After two decades in the major leagues, the recently retired Yankee great Derek Jeter certainly has lots of tips about fielding and hitting and surviving the grind of a long season. But does he have something to offer staffing pros and hiring managers about improving job interviews? I think so. 

I am not a big baseball fan, but I did pay attention to two things this season: the journey of the Kansas City Royals all the way to Game 7 of an exciting World Series. And all the press and publicity Jeter grabbed on his way to the rocking chair, or whatever his post-baseball life entails. 

A lot has been written, obviously, about his career on the field, as well as the way he managed, or in some cases, micromanaged, his image off the field. 

This New York Magazine article took readers behind the normally closed doors of Jeter’s private life.

Among the topics broached in the piece was the fact that he was often considered by the beat press who covered baseball to be a bad interview, because he was so scripted and boring. 

“Derek Jeter is a lousy captain,” the late sportswriter Maury Allen used to say. “He never says anything. That’s not a captain.”

Jeter’s response? They ask “boring questions.” “Give me a different question,” he says, “and I’ll give you a different answer.”

Do you wonder why people give you boring responses in a job interview? Why your prospects or customers seem disinterested or unengaged during a sales interaction? Or why your work colleagues might seem to be running on autopilot in the conference room?

Maybe they’re not the problem. Maybe you are. Maybe you are following a script. Many of us do throughout the day. Maybe both sides of the table have preconceived notions of the way an interaction is going to go. Maybe your questions are boring.

One of the first job fairs I ever attended on behalf of Staffing Talk featured a panel discussion with a trio of recruiters. 

After a short presentation, they began fielding questions from the audience. The first person that spoke was a middle aged, mid-career former professional, who had been laid off and was having trouble finding work again. 

He was getting interviews, but not offers, and said specifically how scripted the interviews felt, and that he never really got the chance to bring out his best qualities or demonstrate why he was right for the job. 

You could tell he felt “victimized” by the process and that it was the fault of the hiring managers for not bringing out the best in him. 

The moderator, who happens to run a very successful retained search firm, politely said in response, “If the person doing the interview is indeed following a script, it’s incumbent on you to take them off it to make a better impression.”

Good advice for sure, but perhaps the man did have a point. I get that if you do a dozen interviews a day, each one isn’t going to be completely different and highly personal. 

But there certainly is value – for them and you – in varying the script, and being engaged and in the moment with each candidate you come into contact with. 

Input = output, right? If you want authentic, interesting, unique, memorable engagements, you have to be authentic, interesting, unique and memorable yourself, beginning by asking authentic, interesting, unique memorable questions. 

One of the ways to do that is to know your audience, who it is that’s across from you, and tailor a question or message to them.

One of my favorite Hollywood actors is Tom Hanks, and I had the privilege of interviewing him four times during my years as an entertainment reporter. 

As part of the press junket for the film Forrest Gump, he did 64 back-to-back television interviews in a single day at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, and we talked about the mind numbing process of publicity.

Years later Hanks authored a contributed article for Entertainment Weekly detailing his globe trotting publicity efforts for the stinker Larry Crowne. Hanks recounted how he was asked the same five questions in five different languages.

And those interviewers probably found the actor a little “stiff,” “boring,” and “not very interesting” or interested.

We are all busy these days. And the way we go from interaction to interaction, multi-tasking our way through the day, might not always serve us, or our organizations, the best.

So the next time you conduct a job interview, sales call, or meeting, hit the pause button for a moment. 

Think about who you are, what you have to offer, who the audience is, and what you want. 

Then put the script and the preconceived notions down, and go have an authentic, interesting, unique, memorable interview or engagement!