Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interviewing Tips

I’m not an expert on interviewing.  Gee.  That’s Earth-shattering news.  However, I have interviewed people for jobs in the IT field quite a few times.  Sometimes as the direct interviewer, but more often as part of a battery of interviews.  Phone interviews are probably my least favorite, but I’ve been on both sides of those conversations many times.  Recently, I was asked to interview candidates for a System Engineer positions my company is (still) trying to fill in Norfolk, Virginia for a large and prestigious law firm.  I assumed that from the job description that I would encounter some top-notch applicants.

I would be wrong.

After sifting through my brain for what went well and what didn’t, I thought I’d jot down a few suggestions for anyone planning on applying for a job and being interviewed by phone.  These apply equally to in-person situations, but I’m aiming this at phone interviews for now.  By the way, I use a 100 point rating system, just sayin

  1. If you put something on your resume, be prepared to explain it and answer questions about it.  Expect nothing to be ignored. 10 points off
  2. Research the employer and the position.  Know what it is you’re applying to do.  Know who you’re hoping to do it for. 80 points off
  3. Proofread your resume.  Run spell-checker on it.  Remember to keep the length of your resume commensurate with the level of position (years of experience).  One page for a CIO position is probably not enough.  5 pages for a help desk tech is probably too much.  5 points off
  4. Verify all cited technology names, product names and versions.  50 points off
  5. Avoid using “uhhh…” and “ummm…” when answering questions.  If you don’t know, say “I don’t know” or “I would need to research that to give you a proper answer”. 5 points off
  6. Don’t answer a question with “well, you know…” – NO. I DON’T KNOW.  Please enlighten me.  10 points off
  7. Spit out the chewing gum.  Even on the phone it’s annoying.  10 points off
  8. Don’t state that you worked on ____, and then answer questions about it by saying something like “well, that was handled by another group/dept”. Bad answer!  30 points off
  9. Be on time!  If you think showing up for work on time is important, how about your first interview?!  If you’re late, or know you will be late, please have a FANTASTIC excuse.  80 points off
  10. Dump the out-dated crap from your resume.  Nobody gives a shit about DOS, Netware, punch cards, or DEC UNIX work you did in the 1980’s.  What you’ve accomplished in the last 10 years is most relevant.  And note the word “accomplished”.  A list of what you did is BORING. What did you accomplish? That’s what matters.  Having irrelevant junk on your resume just adds noise to sift through.  10 points off
  11. Don’t call into your interview from your cell phone while driving or in a noisy place.  If you don’t care enough to find a quiet place with a good connection, you don’t care about getting hired.  30 points off
  12. Enunciate proper English!  If I’m hiring you for a job in Bangalore or Nairobi, that’s one thing.  But if you live and (plan to) work in the United States, avoid dropping consonants from your speech.  “Mountain” is not pronounced “Mow-in”.  It’s business (*biz-ness*)” not “bidness”.  It’s “this” not “dis” also.  Bad speaking skills is a MAJOR FAIL.  90 points off

I suppose you can tell my points are little skewed. :)

Resume Examples:

  • Bad: “I worked on Active Directory”
    • Better: “I administered a Windows Server 2003 R2 Active Directory WAN environment which consisted of 50,000 user accounts, 60,000 computer accounts and 524 servers, spread around the United States in 32 locations.”
  • Bad: “Migrated our company from Netware 4.12 to Windows NT 3.51”
    • Better: <delete>
  • Bad: “I persevered to endeavor a cumulative summation of the rigors of coercive operational management of a rather large team of individuals in the common pursuit of analyzing, approaching, and addressing problems of a technical nature in an aggressive yet meticulously methodical process.”
    • Better: “I directly managed a team of ten (10) technical support personnel in the Tier 1 support center at the corporate headquarters.”
  • Bad: “Worked with Windows Server, VMware, and Citrix”
    • Better: “I installed and managed Windows Server 2008 R2, VMware ESX and vSphere hosts, and Citrix XenApp”
  • Bad: “I worked with SQL Server”
    • Better: “I installed and administered MS SQL Server 2005 and 2008 servers.  Responsibilities included configuring server hardware (controllers, disks, volumes), installing SQL Server, optimized configuration settings for high traffic loads…”

Interview Examples:

  • Question: “What do you know about our company?”
    • Bad: “Not much, really”
    • Better: (be prepared to answer this one)
  • Question: “Why did you apply for this position?”
    • Bad: “My current job sucks”
    • Better: “I’m looking to grow more in the direction of ___” or “I’m looking for more challenges in the area of ___”
  • Question: “I see on your resume that you were *the* person handling ____.  Suppose that you were asked to ____.  How would you approach this?”
    • Bad: “Ummm…  Well…”
    • Better: (be prepared to explain what you do/did in detail)
  • Question: “What features of ___ would you say you are most comfortable with, which would you be least comfortable with?”
    • Bad: “Well, you know…”
    • Better: (be prepared.  avoid “well, you know…”)
  • Question: “Why do you want to leave your current job?”
    • Bad: “Cuz I hate deez mutha-f___ers.”
    • Better: “I’m looking to grow my career in a different direction”

That’s about it.  Just basically know how to explain what it is you claim to have experience with.  Know something about the employer and the job responsibilities (if possible).  Keep your resume and your discussions as relevant to the position and the employer as possible.  Spit out the chewing gum.  Don’t say “ummm” and try to use “yes sir”, “no sir”, “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am”.  Don’t use first names until they ask you to do so.

One final note is that all of this is a weighted scale system.  If it turns out you come highly recommended as an absolute expert guru on something we desperately need, then by all means say “dis”, chew your gum, and call me dickhead.  Just don’t expect a raise after your next review.

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