The Problem With Job Interviews

March 31st, 2015

Check out this article by TechCrunch’s Jon Evans: The Terrible Technical Interview

The the tech interview is terrible?

ALL JOB SEARCH INTERVIEWS ARE TERRIBLE.

I remember going to an interview, after a two day training for job seekers, and thinking “did the interviewer prepare in any way for this interview?”  It was horrible. It was embarrassing (for the interviewer).  It was a waste of time.

I remember the interviewer reading questions from a printout (thanks Google, five minutes before our interview!), and not really listening to the answers.  No eye contact, just reading the next question, then the next question.

An interview is not a checklist task to just get through the questions… it should be an engaging time to figure out if the person can do the job and will fit nicely into the culture of the company/team.  But somehow we haven’t figured this out very well.

We let things… discrimination and stereotyping… get in the way of the job search interview.  Sometimes how a person looks, or what they where, or how charming their smile is, will trump how anyone responds.  I’ve seen this in real life.

Jon proposes that the format of a programmer’s interview is scrapped, and they are tested with real situations to solve… kind of like puzzles, from the work environment.  I read Jon’s proposal and think “wow, that sounds intense….!”  But here’s the line that really caught me:

“Now, this does require one huge prerequisite: every candidate must have a side project that they wrote, all by themselves, to serve as their calling card.”

A side project… their calling card.  In the creative world this might be considered your portfolio.

Whatever you call it, I totally agree with Jon.  What can you point to that you have done/accomplished/figured out?

This becomes part of your personal brand messaging.  Swap spots at the interview table for a minute and image that you have 10 final resumes in front of you… and they all look kind of the same.  They all have similar education, similar years of experience, similar titles at similarly impressive companies… they all look great, but none really stand out.

Except one.

The one who has had a side project, and talks about it.  Perhaps there is a website or blog where you can learn more about this person or their side project.  Where the other 9 resumes are just names on resumes, with nothing else to distinguish them, this person’s resume stands out because you read a few blog posts, and saw pictures, and got caught up in the stories.  You read about their project and realized that they have skills and experience that didn’t quite come across in the resume.

You learned about their portfolio because they had one.

Jon has a lot of great points, but this one stuck out the most.

What’s in your portfolio?  What are your side projects that you can point to?  

 

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Trap Interview Questions with Ford Myers

March 18th, 2015

You know, when you are in a job interview, the question the interviewer asks might not really be the question they want you to answer.  Or, to put it another way, they might ask a question just to see if you have… issues.

Here’s a great youtube video where Ford Myers addresses the why’s and how to answer specific questions in a job search interview:

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The Ultimate Interview Question #JobSearch

November 12th, 2014

On LinkedIn there is an article proposing the ultimate interview question.  I don’t agree with the author.

Spoiler alert: he says the ultimate interview question is “What did you learn last week?”  The author makes a case for this being the ultimate question… but I’m guessing he is someone who really values learning and curiousity… both great things.  My experience, though, is that most interviewers aren’t even close to ready to ask that question, much less understand great answers to the question.

If I were to interview someone right now, I would ask questions about their skillset (we are a technical company and I need to know you have the breadth/depth of skills for the job) and experience and results (if it’s a sales role, I need to know you’ve been a rainmaker).  My series of questions, and their answers and attitudes, will hopefully help me understand if this person has integrity, will fit into my culture, and of course able to do the job.

But none of the questions I ask would be the ultimate interview question. Most of these questions will sound run-of-the-mill and boring.

The ultimate interview question, I think, will be the one that the job seeker asks.

You see, I’ve got my list of questions I’m going to ask the final 10, or 5, or 2 candidates… and after a while all the answers will sound the same. Once I get it down to the best of my list, you will all be admirable.  Each of you will have your own strengths, and some weaknesses, but overall, any of you might be the right hire.

If you really want to knock my socks off, and show me that you CARE, and WANT this job, then don’t wait for me to ask the ultimate interview question.  You should bring your own question.  Show me that you’ve done your research.  Show me that you understand my company, customers, competition, challenges, etc.  Show me, with your question(s), that you are a smart thinker, and anxious to attack some problems.

I want to hire someone who is, as my college programming professor said, “high speed, low drag.”  That means they aren’t going to sit around waiting for me to give them direction.  Show me that you are ready to take initiative, and you don’t need me to hand feed you your tasks.

