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pickpocketing and the art of the job interview

Most people that know me well know that I can derive inspiration from even the most unlikely of sources.  I like to pull what I can out of most any situation to grow and often find learning lessons in odd places.  I ran across a recent article in The New Yorker on the Art of Pickpocketing where Adam Green profiles the pickpocket Apollo Robbins.  (see the associated video below)

Apollo’s form of pick-pocketing is a theatrical performance, and the interesting thing is that he actually shows how his tricks are done.  As Myles Kane writes in the article, “Learning how magic tricks are done is often disappointing, because it’s not really magic,” Green says. “With Robbins, though, effect and method are one and the same, and seeing how he accomplishes his thefts is just as impressive as witnessing, or failing to witness, the acts themselves.”

Much like Apollo’s tricks, the job interview too, can be viewed as a performance and there are a number of lessons that can be applied to making an art out of getting what you want from the meeting.

  1. Confidence.  Its clear Apollo has practiced and rehearsed his tricks for quite some time to gain the level of ease he has in performing and that’s how he has the confidence to move forward with each trick.  The same goes for the job interview.  The more rehearsed and prepared you are, the better you will be able to read each situation and deal with being put on the spot.
  2. Play the Game.  Many candidates go into the job interview like a deer in the headlights, unprepared for what’s about to hit them.  Even though you may never know what each job interview will entail, you do always know the basic premise of what will occur and as Apollo says in the video, “It’s like hunting rabbits.”  You have to observe the interviewer and see if they are alert to your interactions and continue to take small steps to grab their attention in the ways that are meaningful to your getting your message across.  Too often candidates will ramble without paying attention or not realize they’ve lost the interviewer or perhaps even not answered a question properly.  Engage the interviewer and treat it like a game—your goal is for you both to win.
  3. The Illusion of Control. This was probably the most important lesson I derived from the video.  And, that is the hiring manager or recruiter only has the illusion of control in the job interview and you as the candidate are giving them that illusion.  A great job candidate will realize that they are really the one in control and they are the one that has the ability to focus attention where it needs to be.   Put others in control to gain control.  If you can master the ability to surf the interviewer’s attention, to see how engaged they are, you can focus their intentions on what is important to you landing the job all the while making them feel as though they are the ones guiding the interview.
  4. Trust & Eye Contact. We don’t often consider trust in the job interview, but that interaction between interviewer and interviewee is ultimately a successful one when the two parties trust each other and feel safe allowing one and other into their security zone.  For Apollo, eye contact was key to guiding this.  Keeping eye contact raised suspicion, while for the job candidate, maintaining appropriate eye contact is a tool to build trust between themselves and the interviewer.  The other way Apollo used eye contact was to break it and share a common view which engaged his target and allowed them to let their guard down.  Sharing a common view in the interview doesn’t have to be about literally looking in the same direction, but getting the interviewer on the same page as you so that you are connecting on the subject matter.  And remember, you often have to give trust to get trust, so being open and comfortable in the interview can aid in this.
  5. Dance in the Dark Space. As the candidate, it’s your job to move the spotlight.  And, as Apollo says the dark space is where you have to dance around where the attention is moving.  This goes back to giving the illusion of control.  In everything you say or do in the job interview you have the opportunity to use it to your advantage—even your mistakes.  Learn to see the opportunities in every situation and play each movement and moment to your favor.
  6. Don’t Rummage. Last but not least, learn to do everything with intent.  The easiest way to get to a wallet in a pocket would be to stick your hand in and rummage around until you find it, but you wouldn’t be very successful at retrieving it unnoticed.  Learn to take the steps you need to do something successfully with intent and you may come back with more than you bargained for.  (Like Apollo who not only retrieved the wallet but additional items like sugar packets that were in the target’s pocket.)

Here’s hoping your next interview performance has you stealing the job (and not someone’s watch.)

What lessons can you learn from a theatrical pickpocket that relate to the job interview for the interviewer or the interviewee?

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