The Interview
Job Search

Interviews — Five considerations during the interview

The posts this week have looked at interviews and interviewing. We’ve seen the gauntlet companies are raising in the interview process, my mini-rant about team interviewing, and what things should be in place before a person does interview.

But now, the coveted person-to-person interview is securely in hand. And some of the unknowns will now become known. It is a time of opportunity – and peril.

I’ll give you some perspectives and hard edge to-do’s.

As a candidate, you have very little control over an interview situation. It’s even designed to be somewhat intimidating (not necessarily intentionally). Certainly, you will be doing many new things out of your normal routine – adding to stress – and you have to be on all the time for whatever gauntlet gets thrown at you.

Here are five points to help all that along:

  1. Know what you have delivered in your positions, both now and in the past. Especially if they are financial benefits. Business is business, and participating in something versus delivering something is a world of difference between candidates. You may not know what needs to be delivered in the new position, but you must be able to articulate what you have delivered in your current position. And, if there are financial benefits, so much the better – but no one will believe the financial benefit, so be prepared to fully explain the logic in a concise manner that got you the financial benefit.
  2. Use what you have delivered in your position to bridge to what seems to be in the new position you are in the interview for. This bridging of delivery enables you to learn about the position and the hiring manager perception of the position. This will enable you to more closely relate what you have delivered to what is needed in the position.
  3. Always have questions to ask at the end of the interview. My favorites, since they are rarely talked about during the interview, relate to asking about the manager’s style or the team dynamics. A lot can be learned about the manager or team from asking those types of questions that would never have come up in the interview. It will be your only opportunity to see if the “culture” of the manager or team will match what you want in a position.
  4. Use specific examples that demonstrates the skills needed in the position. If SQL is needed for the position, make sure you have examples of where you used it. Better if it was delivered. Better if it resulted in a business savings from slicing and dicing stuff from your SQL example. Even better if you follow-up with a question asking if that is the type of work done in the position you are interviewing for. See how the dots connect?
  5. You do it for dates, don’t you? Why haven’t you ‘Googled’ every person you are interviewing with? If you Googled me, you’d find this web site plus an amateur radio web site. You’d see Cube Rules where you could read this and get exactly what you needed to be prepared for an interview. You’d see that I have Ten Keyboards, a writing blog. You’d see I’m currently writing for b5media and Pimp Your Work, a business blog about tools and tips to make your work life better. And you’d see a couple of older blogs I’ve written for. I’m not saying you would use any of it in the interview, but don’t you think it would help you to be ready? Yes, it would. Trust me. Just make sure you Google the right person!

All of these things are in your control. Knowing and preparing these items will help you be more confident for the interview.

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Job Search

The Interview Gauntlet

Have you noticed that moving to a different company is harder?

Companies, of course, want to ensure that the potential employee is a good one. One of the ways of determining worth is to have the candidate interview with multiple people so as to secure differing points of view about the candidate. This makes sense in that a candidate needs to show effectiveness across multiple dimensions such as analytical capabilities, technical prowess in particular areas, or relationship management. Different people can interview the candidate to determine if the skills are there to meet the different dimensions.

But where does skillful interviewing change to a gauntlet?

I have a friend looking for a job. Here is the process so far:

  • talk with a recruiter based upon seeing a resume
  • modify the resume to match more closely to the position
  • modify the cover letter to match more closely to the position
  • after submission of the resume, complete two-page questionnaire where the candidate answers questions presumably about the skills associated with the position
  • interview schedule is provided to the candidate – first interview is a phone interview with the hiring manager
  • second interview, on a different day, is with an analyst
  • third interview, on a different day, is an in-person interview with the hiring manager
  • fourth interview, not guaranteed on the same say, is with the entire team reporting to the hiring manager
  • fifth interview, not guaranteed on the same day, is with a panel
  • if you make it through each of these steps – any one along the way can knock you out of contention – you now have the possibility of receiving an offer at which point you will have to negotiate terms.

