Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting Your First Job: "I Stink At Being Interviewied" (Part 6 of 7)

At the request of one of my loyal fans, I'm spending this week tackling the subject of how to get your first job. It's also occurred to me that some of these getting-your-first-job posts are relevant to everyone, but then it also occurred to me that most fresh college grads haven't experienced these basic things, either.

So you stink at being interviewed? Don't worry... You're interviewer probably stinks at giving interviews, too! Remember how they say you wild animals are more afraid of you than you are of them? It's kind of like that.

Chances are you're not trained to be interviewed, and hiring managers and recruiters are rarely trained to conduct a proper interview. Personally I think I can do a pretty good phone screen for technical people, but there's a ton I'd like to improve on, such as listening, slowing down, getting the interviewee to talk more. In the end, the only thing that's really going to help you get better at interviewing is practice, either real job interviews (preferred) or mock interviews (still pretty good).

To prepare for an interview, I think it really helps to have a few "bullet points" about yourself memorized and ready to go. Something like this...

  • Articulate 3 skills. Identify what you've practiced the most, and make sure pick things that can be measured. Saying "I've been a cashier for 7 years is good", and saying "I've worked with people for a long time" doesn't really say anything at all. My 3 skills might be...

    • 5 years of full life cycle recruiting for tech startups.
    • 5 years of phone sales experience.
    • Cutting through bullshit and getting straight to it.

    A fresh college grad with little work experience might write this...

    • 4 years of computer science classes, focusing on C++ and Java.
    • Time management - I budget my time to ensure my work gets completed on schedule.
    • I can throw a football 87 yards (don't be afraid to have a little fun, but show things that require hard work and practice)

    TIP: These three skills make a great skills summary for the top of your resume.

  • Know 3 interesting tidbits from your background - I recommend two successes and one failure (of course showing that you learned from you mistake). When someone asks me to describe myself today, I say something like...

    • I'm a recruiter that loves being a recruiter. I fell into recruiting when I was looking for any ol' sales job, and I stayed in it because I frikkin' love it.
    • Before recruiting, I sold insurance, got an MBA, and WAY back I used to be techie - mainly in IT and QA.
    • I learned that in recruiting, it's about filling jobs AND submitting candidates. On my first recruiting contract I filled jobs fast, but I didn't submit enough resumes and eventually got fired because they thought I wasn't doing enough.

    TIP: You don't have to volunteer your failures until asked about them, but I think it's good to be able to articulate screw ups and lessons learned.

  • Express your career goals. If you know what you're good at and what you want to do, this will come pretty naturally to you. If you don't even have the first clue where you think you'll be in 3-5 years, I recommend still having an idea of where you want to go - say something like "I've always had an interest in technology, and I applied to your job because I have the essential skills and I'm willing to spend at least 24 months busting my hump for you." There's a great book for those who can't make up their minds about career paths called Refuse To Choose! by Barbara Sher

If there's one thing to take away from this post, it's just to have a good idea in your head of what you've put on your resume. Most interviewers will just be asking you questions about things you've written down, so know what you've written down :)

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