What I learned about Interviewing from Dirty Harry

Is anyone else out there a Clint Eastwood fan? The Spaghetti Westerns are a bit too cliche for me, but Joe Kidd, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and all the Dirty Harry movies are not on cable TV enough for me. So what does that have to do with interviewing? Not much, really. But if you want to see a great example of basic behavioral interviewing, watch The Enforcer from 1976.

Early on there is a scene where Harry is on a 4 person panel interviewing candidates for detective inspector positions. Tyne Daly plays Kate Moore, a police records clerk trying to become an inspector. Harry asks her to tell the panel about her most important felony arrest. She has no example. Then he asks her to tell them about her most important misdemeanor arrest. Again, she has no example. So he gets in her grill about what right she has to interview for an inspector role when there are experienced beat cops with arrest experience who want the role.

Some now obvious, politically incorrect dialogue follows. Then, in true Hollywood fashion, she gets the job anyway. That is the difference from the real world. For us to get hired, we need real examples. Here’s how to prepare – have as many “War Stories” ready as possible.

What are war stories? These are your accomplishments and unique traits that show why you are the best person for the job. There are three parts to every good war story.

1. The problem you were faced with, the situation. Provide details on the situation and why it was a problem for your company.

2. Your solution. Here you want to explain what YOU did to solve the problem, step-by-step and in detail. You want the employer to envision you doing the same for them.

3. The results – these should be measurable, sustainable and a direct result of your solution.

Try to have a war story ready for every major aspect of the position you are interviewing for – technical skills, management skills, etc. If you are asked about an area you do not have a war story prepared for, use the three part approach to put one together. It is good to be able to think on the fly. After all, you don’t want Dirty Harry up in your grill!


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