Getting a new job is a con. You need the interviewer to believe that you are the only man with the skills. But honestly, who wants a job they’ve already mastered?
The ambitious man should always angle for a job that is above his grasp, but not his reach. It can be done. Just ask “Count” Victor Lustig (front and center above). Among many other feats, this legendary con artist sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice.
Here are some tips from Vic via the nonfic picture book Tricky Vic by Greg Pizzoli.
At some point your interviewer will ask the exact question that the boss will ask of him when choosing to hire you. Listen carefully. They’re not waiting for you to bring it up out of nowhere.
“What a fascinating lobby/staircase/tie/desk arrangement.” Look excited but not breathless. The last thing your future boss wants to do is motivate the new hire.
This is part of a bigger lesson. You are there at the job interview to learn. Even if your interviewer has Mein Kampf on the bookshelf you never know if it’s meant to trip you up. Just ask questions.
One time ole Vic conned Al Capone into a $50,000 stock tip. He put the cash in a safety deposit box and later gave it back to him saying the deal was bogus. Capone rewarded him with $5,000. You should be lucky to get a 10 percent commission on not-working.
And by that we mean sports teams. True story: Troy Aikman’s helmet was in a glass case on the desk. I had to take a good look at it just to remember what team he’s on—or was on. The interviewer caught my eye and I said, “My cousin would kill me if he knew I was shaking hands with a Dallas fan.” I was hired before he let go of my grip.
This is one of the dark arts. To hint at love or romance brings some excitement in the air. Sexual harassment wasn’t a thing then. However, when the interviewer brings up something complicated about a competing firm, add a gentle, “I dated a girl who worked there.” It shows how into this business you are.
Breaking Bad. Gus Fring is at the office of the DEA and he sees a picture of Walter White on the desk of DEA agent Hank Schrader. It’s a fundraising jar for Walt’s cancer surgery. He digs deep; he donates. Now ask yourself: Are you Gus Fring material?
Especially when you’re young, it’s hard to tell what puts a bad taste in someone else’s mouth. You need a job. They have a job. They don’t have time to waste on bullshit. You do.
It’s hard to think of yourself as a component. But at a job interview you want to be the best component.
Halfway through interviewing Obama’s tailor, he told me, “An interviewer doesn’t have time to see all candidates. Inevitably they call the best dressed into the room and let the rest of them go to lunch.”
This should be self-explanatory, but it’s not—especially when your best job leads will come from your immediate network. These are likely people you met drinking. But there’s a great scene in Mad Men where Roger Sterling coaches Lane Pryce into how to schmooze a client. Half the ideas are in another form above. But above all he says that when you drink, “Order a scotch rocks with water and when the waitress comes over tell her you need a fresh one.”
Lustig’s downfall, however, came after he got the cash from the Eiffel Tower deal. The first firm he conned was so embarrassed that they didn’t press charges. So he came back to Paris and sold it again. This time he got caught and fled.
Don’t get greedy. Get the job. And for your own sake: Send a thank you note before you get home.