Skip to content Skip to navigation

Research & Ideas

Search this site

Think of a job interview as a mutual search for alignment

Skills are important, but try to steer the conversation toward motivations and values.

A man and woman sitting at a table having an interview conversation

Employers aren’t expecting perfection. They want candidates who are excited about the company’s mission. | Illustration by Kevin Craft

Building Gusto into a payroll and HR company with more than 500 employees, founder and CEO Joshua Reeves, MS ’08, Electrical Engineering, has observed more than his fair share of job interviews.

And while the skillsets people bring are always crucial, he’s found that the most successful candidates stand out because of their motivations and values. A job interview, as he frames it, shouldn’t feel like a verbal exam. Instead, it should be a search for alignment.

“I find one of the biggest pitfalls is folks thinking that they’re there to package or present themselves,” he says. Instead, he encourages interviewees to be open about their actual background and trajectory.

“If there is a two-year gap, then just say: Look, here’s why that happened. Here’s what I did in that time,” he advises. Rather than trying to sweep less-than-ideal pieces of your resume under the rug, he challenges job-seekers to bring those moments into the open.

“That’s your life,” he says. “You lived it, right? Hopefully, it’s something you’re at least happy to share with someone. If there was a big learning from it, or if there was a big thing that you thought you regretted from it, just say: I regret this, or I didn’t do that well, or I could have done this better.”

On this episode of the LEAP! podcast, Reeves joins Bessemer Venture Partners investor Tess Hatch, MS ’17, Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice in Stanford Engineering’s Department of Management Science and Engineering, to demystify the job interview and turn what can be an anxiety-inducing struggle into nothing more than a curiosity-driven conversation.

You can listen to this episode and dig into other LEAP! episodes via Stitcher, iTunes, Spotify or Stanford eCorner.

In the LEAP! podcast, Tina Seelig — Professor of the Practice in Stanford Engineering’s Department of Management Science and Engineering — takes a deep dive into how to launch a career. LEAP! is produced by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.