I heard this story a while ago, and it still resonates in my mind as one of the most amazing interview stories I’ve ever heard. I’m sure I’ve embellished virtually every detail of the story below (because this is how it was narrated to me), but the general message remains the same, which is what matters.
While Will Ferrell was doing extensive interviewing to become a cast member on Saturday Night Live he pulled off one of the most humorous feats I’m sure any interviewee has ever pulled off. They story goes like this…
Will Ferrell enters slowly and purposefully into the office of Lorne Michaels who typically interviews potential cast members before they appear on SNL.
He takes a seat and manages to appear completely stoic and humorless; something that Will Ferrell can do when he wants to. He shifts in his seat dressed like a middle aged accountant sporting the expressionless face of one of those guards in front Buckingham palace.
Lorne Michaels finds himself wondering, “Who is this guyyyy, and how did he get into my office? This guy doesn’t seem like he’s funny at all, and why the hell is he carrying a suitcase… this is a comedy show for Christ’s sake!” Lorne’s uneasiness and sense of awkwardness is almost palpable.
As can be imagined, the interview progressed uneasily with Will Ferrell answering questions succinctly and without an ounce of humor.
Lorne Michaels decides to tie up the interview and thanks Will very professionally, but explains to him that he may not be what SNL is looking for at the moment. He escorts him gently out of his office, and to the elevator on the other side of the building. He says good-bye and promptly returns to his office to get on with interviews.
Lorne sits at his desk wondering what his next meeting is going to be like, but before he can finish his thought a crazed Will Ferrell bursts into his office with a liveliness and energy completely inconsistent with what he had just witnessed in the interview.
Lorne is stunned and slightly frightened. Will once again enters the office and swiftly takes a seat. He slings his bulky leather suitcase up onto the desk, and declares with a scary certitude,
“I’m prepared to do anything to be on this show, Mr. Michaels.”
He then slowly opens his suitcase to reveal a huge stack of pastel colored monopoly money. Some crisp bills, and others with ruffled edges. Yet, a veritable wealth of monopoly money.
Loren Michaels doesn’t know how to react. He is so completely awestruck and confounded regarding his previous notions about Will that he sits behind his desk, jaw ajar, and dumbfounded. He thinks to himself “Holy cow, this guy is a genius!”
They share a moment of brief eye contact and Will instantly knows he just won himself the position of cast member on Saturday Night Live.
Now, there are several lessons hidden in this little anecdote. Some of the more insightful ones are as follows:
CATER YOUR PERSONA TO THE INTERVIEW
When you are interviewing you are going to want to cater everything about yourself to the position you are interviewing for. This means your personality, appearance, and general disposition.
You may think, “Wait what? Will Ferrell catered his persona to be the complete opposite of what he should have.” My answer is this, it was because he catered his persona to be the exact opposite of what Lorne Michaels was looking for that he was able to obtain the “higher level “ of humor that he needed to get the job. His complete absence of emotion during the interview is what truly highlighted the humor in his comical attempt at bribery. In this way, Will Ferrell passed with flying colors.
GO BIG OR GO HOME
When you are interviewing sometimes it pays to do something extravagant. We’ve all heard stories about people who have done extravagant things to get hired including holding painted signs outside of office buildings, and other methods. One of my personal favorites is the story of Lil Wayne sitting in front of a recording studio until they eventually let him in to record something.
You may need to “go big or go home” to get a job these days. With unemployment for generation Y hovering around 15% you will need to set yourself apart from the crowd by doing something grand.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHOW YOUR TALENTS
When you are interviewing you SHOULD try to showcase your talents. Often times this is hard to do without seeming like an arrogant, pretentious, brown-noser, but there are ways of achieving it. You just need to try and be humble while explaining why you are amazing.
For Will Ferrell this consisted of skirting Lorne Michaels’ preconceived notions, and flanking him with a wildly humorous prank that was sure to get his attention and showcase the skills Will KNEW he had.
So there you go. Will Ferrell just taught you three extremely valuable interviewing techniques without even knowing it. Try them out during your next interview and see if you have any luck.