Don’t Interview Like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino
Tastes Like Unicorn Tears
By now, you’ve likely either tried, know someone who tried or watched a story on Instagram about Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino. You know, the flavor-changing, color-changing, totally-not-made-up Unicorn Frappuccino? A drink described by Starbucks as “Magical flavors start off sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour. Swirl it to reveal a color-changing spectacle of purple and pink. It’s finished with whipped cream-sprinkled pink and blue fairy powders.”
I’d describe it as “Meh.” Very Meh. After 2 sips of it, I looked at my wife in shame. Yes, it was my cheat day, and I’d decided to waste my time, money, and efforts in the gym on something so very meh.
I’d gone Basic, and so had Starbucks.
While it built its empire on its cool, Euro-inspired image, Starbucks is increasingly known for “basic” drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino. Trying to be all things to all people, they just failed. Or maybe I’d just failed. Ok, I think we agree that the drink and Starbucks didn’t live up to my expectations.
Once the chain that persuaded me to spend $4 on a cup of coffee with Italian names for drinks and sizes that made coffee an elite experience bordering on pretentiousness, the Starbucks of 2017 is just as known for the super-sweet Pumpkin Spice Latte and the made-for-Instagram Unicorn Frappuccino.
And that was just it: I wasn’t consuming a drink; I was consuming an indigestible picture made for a very specific instance in time to do a very specific thing at that singular instance. It was a colorful concoction of pretty, boisterous colors and sugar covering up for something with no flavor or substance. It was a lie and I bought it.
Don’t Be Meh in Your Interview
This experience is not that much different from what can occur in an interview. Let me break down where this drink failed and how you can use my “magical” experience to excel in your next interview.
Don’t Be Ambiguous
By their own admission, Starbucks bills this beverage as “Magical flavors start off sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour.” What does that mean? It means that this drink is all things to all people. While ambiguous or ubiquitous, it’s not definite.
Many times in an interview, answers to questions can be unclear or inexact. As you sip on your Unicorn Frappuccino, would you hire someone who was this ambivalent in answering your question?
When interviewers ask for an example of a time when you did something, they are asking behavioral interview questions, which are designed to elicit a specific instance of your past behavior. If you fail to relate a specific example, you not only don’t answer the question, but you also miss an opportunity to prove your ability and talk about your skills.
When asked if you have any experience that relates to the new position, surely your resume speaks for itself, right? What more needs to be said? A simple yes or no should suffice, right?
Actually, that’s the worst way to respond. Every question is designed to elicit more information from you. If you have an example from your experience (personal or professional) that shows how you’d handle a situation, this is your moment to shine. If you don’t, then now is the opportunity to say how you would solve a problem, or that you would be eager to learn.
In short, don’t let your answers taste like the Unicorn Frappuccino.
What are You Over Compensating For?
Look at that drink. Look at it in all of it’s Instagram model glory. Do you see all that Starbucks panache?
Your attitude plays a key role in your interview success. It conveys your confidence, professionalism, and modesty. Even if you’re putting on a performance to demonstrate your ability, overconfidence is as bad, if not worse, as being too reserved.
And again, look at the Unicorn Frappuccino. There’s nothing to its color-changing spectacle of purple and pink. All that flash is covering up for something that likes the pizazz of the ill-tasting Unicorn Frappuccino.
In short, don’t be as cocky as the Unicorn Frappuccino.
Don’t Be Basic
If you are an American between the ages of 10 and 30, being basic isn’t necessarily a definable term; it’s a feeling you get about a certain kind of person who is super to buy into an unoriginal image of what is enjoyable. It’s the opposite of being edgy or cool — it’s behaving as expected, buying into a certain degree of groupthink. It’s wearing a Yankees hat because Jay-Z does. It’s a trendy bag because all your friends have one. It’s drinking IPAs all the time because IPAs are awesome. It’s that first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice, or PSL, that you post to Facebook or Instagram on some day in the fall.
So how do you go about not being “basic” in an interview?
When asked if they have any questions, most candidates answer, “No.”
Part of knowing how to interview is being ready to ask questions that demonstrate an interest in what goes on in the company. Asking questions also gives you the opportunity to find out if this is the right place for you. The best questions come from listening to what you’re asked during the interview and asking for additional information. Ask your interviewer, “Why do you work here?” or “What’s one thing you’d improve to make this company better?”
In short, don’t be as basic as the Unicorn Frappuccino.
Love it or hate it, the Unicorn Frappuccino is only here for a limited time. Just like your interview, it’s going to go quickly, only it’s important that you make the most of this interview. An interview is the only time during the hiring process when you and your hiring managers and peers can form a mutual relationship based on observation and communication, so be effective and bring substance to the limited time you have together.
In short, don’t be a Unicorn Frappuccino.
As a member of Relus’ recruiting team, Brian Fink focuses on driving talent towards opportunity. Whether helping startups ascend or enterprises adapt to the unknown, Fink works with innovators who can handle ambiguity of a constantly changing technology landscapes. His career includes 10+ years of successfully scaling IT, Recruiting, Big Data, Product, and Executive Leadership teams across North America. As an active keynote speaker and national commentator on recruiting trends and talent acquisition tactics, Fink focuses on client development, candidate engagement, organizational transformation, and recruiter education. Follow him on Twitter.