Paul Butler: Interview skills

Paul Butler

Here are three words very few Englishmen have ever said: “I love baseball.”

Soccer is often referred to as the “beautiful game,” but in my mind, baseball is the most beautiful game. One of the first aspects of baseball that fascinated me were the different types of throws made by the pitchers — there seem to be 12 most common pitches grouped into three categories: fastballs, breaking balls and change-ups.

It seems to me, it’s vital for a batter to be able to spot the telltale signs of what type of pitch is coming, so he can respond accordingly to make the play.

This got me thinking about the types of questions that occur during an interview. The same principle applies in a sales meeting — the buyer is interviewing you for the job of providing products and services they need.

So, what are the types of baseballs thrown during an interview?

I’ve noticed we can also group them into three categories: can, will and fit.

The “can” questions are testing your credibility — can you do the job for which you’re being interviewed? As the “batter,” the way to “play” this type of question is to respond as clearly and concisely as possible, to assure the interviewer you can indeed do the job.  

Ask the interviewer if you answered their question and ask if they’d like more detail, or another example of how you’ve previously “knocked it out of the park.”

The second type of ball thrown in the form of a question during an interview is a “will” type question.

These types of questions are looking for your motivating factors. The interviewer is satisfied you “can” do the job, and, now, they’re asking, “will” you do the job, if you were offered it?  

“Will” type questions may pick up on the fact that this job seems like a backward or sideward move for you. The pay may be less or the same as what you make now — why would that be of interest to you?

What about the commute? Remember as the interviewee, the purpose of the interview is to get the offer, and the way to “play” a “why” type question is to give a genuine response to appease the buyer’s concern.

Our third category of “pitch” during an interview is what I call the “fit” type questions.

The interviewer may well be satisfied that you “can” do the job and you “will” do the job if offered, but what they’re asking now is could they see you “fit” within this work team and the organizational culture?

Can they see you working with other employees or clients of theirs? Would this be a good “fit”?

As the “batter,” the way to “play” these questions is to give the interviewer examples of where you’ve worked well with an organization or client just like theirs in the past or present, so they can see you in their future.

I’d also encourage you as the interviewee or sales person to “ask” for the job or the contract at the end of the meeting. My experience as an interviewer has been that sometimes we can check all three boxes that the candidate, “can” and “will” (do the job) and would “fit” well with our culture but we’re left wondering whether this candidate really wants the job.

So, leave the interviewer with no uncertainty — ask for the job or the contract at the end of the interview. Not in an aggressive or prideful manner but summarize back your “can,” your “will” and your “fit” and make it clear if you were offered the job or contract, you’d be honored to accept.

Major League Baseball may indeed rank a poor third to football and basketball in TV ratings, but the game remains the national pastime because it resonates more deeply in the country’s soul than any other sport.

Likewise, I believe as an interviewee, if you can spot the fastballs, breaking balls and change-ups coming toward you in an interview and respond accordingly, you’ll resonate more deeply, and, so, win the job offer, which is what the game is all about.

Now, let’s play ball.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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