Having laid that foundation, what are some great questions you could ask in an interview?  I’m not sure there is one question that will show all of those things… it will depend on the company, industry, culture, and how the interview is going (and how interested/engaged the interviewers are)… but what are some ideas of questions you might ask to position yourself as the right person to hire?

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Interview Follow-up Checklist (Mary Elizabeth Bradford)

September 15th, 2014
career coach, resume expert

career coach, resume expert

Here’s an article on the Careerealism site by my friend Mary Elizabeth Bradford: The Best Interview Follow Up Checklist

Her points (read the article because she has more details):

  1. Find Out The Next Step
  2. Don’t Think The Worst
  3. Use Your Common Sense
  4. Leave A Great Follow Up Voicemail
  5. Send A Thank You Letter
  6. Include A ‘P.S.’ In Your Follow Up Letter
  7. Send A Follow Up List Of Short Testimonials

Note three opportunities to FOLLOW-UP! As you follow-up, focus on potential long-term relationships, not just on a yes/no answer. Of course you want a yes/no answer, but if you change your mentality from “it’s a numbers game,” you’ll leave less casualties on your job search journey and strengthen your network size and depth (of relationships).

Attitude is so powerful, isn’t it?  Just going through the motions without the right attitude will be detrimental (trust me, I did that).

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How To: Word Cloud and Key Word Analysis of Job Descriptions and Resumes (on JibberJobber)

July 15th, 2014

Many years ago I heard about the brilliant idea of pasting your resume, or a job description, into a word cloud generator to get an analysis of what words and phrases were commonly used.  We now have a tool to help you do this type of analysis in JibberJobber.  What we have now is Phase I of a bigger project, with some really cool and useful enhancements in the planning stage.

This type of reporting and analysis can help you create better resumes, and prepare for interviews better.  If I had an interview I was preparing for, I would do this analysis on ten jobs with the same titles and then compare, side-by-side, what the analysis shows me.  Smarter resumes, smarter cover letters, smarter interviews, smarter networking dialogs… it all comes from understanding better what companies are looking for.

Below is how our word cloud stuff works (this is all on the Jobs Detail Page – I would create a “Job” record of just my resume, and do the same analysis of my resume as I would of a job description):

First, put a Job into JibberJobber.  You can see this is for a Senior Systems Analyst / release Manager:

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature

Then, scroll down on the Detail Page (the page after you save the job, not the Add/Edit page), and you’ll see these three tabs (right above the Log Entries area):

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature_2

The first tab is for Notes, which is what we have in the other Detail Pages, and what we’ve had in JibberJobber since 2006.  The second tab is where you paste the Job Description, which is a simple Copy/Paste from LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, Dice, etc.  The third tab is where you will see the Word Cloud, and other analysis (see below).

Here’s what a Job Description looks like, pasted into the second tab (NOTE that double-clicking on the tab will allow you to add/edit the Notes, and add (paste) a Job Description):

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature_3

Now that we have a job description in, we can click on the third tab, and see the Word Cloud (first tab), and the Analysis.  Here’s what the Word Cloud looks like… notice I can change the output to different types of word clouds, and I can show x% of the top words/phrases:

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature_4

So that’s it – that is what most word cloud systems let you do (afaik).  The next thing we do is show you a simple statistical analysis, under the Analysis tab:

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature_5

NOTE the last line in this image (there more more below this one) is TWO words… we allow you to create multi-word “phrases (see more below), as well as blacklist words or phrases, in the last two tabs.

So, click on the Phrases tab and you can see that we can force phrases – if “computer systems” are two words right next to each other, we force them to be a phrase, instead of making computer one word and systems another word… pretty cool way to “clean up” the results:

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature_6

We can also blacklist words, like and or the or something else we don’t need to see in the analysis.  This also helps clean up the analysis:

jibberjobber_wordcloud_analysis_feature_7

SO that’s it’s for Phase I.  There are some REALLY COOL features that I want to introduce in Phase II… stay tuned!  If you have any requests to enhance this analysis and reporting, let me know: Jason at JibberJobber dot com – thanks!

