My Interview With Bill Gates

by Ron Haynes

Bill Gates - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting New York 2002
photo credit: World Economic Forum

Several years ago I had the opportunity to interview Bill Gates and it was an enlightening interview to say the least. He arrived on time and was sharply dressed in dark dress slacks, a shirt with a tie, and a very nice wool sweater. He was cordial and courteous, though he did seem a little scattered.

No, he wasn’t THE Bill Gates, but his name was William Gates. He was interviewing for a sales job that I had available and though he had an impressive resume, everything he did in the interview was wrong:

1. He didn’t know what he wanted
. When a job candidate thinks his only purpose in an interview is to simply ask for a job, he’s on the wrong track. His goal should have been to demonstrate how he was a good fit for my organization, and to assess whether the job was really right for him.

2. He was too needy. He walked into the interview “needing” the job. He told me as much when I asked him why he wanted to come to work for my organization! He literally said, “I need this job.” People need food, air, and water. His perspective was one of desperation.

3. He had lousy nonverbal communication and demonstrated zero confidence. First impressions make the difference. When he enter the interview room, his slouched a bit, made a little eye contact, and offer a weak handshake. Later, he had to ask me to remind him of my name! He clearly had not worked to improve his weaknesses.

4. He constantly compromised his position. His participation in the interview was not as an equal, but a subordinate. Often this is a subtle matter of perception, but it made me feel that I was interviewing a young teenager.

5. He also fell into the answers-only rut. An interview should be a two way conversation, but all he did was just answer my questions. If he had prepared stories to highlight his accomplishments, he could have out-shined his competition. When he did answer my questions, his answers were unsure, hesitating, and he never followed up by asking for clarification on anything.

6. His few answers were rambling and too long. Many times he gave me way too much information. His answers should have been 60 to 90 seconds long and they should have had a relevant point, but he had a complete lack of focus. Many times I just had to ask myself, “What did that have to do with anything?” He also had a tendency to fill any silence with unnecessary talk (one of my favorite strategies).

7. He was friendly, but was a bit overly familiar.
I consider myself a good interviewer that’s skilled enough to put candidates at ease within the first few minutes of the interview, but he thought we were best friends from the outset. It was somewhat unprofessional.

8. He made incorrect assumptions. I don’t deduct points if a candidate asks questions when he or she doesn’t understand something. I would much rather a candidate ask a question than guess at what I meant. Several times, his answers showed that he wasn’t clear on what I was asking and I had to restate the question.

9. He didn’t get outwardly emotional, but when I asked him to give me an example of his tenacity in a challenging sales situation, his ears turned red and he stammered around. Sometimes I intentionally attempt to hit a nerve or consciously try to provoke a job candidate into an “outburst.” He didn’t fall for it outright, but he was clearly rattled.

10. He never asked good, specific questions. I thought it quite odd that he didn’t want to find out more about the products, the customers, the policies, or the structure of my organization. As a result, I don’t think he could have been sure whether he truly wanted the job or if he could handle the irregular paychecks. I know I wasn’t impressed with him!

Needless to say, I didn’t hire this Bill Gates, though I would love to get a shot at interviewing THE Bill Gates!

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 2 comments }

Frugal Dad

Man, you had me going for a while! Thanks for the mention, and the great tips for handling an interview – from both sides of the desk.

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

It always amazes me how so many people make the mistakes you mention above. It isn’t hard to learn the techniques of good interviewing. If a person doesn’t even take the initiative to read a post like this one or the thousands of books that exist on interviewing, then I’m not going to hire them.

Great title on this one! It certainly drew my attention. Also, thanks for the link!

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