Ace the Interview

Finding a terrific job is not easy.  One way to ruin your chances is by projecting over-confidence. While employers certainly want to know what you can do for them, being too full of yourself will turn off most interviewers. Strangely enough, in one of the few job interviews in Scripture, the prospective employee seems to display exactly this wrong attitude—yet he gets the job! I am talking, of course, about Joseph. Understanding his behavior will provide us with some specific strategies for interviews and meetings.

After failing to find satisfying interpretations to his two disturbing dreams, Pharaoh recounted them to Joseph. (Genesis 41:8 & 15) Joseph then explained how the dreams foretold seven years of economic abundance followed by seven years of famine.  Astonishingly, he then offers unsolicited advice.  Joseph suggests that Pharaoh hire a wise administrator (implying that he himself is the ideal candidate) to supervise the economy.

Pharaoh should have said, “Thank you, Joseph but I asked you for dream interpretation, not for advice about economic policy.”

Pharaoh might have added, “Regarding your explanation of my dreams, I’ve heard many zany interpretations.  Perhaps your explanation is true; if so you’ll be rewarded. Meanwhile, return to the dungeon from which we took you.  If your interpretation turns out to be correct, we’ll release and reward you.”

Instead, Pharaoh listens intently while Joseph speaks at length.  When Joseph finishes, Scripture tells us that Pharaoh and his servants liked Joseph’s ideas. (Genesis 41:37)

I would have expected Pharaoh’s courtiers to tell their monarch, “Your Highness, it’s always better to promote from within.  The people will respond more obediently if directed by an experienced Egyptian bureaucrat rather than by this arrogant Hebrew ex-convict.”

Yet they accepted Pharaoh’s appointment of Joseph.  What could possibly have occurred that day to persuade Pharaoh and his court that Joseph was special?

To understand the answer, we need to look at Psalms 81:6. While many translators struggle to make sense of these words of King David, the simple and direct translation of the Hebrew is:

He (God) gave testimony to Joseph when he went out over the land of Egypt; “Banks of I didn’t know I would hear.”

We can now look at these two Genesis verses:

A. …and Pharaoh dreamed and behold he was standing upon the river.
(Genesis 41:1)

B. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream, behold, I was standing upon the banks of the river.”
(Genesis 41:17)

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals that God told Joseph not only what Pharaoh’s dream meant but He also told him exactly what Pharaoh had dreamed in the first place.  In his dream, Pharaoh saw himself standing literally on the water of the River Nile.  Fearing ridicule when recounting his dream to Joseph, Pharaoh modified it.  Instead of reporting how he’d seen himself standing on water, he added the words ‘banks of’ saying, “I was standing upon the banks of the river,” even though that was not how he had dreamed it.

When Pharaoh uttered those words, Joseph softly murmured, “I didn’t know I would hear the words ‘banks of”.”  This shocked Pharaoh greatly and he confessed before his entire court that he had not, in fact relayed the dream exactly.  This proved to Pharaoh and his staff that nobody more qualified than Joseph existed.

While we can’t expect God to give us inside information before a job interview, a successful applicant does homework and arrives prepared, knowing details about the company, the position, and how to add value. Calm confidence coupled with deep knowledge makes one appear desirable, not arrogant.  A candidate who shows that he possesses extensive familiarity with the company causes the interviewer to think, “Can we find another like him?” (Genesis 41:38)


9 thoughts on “Ace the Interview”

  1. I have great respect for people who have great knowledge but are very humble. During job interviews employers frequently ask ” Trick Questions” and if the prospective employee answers honestly they may not get the job.

  2. What version (in English) of the Bible do you consider the closest to the Hebrew? Out of the 7 versions I checked, only the YLT mentioned this comment, and it was in verse 5.
    “A lip, I have not known–I hear.”

  3. Dear Rabbi,
    I am interviewing this very day! What a beautiful gift to receive this wisdom at this moment.
    Providence? I cannot explain because I am speechless.
    It is so vital to have the Hebrew interpretation when there are so many translations of The Word.
    Thank you!

  4. Unbelievable!! And I read this email not 20 minutes after praying for a close friend of mine’s JOB INTERVIEW that she is having in the morning, which seems to suit her almost perfectly [and appears to be a LONG awaited answer to prayer]! (I guess you know you’re going to get the job when God tells you what the questions are going to be the night before…) That is amazing, just amazing, dear Rabbi!!! Joseph the dreamer triumphs again!!! Colossal spiritual dreams run in that family for sure!!! Thank you for your sensitive insights that help translate wisdom from God’s Throne Room all the way down to the minutest of our mundane-alities!!!

    1. Oops, also meant to ask, Rabbi Lapin, didn’t King Nebuchadnezzar also ask of his advisors to not only interpret his dream, but also to TELL him what his dream was?? And Prophet Daniel was of course the only one who could both tell the dream and give the right interpretation. So…maybe your next thought tool could be, if you were an employer, and if you had to choose between Joseph or Daniel, who would you choose… 🙂 🙂 🙂 (Wish the workplace WERE flooded with Josephs and Daniels!!!)


        Many work place have “Josephs and Daniels ” but are not recognised/ identified by their employers. As it is in the side of the employees so it is at the side of the employers too.

  5. And don’t forget to give some charity before going to job interview. That way the natural and not fake confidence will be even more higher.

  6. I have recently applied for a job and your article has given me insight that I was desperately looking for. Thank you so much. Kristin

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