Note: I don’t blog about that because my competitors like to read my blog posts to see what we’re up to, and see what they can squeeze into their system…

 

 

 

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Ask The Expert: Fred Coon, Outplacement and Job Search Expert

April 25th, 2014

My call with Fred Coon was awesome.  There were a lot of gems throughout this call.  I have two regrets:

  1. We didn’t have more time.  It seems like Fred just skimmed the surface on an 8-step plan… I think we could have talked for hours more.  BUT, what he was able to share in 90 minutes was a great foundation for anyone.
  2. I asked Fred, impromptu, to provide a little banjo music in the back while I wrapped it up.   He did, I wrapped up, and I mistakenly stopped the recording when I was done instead of when he was done.  I’ve never been banjo’d before… it was very cool :)

Below is our conversation.  I encourage you to take notes, and if you want, let us know what impacted you most, and the minute mark of that impactful moment, so we can get to it easier.

Enjoy!  (vimeo provides a full screen option comes on after you click play, but there is no visual… you can put this on while you do something else (like take notes?))

See past Ask The Expert recordings here.

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A superb, brilliant and sagacious list of ways to communicate better

January 23rd, 2014

I saw this on Facebook, I’m sure.  It is a list of 45 ways to avoid using the word ‘very’, and it is a MUST-READ.

Why is this a must-read?  Not everyone here is a writer… but everyone here is a communicator!

This list is all about taking normal conversation and enhancing it.  The goal is not to confuse people with fancy words (like sagacious, which I would actually have to look up).  The goal is to have more impactful communication.  Say or write your message differently to have more impact!  Can you imagine being a job seeker in an interview, or a salesperson in front of a prospect, and being the most memorable because you were the most impactful?

It’s really that important.  Check out this brilliant list from Amanda Patterson in South Africa :)

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Elon Musk and Lying in Interviews

January 22nd, 2014

I LOVE what Elon Musk is sharing in the short video on this page: Here’s How Elon Musk Can Tell If Job Applicants Are Lying About Their Experience (it is about minute 1:05, but watch the first minute)

If you interview people, understanding how Elon dives into the interview will help you interview a thousand times better than asking those dumb questions everyone expects you to ask.

If you are a job seeker, and preparing for interviews, if you can figure out how to talk to the depth and breadth of problems you have solved, you should rise above your competition.

Brilliant. Watch it here.

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The BEST article on video interviews for job seekers

November 21st, 2013

I’ve seen a lot of articles on video interviews, this one easily takes the cake: How To Nail A Video Interview.

Save it, print it out, highlight it, and read it three times before you do a video interview.  There are examples of what not to do (keep your finger out of your nose, even if you think the interview is over / don’t get sloshed to “calm your nerves”) and a great list of what you SHOULD do.

Yes, you can buy the guy’s book if you want, but make sure you save this article for a quick reference when you are preparing for the interview.  From lighting to makeup to waiting 3 seconds after the question is asked… this stuff WILL make or break your interview.

 

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Critical Interview Tip From Someone Known to be Cocky

October 28th, 2013

That would be me… the guy knows as cocky (aka, self-confident).   I’m sure I’ve made this mistake, but I also heard of someone else who recently made this mistake.

Imagine this: you are in a job interview and the interviewer asks you “can you do this particular skill?”  You either answer:

a) “oh yeah, I can do that. “

b) ”I haven’t done it before, but I’m sure I could learn it.”

Does that sound familiar?

Is this a response you have made, heard, or might make?

Let me give you a tip to give a response way, way, way more impactful. Instead of saying a), “yeah, I can do that.”, say something like this:

“Yes, I can do that.  In my past job I had this exact responsibility.  I was given the task and within six months was training others to do it well.”

Isn’t that 1,000% better than “yeah, I can do that.”

Here is something better to say than b), “I haven’t done it before, but I’m sure I could learn it.”

“I haven’t done that before, but I really think I could learn it quickly.  In my last job I was asked to do learn a new software program we were going to use at the front desk.  No one had any experience with it, but I dove into the user manuals and got on the training webinars, and was quickly able to train the rest of the front desk team.  In fact, the software company recognized me as one of their best users and asked if they could refer some of their other key customers to me for consulting.”

Isn’t that impressive?  Much better than “yeah, I’m sure I could learn it.”

SHOW ME.

Of course you need to have your own, and better, wording.  The idea, though, is to give examples, and what I call “mini stories.”  If you can get it into a Problem-Action-Result format, your response will be way better than what you were going to say, and probably better than your “competition.”

Sound good?

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