Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: This huge interview mistake ruined my chances of getting the job

Suzy Welch: This huge interview mistake killed my chances of landing my first job

Nailing an interview is hard, especially for your dream job. That's why bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch says regardless of how qualified you may be, you never want to make the mistake of acting like you've already sealed the deal.

In fact, she says, it was this common mistake that cost her a job in 1981, when she was a recent Harvard University graduate.

"I wanted to be a journalist," she tells CNBC Make It, "so I sent my resume to about 50 newspapers from Maine to California, and pretty soon afterward, the Kansas City Times called and asked me to come out for two days."

On the first day, Welch says her reporting try-out went well and she was told she did great. "That was the beginning of trouble," she says. "I started acting, you know, a little too relaxed. Too casual. Too familiar."

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch

She recalls riding to lunch with some editors from the paper and asking, "So, what kinda food we getting?" as if they were old friends. She even met with the editor-in-chief later that day and asked him where he lived as if she were trying to spot potential neighborhoods. The next morning, she says, she got a call letting her know that she didn't get the job because she didn't "fit in."

"The editor didn't have to explain himself," she says. "I was dumb, but not so dumb that I didn't know I had overstepped."

From that experience, Welch says she learned that you should always remember "there are power dynamics at play in an interview."

"Even if you think you're perfect for the job," she adds. "Even if they seem anxious to get you. Even then — they are the buyer, you are the seller. Do not let down your guard."

After you are hired, the dynamics may change a bit. "But until then," she says, "no open job is yours for the taking; it's yours for the winning, with skill and humility."

Welch says that's how she approached her next interview at the Miami Herald. And, as it turns out, she got the job.

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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