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Job Hunting? Have Your "Schtick" Ready

Two million jobs vanished from this country in 2008. The unemployment rate may be headed for 11%. And worst of all, people all over the country are postponing retirement, making it more and more difficult for young job-seekers with little experience to find work. Welcome to 2009.

Given how awful this climate is, if you're lucky enough to get a meaningful job interview, you'd better not blow it. Bizarrely enough, I've spent some time interviewing job applicants and watching them be interviewed, so I may have a some insights here that most 24-year-olds don't. In fact, I can boil them down to two rules, based on the most common job-interview screw-ups I've seen and heard about.

Rule number one: it's not about you, it's about them. Many job applicants, especially those who also happen to be members of the millennial generation, go into an interview thinking all about how they can best sell themselves. They think about how to convey their personal skills and interests to a potential employer by talking about themselves. Wrong.

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Don't talk about yourself, talk about the company where you're applying for a job. They've already got your resume, and trust me, they don't want to hear about you. The best way to convince someone to hire you is by showing them that you're interested in and understand the business they're in. Do some research beforehand, and keep turning the conversation back to things that are related to the company that might hire you. When you're asked a question about yourself, even one of those ridiculous, what are your best or worst quality questions, always find a way to make it about them.

Feel free to ask questions, but smart sounding ones about the business. This is not the time to ask about compensation or benefits, so don't go there.

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This brings me to rule number two: dishonesty is the best policy. You may not be interested in the job you're interviewing for. In fact, right now, I'm sure you won't be. Don't let that stand in the way of seeming interested. Obviously you want to know about things like compensation, or what a typical day looks like. But when you go in for that interview, you'd better be prepared to pretend that the only thing that interests you is working for whatever company we're talking about, and nothing would make you happier than to work there.

They may see through this whole schtick, but even if they do, at least they'll know you're trying.

Questions? Comments? Send them to millennialmoney@cnbc.com