Thursday, September 20, 2007

Giving good interview

During that brief in-between-jobs malaise, I read tons of articles about job hunting.

Monster. CareerBuilder. Yahoo.

All of them - completely worthless.

So here are a handful of helpful interview tips from someone who recently broke the land speed record for getting fired/hired.

Don’t Sweat Your Pants: Dealing with Nervousness

I don’t get nervous interviewing because of Trivial Pursuit.

Growing up, we lived in a tight-knit, game-playing neighborhood. Some of my best memories are of playing Trivial Pursuit on the sun porch with my neighbors – adults and kids – on summer afternoons.

Interviewing is like playing Trivial Pursuit, only better, since every question will be related to your favorite pie category (I always liked green - Science & Nature - for some reason. Makes no sense.)

If you know your topic and have done just a little homework, it’s easy enough to get all the answers right and win the job.

“But Hedy, I sucked at Trivial Pursuit. Monopoly was my game.”

Real estate? Seriously? How’s that working out for you these days?
Okay, sorry, here’s a better analogy.

Remember the first time you got laid? With someone other than your hand?

Unless you were some kind of sexual savant, it didn’t go very well, did it?

Of course you were nervous. You had no hands-on experience. But you reallyreallyreallyreally wanted it. And seriously, who performs well in the back seat of the family Buick with your head smashed against a door handle?

Now, think about the next time you had sex – comfortably situated on the bed of your girlfriend’s out-of-town parents with the soundtrack from Bladerunner playing.

Better, yes?

The more you do something, the better you get at it, right?

So get out there and interview.

If you’re nervous about interviewing, make a point to do it at least once per quarter. Even if you’re not looking for a new gig. Actually, it’s better if you’re NOT looking for a new job because then there’s no reason to feel pressure.

Interviewing when you don’t need a job keeps you sharp. It helps with networking. And it does wonders for that sweating-through-your-shirt-nearly-shitting-your-pants feeling that comes with the high pressure of finding a new job.
Tip: Wash your hands in warm water rather than cold to eliminate sweaty palms. I have no idea where I learned that but trust me, it works.
Getting Good

Eventually, all of us neighbors got good at Trivial Pursuit because we played enough to memorize the answers. If you interview often, you’ll get good at answering the standard questions.

Where do you want to be in five years?

Wrong: “Drunk and naked on a beach in St. Martin?”

Right: “Here. Working here and making a difference for [insert company name].”

Regardless of the question – always make the answer about them and their business, not about you and your goals.

If you say “In five years I’d like to be a senior-level blah blah with a team of minions, making blah blah” they’ll think you’re nothing but a salary-chasing job-hopper and show you the door.
Tip: Look good. Get a haircut. If you need to buy a new shirt or suit to make yourself feel better, do it. However, DO NOT BUY NEW SHOES. A potential employer will not appreciate you doing a Passion of the Mel thing, bleeding on their carpet because of blisters from bad shoes. Trust me on this one.
Do Your Homework

It’s never been easier to learn about the company where you’d like to work. Of course you’ll want to check out their web site – they’ll expect that.

But what they won’t expect is that you’ve Googled key words from their web site to read articles published about the company, their industry, their competition, and the key people who’ve made their business successful.

Doing your homework also helps you ask well thought out questions. If you really want this job, you’ll have a few questions of your own. Interviews are always better when it becomes more of a conversation. It gets the interviewer thinking about actually having you in that position and what it would be like.

Of course, don’t over do it with the questions. Two employers ago, we brought in a woman to interview for a marketing position.

She asked all the questions. We couldn’t get a word in edgewise and we knew nothing about her when she left.

And then she wondered why we didn’t hire her.
The Classic Three-Way: Interviewing with Multiple People at the Same Time

Unless you're Cameron Crowe losing your virginity to three hot, stoned groupies in the movie Almost Famous, your first time is usually one-on-one. It's the same with interviews.

If you do well in enough first interviews eventually you get a shot at the big time: The Second Interview.

This is your time to really shine and show 'em everything you've got. The people interviewing you might start out asking you questions one at a time, but eventually they'll be pounding you simultaneously from all sides. Stay cool. Stay focused on your goal and give them exactly what they want. You'll quickly figure out who's the lead decision-maker of the group - focus most of your attention on him. But it's also important to make sure you're paying attention to the dude sitting quietly in the corner waiting for his shot at you. Being able to think and react quickly while addressing the demands of multiple people is the key to a successful three-way. Interview. Ahem.
Time Management

If you've lost your job, take a few days to cry. Eat Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge Frosting from the can. And watch Working Girl or The Devil Wears Prada over and over and over again.

Once you're ready to commence huntin' for that new job, DO NOT waste another moment of your precious time on Monster or CareerBuilder or other job sites.

The best jobs never get posted. So work your network. First thing on Monday after I was let go – everyone I know knew I needed a new job. Mostly because of the loud, uncontrollable sobbing. Ahem.

What's more, the jobs that do get posted on career sites have already been filled - by someone who knows someone there. The position got posted because of some bullshit bureaucratic policy requiring all jobs to be listed publicly.

LinkedIn is a good site for professional networking - it's like MySpace for grown ups without all the drunken photos, bad music, and mindless quizzes.

Also, don’t limit yourself to the people you know from your industry. Think of everyone you know - friends, neighbors, acquaintances - the people who know you best. The new gig I’ve got starting October 1 came from a guy I met on the train.
The Mythical Trick Question

“If you could be any animal, what would it be?”

“How about a big fucking snake so I can bite your retarded little gourd off for asking such an absurd question?”

The fact is, people who are serious about hiring don’t mess around with ridiculous questions like this. I suspect that most of those trick questions were made up by unemployed journalists writing unhelpful articles about interviewing.

Also, do you really want to work for someone with a burning need to know what you wanted to be when you were 10 years old? Seriously.

“When I was 10? I don’t remember. But I can tell you this: I didn’t want to grow up to be interviewed by some pseudo-psychological chooch who wastes my time with silly questions. Are we done here? I think so. Thanks.”
Okay, so maybe after reading this you won’t be a porn star when it comes to interviewing.

But it can be fun if you take a little time to get better at it.

And trust me, stay out of Buicks. Nothing good ever happened in the back seat of a Buick.
I am listening to: Bladerunner soundtrack
I am reading: Harry Potter – Book 6
And I am: Waiting for Comcast


Dave said...

I don't think I've ever been in a Buick, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs, Chevys, yeah. I'm pretty sure is was in a GMC.

Reclining seats are the answer. I know that doesn't fit the theme of the post, but they're still the answer.

Posolxstvo said...

Hey! Some of us might have been conceived in the back seat of a Buick! Ever think of that?

Mom said...

If I could be any animal, it would be a dog. Yes, a dog, but not just any dog. It would be Gromit. Spoiled rotten dog.


hmm, great tips..what can you suggest to the stuck at home moms that bite their toe nails with their teeth? :)
besides, well, Getting a life?
Good Luck 10-01!!