Book Review: The Peak Interview by Bill Burnett

By May 17, 2011

With the tag line on the front cover of “New Insights into Winning the Interview and Getting the Job,” I was expecting to learn some new secrets I had never thought of when going on an interview. Burnett guides the reader through the interview preparation process and suggests having a series of “peaks” created by the interviewee through the standard hour long interview. I honestly am not a fan of the self-help book genre, but Burnett presents good tools to integrate into the job interview process.

Burnett encourages candidates to have a mindset of not being the best person for the job, but being on the same level with other competitors. This is the opposite of everything I have been told about interviewing, but makes a good point. It takes less pressure off of candidates selling themselves and refocuses energy on how the candidate can solve problems for the company.

The first peak should come 20 minutes in with the candidate asking the hiring manager or personnel director if the candidate is the best person for the job, what could the candidate do to make the biggest and most positive impact for the department, company and the hiring manager personally. The second peak happens at 40 minutes and the hiring manager answers the question of how the candidate can help the manager with a special project or goal. The final peak at the very end of the interview focuses on the hiring manager personally and the candidate asks what the manager has been able to do, something they were proud to accomplish.

The first two peak questions make sense to me. Asking questions about the company can help to pull experience and stories in how the candidate can best suit these needs. However, the final question does not make sense to me. How can letting someone ramble on about themselves get you a job? Other than the fact it associates a warm fuzzy feeling towards the candidate, I do not see the value in this question.

It has been well noted people love to talk about themselves. The answer to the final question can have some gems of information, like tweaks that could be made to a project or something the hiring manager has a particular interest the candidate can help with. But I cannot see the simple fact of letting the manager talk about themselves can really land a candidate a job.

My final verdict on the book is still on the fence. I have a job with an insurance company with great benefits and am hoping to transfer to the Chicago office sometime this summer or fall. I feel this book would be more beneficial if I had time to implement the items Burnett discusses. But the next time I am on the job hunt, I will pull Burnett’s book out for reference.