After getting out of this gauntlet – where one definition from dictionary.com is “a form of punishment or torture in which people armed with sticks or other weapons (questionnaires, phone interviews, in-person interviews, team interviews, and panel interviews – Scot) arrange themselves in two lines facing each other and beat the person forced to run between them” – the company hiring our candidate hero will believe that they will have a dedicated, skilled employee that can perform in the job.

Meantime, if I were the candidate, I”d see a complete lack of consideration of the employee’s time by not consolidating the interviews into one day for the phone interviews and another for the in-person interviews, an ill-defined process for hiring which lacks time-based goals, and no speed-of-execution by the management team. I know I’d want to give this management team my undying loyalty. Not!

Do you think they interview CEO’s this way?

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Job Skills

Cubicle Warrior — Job Skills

What critical skills do you need to manage your career and stay in work that you like to do?

It’s a hard, but critical question to answer if you are to be a Cubicle Warrior — a person who survives, and even thrives, in corporations.

Job skill is the sauce upon which careers are built over time. In every company I’ve been in, the employees will tell you on survey after survey that they don’t get enough training.

Some training, you need. A lot of what passes for training, you don’t.

If you examined what you wanted in your career, what skills would you need? Would you need to have a PMP certification? How about knowing code?

That stuff is easy to figure out, but surprisingly, few employees even go as far as creating a training plan for themselves.

The hard stuff to figure out is what your company wants from its employees so they can go after the “next big thing.”

If your senior management announces a company-wide plan to reduce costs, have you figured out how your department can reduce your costs?

If your manager asks for volunteers to support a project to increase productivity, do you volunteer — and come up with really good ideas to improve productivity?

If your department is having a tough time on figuring out X, do you independently go out and learn about X so you can help?

That stuff is “skills on the run” and hard to implement. But if you do learn and adapt, after a while your management team starts to see you as a person who knows what needs to be known and does what needs to be done.

Not classes. Not on-line training courses. Not conferences thousands of miles and dollars away. But right here and right now helping the team meet the business goals. That is the hard skill to learn.

Of course, you must have the right knowledge to do a skilled job. But you also must have the smarts to know what is needed by your manager, department, and company that can be done now in order to become a Cubicle Warrior.

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Job Performance

Cubicle Warrior — job performance

Managing your career isn’t easy. Finding out how to best manage your career is even tougher. My posts so far this week have focused on the basics needed to manage your career so that you can become a Cubicle Warrior.

Yesterday, I talked about the most critical need of being a Cubicle Warrior as the savings in the bank to cushion a layoff, allowing you to wait for the right next position instead of desperately taking anything that comes along.

Today, we’ll look at the dark secret of career management – performance in your current position counts.

There are widely divergent opinions on people’s job performance. I personally see a lot of people who think their performance walks on water — but the performance there hardly makes a ripple on what’s important to the business.

Here’s the two big reasons for having great job performance:

Good performance prevents layoffs. Sometimes, you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. More often, you are offered opportunities to be in places where there won’t be a layoff — but if, and only if, your performance in your current job makes your management want to keep you. Without the job performance, you are placing your career in the hands of others who do not have your best interests in mind, only their own. Performing well helps the manager put you into a position where you will do value-added work and stay employed longer. The best position to be in — “I’d never survive without having Scot Herrick on the team.” Managers will go a long way to keep you working for them. But performance counts.

Accomplishments are your gift to future employers. Even if you do get laid off through no fault of your own, every employer will ask you what you accomplished in your last position. Every one. It would be useful if you actually had some accomplishments to enumerate to your future employer.

You see, the person interviewing you is going to try and determine if you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time — or if you really weren’t adding a lot of value to the business. A whiff of not adding value and you won’t be in a position to compete with those already in jobs looking for a change.

That’s not very nice. But it’s accurate and real. Good performance is something to wear like a badge of honor to your current employer — or your future one.

What other reasons are there for good performance?

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