You know you’ve hit the big time when people offer to do free work for you. Is there anything more rat-faced than getting other people to prepare content for which you can take all the credit? (If there is, please let me know, and please show me, for free, how to do it.) It is therefore in this spirit that I offer up my first guest post, by “a Microwave Engineer.” My comments are in square brackets/italics here and there.
How to Interview for a Job
by a Microwave Engineer
If you’ve actually gotten a job interview in today’s economy, congratulations! Many people are having trouble even getting to this stage. Now it’s time to sell yourself to your prospective employer. The sales job is not an act of telling how awesome you are. Instead, it’s a conversation between two parties (you and your prospective employer) about what the job requires, who you will be working with and for and whether your skills are a good fit for the job. Be sure to show up ahead of schedule, treat the front desk people with politeness and respect, and wear a wedding/funeral suit that fits. Bring a notebook to write down each interviewer’s name and what was discussed. [This is absolutely key, because you will be joining a business team, and this shows awareness of this fact. -rfm] The higher the position you are interviewing for, the longer the interview will take. Do as much research on your interviewers and their work as possible before you are in front of them. If someone has written an interesting paper or article or was in the news, be prepared to discuss it with them. If you don’t know who will be interviewing you, ask. If the job is technical, be prepared to answer technical questions correctly. This can involve a couple of weeks of guessing at the questions you may be asked and preparing answers. Make flash cards, etc. [All of this bolded advice in particular is solid gold and will greatly increase your interviewers’ affirmative commitments to hiring you. -rfm] None of this prep is wasted if you don’t get the job. After prepping for the current interview, you may choose later to interview with this employer’s competitors or you may discover how your current experience is related to another job that is a better fit or pays better.
During the interview, step one is to ask a lot of questions about the job and take notes. At this stage, prove you are a good listener by letting the interviewer speak and, when he is done, repeating an accurate summary of the job back to him and then asking, “Do I understand this correctly?” It’s axiomatic that employers like good listeners. You are also trying to determine if you can do the job. You don’t want to take a job you can’t do. While it’s great to take a job that’s a stretch for your current skills, it’s a terrible idea to take a job where you’ll be fired in six months for selling yourself into a job you can’t do.
After you understand the job, the next step is to explain how your experience relates to the job. This involves explanation. Don’t over-think this: be confident and sell yourself. It’s great to practice this part with a wife or friend who is a known solid performer in some field. Becoming successful in any field follows a similar process, so your successful friend/wife/husband is the right person to practice-interview you. Solid performers hate have trash-cans on their teams and know how to weed them out. Remember: relate your experience and interests to the job description above. SPEAK TO THE PROMPT. Don’t yammer on about how awesome you are generally, because you’re not. Managers have a huge fear of hiring someone who doesn’t work out who they can’t get rid of. Set their minds at ease. Always remember that you are being hired to bring more money into the company than you cost in wages, benefits and taxes. Make them believe you will do this. This is especially true for jobs that pay a lot of money. If you’re getting high pay, you’d better deliver on it.
Interviews are conducted by your direct manager and your potential team. While you’re interviewing, ask yourself, “Can I work for/with these people? Do I like them? Will they like me? Where will I be working?” You’re well advised to be curious and ask probing-but-respectful questions that can help you avoid years of heartache in the future. Just as managers are afraid of hiring the wrong person, you should be afraid of taking a job with the wrong people. Almost any job can be good if the team is fun, hardworking, and creative.
Thank every interviewer for their time. Figure out how to get them a thank you note before you conclude with each of them. Write thank you notes and deliver them. [This advice is, IMO, situational. In some jobs it is not expected and might look funny—for example, in on-campus recruitment for legal or banking jobs. -rfm] Follow up with the hiring manager. Be sure to get his contact information. Put yourself in the shoes of your hiring manager: interviewing really sucks and it’s hard to find good talent. If you act like a professional, it’s easy to set yourself apart from your competitors for the job.
If you don’t get the job, it doesn’t mean you are a loser. Rather, the job wasn’t a good fit for you or someone else was better-qualified. Every interview is an opportunity to get better at interviewing. I often interview for jobs I am only modestly interested in just to hone my skills. I find it fun because I know I’m going to win. Once they think they have to have you, negotiating salary should be pretty easy.
Ask questions in the comments.