I remember it so clearly. I had been speaking with the Chief Marketing Officer of this newer email marketing startup. He was impressed by my resume and wanted me to come in for an interview. I made up some excuse to my employer to arrive late, got all dolled up and headed to the interview at 7:30 in the morning.

I spared no expense: leather folio, brand new legal notepad and wide-grip pen (courtesy of my current employer) and five resumes printed with the “full ink” setting on that expensive parchment paper they sell at Staples. Clammy hands, sweat from the brow; I knew I had to ace this interview to get out of the hell that was my current job.

I took a few deep breaths and walked through the door. The place is pitch black. No lights on, no one there. I’m sitting there like a putz calling out, “Hello? Anyone here?” I almost think the CMO made me wait for dramatic effect before he switched on the lights and greeted me with these amazingly wide eyes: “Hey Bryan! Thanks for coming so early! Really great to meet you! Let’s go into the conference room!” This guy was super excited to see me and literally spoke with exclamations.

The interview went as such:

  1. He read my resume, line-by-line, word-by-word, out loud, as if I had never read it before (I got about one minute of speaking in edgewise.)
  2. He related back to his experiences and told me how I resembled a younger him (Three minutes in edgewise.)
  3. He asks me if I know about the “Marketing Funnel?” (3.2 minutes in edgewise.)
  4. He proceeds to draw out a giant marketing funnel and walks through every step of how the company drives visitors to their site and tries to convert them to trial customers and eventually paying customers (I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about, but I continue to nod, smile and widen my eyes in comprehension– I reach five minutes in edgewise with some strategic questions.)
  5. He explains V-T (Visitor to Trialer) and T-P (Trialer to Paying Customer) rates and walks me through his calculations. (Holding firm at five minutes in edgewise.)
  6. He looks at me long and hard and tells me he thinks I’d be a good fit. I’m invited back for a second interview.

Five minutes in edgewise. I only spoke for five minutes; he did all of the talking! At the University of Oregon, I learned an invaluable lesson from Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear. In an interview, Tim said, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.” Truer words couldn’t have rung true in this odd, Twilight-zonesque interview.

The interview was just a tiny speck of foreshadowing of what was to come: diabetic attacks, debauchery, deceit, drunk dials… Hindsight is so 20/20…

Jake Burns