Thursday, May 6, 2010

Job Interviewing

Over the past several years I've been involved in several job interviews: both on the side of potential employee and as employer. I thought I would share some of my experiences and recommendations for those who might be in a similar position. *A quick note -- these items are related primarily to for-profit businesses. Government/not-for-profit jobs can have an entirely different purpose than the for-profit companies; although most of the recommendations will still apply. Also, there are other detailed websites regarding specific formatting issues on resumes, specific answers to interview questions, what to wear, etc. This is more about some observations and attitudes while interviewing.

1) You must understand that the employee-employer relationship is like any other business transaction and should market the business of YOU to the employer. You are 'selling' your time each week to the employer and being compensated accordingly. Businesses don't hire for purposes of boosting their employment numbers. They do so because you will either a) make money for them; b) save money for them; or c) indirectly make or save money for them by freeing up the time of other skilled resources. Understand that you are choosing the employer as a customer of YOU as much as they are choosing you as a Vendor.

2) As hard as it may seem, you can't come across as desperate for the job. I know this is easier said than done if you've been searching for months and unemployment is running out, but it really shifts focus on WHY you are applying for the job. You want the job because it provides an income for your family; however, employers want to hear that you're interested because you are interested in the challenges, have a desire to learn something new, or want to accomplish tasks. I've been blessed to be in a position where I don't necessarily have to work for extended periods (thanks Dave Ramsey). I once told a potential/future employer in an interview that I didn't need his job financially. I told him that I was looking for something that could increase my skill sets and present me with challenges. He offered me the position a day later.

3) Remember that you don't have to be a 100% perfect candidate for every job. You just have to be better than the others interviewing and show a willingness and ability to learn where you may be deficient. One quick tip at the end of an interview is to ask the interviewer if they have any concerns with your ability to perform the job functions. This may kind of stun them but it allows them to be open with you about their concerns. If you're able to get an answer, it will allow you to address the concern while you have the opportunity. For example, "Ryan, I'm concerned that you don't have experience with Oracle databases." "Thanks for that feedback -- although I don't have direct experience with Oracle, I have extensive experience with Microsoft SQL Server, which is a very similar product. I'm willing to put in the time necessary to learn the differences and feel that I can learn it very quickly."

For Resumes:

1) Tailor each resume for the specific position in which you are applying. Re-word your past work experiences to mimic similar tasks that you'll be performing in the new job. Don't lie about the experience -- simply highlight tasks that might be more interesting to the new employer. Keep all of this in third person (no I's)

2) Write a Letter of Application/Cover Letter for each position. Try to tie in something you've heard about the company and how you would be a great fit. For example, "I heard about Apax at the Mobile Conference in Lexington and am very impressed about the quality of mobile applications you've developed. I feel that I have the skill sets necessary to succeed in the Mobile Developer position because ...." The Letter of Application is all in first person so feel free to use I's.

I hope this has been helpful to a few folks. I don't know everything about this topic but have had some reasonable success while interviewing and being interviewed, so I thought I would share.