an example:

“Another skill of mine is team leadership.  To paint an enormous ceiling like that of Saint Peter’s, hypothetically speaking, is not a job that one person can do on his own.  You need a collaborative team, and that requires leadership. 

I have led teams in each of my previous positions as a celling painter, and thanks to my team leadership, I received promotions in each of my roles. 

I also developed processes and procedures for teams in my position as ceiling and fresco ombudsman for the Medici family.  This document inspired great collaboration in dozens of murals in Florence and elsewhere, and it is still used today whenever a big job is undertaken.”

Tell Your Story in a Conversational Way

Connect with your interviewer by keeping it conversational and relevant. 

Freiberger writes:

“When asked to talk about yourself, the interviewer is not expecting you to make a speech.  You do not want the interview to become a one-sided conversation, with the boredom and lapses of attention that implies. 

Be brief, so the interview resembles a real conversation, the kind of give-and-take that helps people to connect with each other. 

Your answer should conform to a structure, and a useful structure is the three-part form that is taught as part of expository writing classes at every level: introduction, body, and conclusion.  You are telling your story.”

Describe a Situation that Gave You Trouble at Work

There is a section on trick questions, where Freiberger shares some of the insight on what the interviewer is really looking for.  One question is, “Describe a situation that gave you trouble at work.”  Freiberger writes:

“The interviewer is looking for three things. 

First, your answer should not contain a litany of work troubles that outweighs any positive accomplishments of your working life. 

Second, your answer should not include a work problem that would be a major impediment to your employment. 

Third, it’s not enough for you to talk about the difficulties you encountered.  The ‘hidden’ agenda here is to find out how you handle difficulties, and the important part of your answer describes the way in which you managed the rough spots. 

You grew. 

You learned from your mistakes.”

Create Your Own Job Description

As part of your interview preparation, you should internalize the job description so you can better present your skills and experience in a relevant way.  But what if you don’t have a good job description to work with? 

Then create one. 

Freiberger writes:

“What if you don’t have your own job description to work with?   This is where research pays off.  From the very beginning of the application process, you should be on a fact-finding mission. 

You should be learning about the company, the industry, the job, and how those three things fit together. 

You should be tailoring everything you do to what you learn, beginning with your resume. 

That same research will tell you how to describe yourself in a way that fits the company’s goals.  You will essentially create your own job description.”

Fit Goes Both Ways

It’s easy to lose yourself in the process when you are trying to find a job and forget what you need out of it. 

Freiberger reminds us that not only do we want to make sure the job is actually a fit for us:

“Take the long-term view.  No matter how enticing the position, don’t center your existence on it.  Understand that the company never would have invited you in if you weren’t a serious candidate, one who could seriously advance the firm. 

The interview is a mutual sounding-out process, so take your assessment role seriously.  You don’t want to wind up in a political shark tank, for instance, or in a harsh corporate culture where tiny mistakes earn criticism and success earns little. 

The company will be selling itself to you, and you don’t have to buy it. 

Fit goes both ways.”

Get the Book

When Can You Start? How to ACE the Interview and Win the Job, by Paul Freiberger.is available on Amazon:

When Can You Start? How to ACE the Interview and Win the Job, by Paul Freiberger.

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