I’ve been considering whether or not to create a post with interviewing tips. My concerns mostly lay with the idea that my new co-workers will think that I’ve gamed them by creating some scheme, some strategy, but I have not (really). These questions and processes were built mostly by me, although I’ve also received some general guides from a few recruiters.
Listen, don’t speak, and maintain your cool head:
I blather on and on usually, I can digress like crazy, and I lose my train of thought regularly. My main focus was to simply not speak. Shutting your mouth can avoid digging a hole too deep to escape from. It also allows you time to gather valuable info you can pivot off of and use later in your responses and thank you email (we’ll get to that later, you classless IT person).
I went on an interview where I was asked to describe some things I’d do to maintain and improve their systems when I joined. I gave a thorough answer, including outlining several products I would use, and how I would use them; then the following situation arose:
- “So… now that you’ve listed the things you see yourself doing when you join us, what else would you do?”
- “okay… what else?”
- “Thanks… what else?”
- “You’re doing okay… what else?”
This situation is geared to gauge how you perform under pressure. Looking back, it became clear that I don’t like this style of management, so I consider it a dodged bullet (red flag). By the way, I freaked out. Lesson learned. You can handle this easily by saying something like “I’d continue to be proactive in seeking solutions to challenges that come to the surface as well as continue to seek improvements for existing challenges.”
Have three questions that show you’re seriously interested:
- “What direction do you see technology moving in the company?” This gives you an idea of how each person you speak with actually uses and “sees” tech.
- “What major pain points do you have?” “What did the last dude not do for you that you wish he had?” This will assist you with how to phrase and focus your responses to questions as well as your thank you Email.
- “What will my first three months be like?” This shows the interviewer you’re interested in reducing your risk, which means you’re attacking the situation with “maturity” and seriousness.
I was extremely surprised that a systems manager at a very successful company responded to the last question with “you’ve stumped me… I’ve never had anyone ask this before…” and he proceeded to not answer. After he couldn’t answer this question, it became clear that he didn’t read my resume. These are both red flags. I ended the interview; offer me all the money, all the exposure and knowledge… if there is risk I will fail because you can’t manage your team, because you don’t care enough to manage your team, I’m outta here!
Have several STARs ready:
A STAR is a simple: Create a bullet point list that covers the following four aspects of a project or thing you’ve done: situation, task, action, resolution. I’d suggest having four ready, and if you can, focus on your latest position. Okay, have at least two ready and be ready to fill a lot of time with them.
After my wife told me about STAR, I had a phone interview with an HR rep, she literally said “so explain a situation that you assessed, tasks you completed, and the eventual solution…” quoted nearly word for word.
If you can, practice.
Luckily I had my wife present while I was prepping. She did me a favor, threw on her suit jacket and dissected my resume at the kitchen table (throwing on her scary professional woman voice and shaking my hand when I entered the room). She’s not in IT so she avoided a majority of technical fire throwing, but it worked out. Okay… fine… her first job was with an IT recruiter, but it was when she was like 16.
Find a friend, sibling, or that neighbor you hear throwing out the garbage to sit down and grill you. I’d suggest buying the neighbor a six pack or bottle of wine, as they would really be best, since you don’t know them. “Hi, can you review my resume with me for like a half hour? I have beer and wine,” I’m sure that will work well. Try it.
Write a thank you:
- Don’t be classless. Write a thank you email. It’ll take five minutes of your time.
Pivot off of information you gathered during your recon phase (aka interview), particularly from the answers to the questions you’ve asked. Knowing the situation, distill relevant things into two sentences. Let’s say theoretically, you speak to the COO who says “this last guy was always late,” use the actual words “dependable” and “reliable” in your Thank You. [this did not happen to me]
Don’t be an idiot:
- Yes, don’t be an idiot.
- Think about what you’re physically doing (the observer: “This version of the observer is a portion of consciousness that metaphorically looks over the shoulder of the individual and helps to inform them of their actions and the reasons for them.”). I mean, you’re not sales, but don’t slump, and smile, even if it hurts you. Physically mirror your interviewer.
- Don’t be cocky, everyone will hate you.
- Don’t lie.
Are you not dependable or reliable? Don’t say so. If you say so, then your actions prove otherwise, people will begin to second guess you and that’s bad. If you suck as a paid employee, then continue to suck (get paid less or fired) or change your work ethic (and get paid more and not fired).
Think about who you’re speaking with:
- Systems Manager is probably looking for: pragmatic, functional, technical.
- COO is probably looking for: big picture, functional, execution driven.
- HR rep is probably looking for: verification you’re not a sociopathic cave dweller (unless that’s what they’re looking for), vibe, cultural fit, not an idiot (may have some basic questions).
- CEO/owner/partner: looking for pragmatism, I read an article that said CEOs like to “have conversations with candidates [because they lack the technical knowledge to grill you].”
All of these are techniques that should do one primary thing: reduce your nervousness.
You either are or are not able to do the job. The fundamental issue is expressing your skills correctly (whether they be technical or human).
Get emotionally and mentally ready:
You should want to reach right outside of your comfort zone, and if your new employer wants someone who is a master of everything they have, then you will not grow; and they will not help you grow. This is a red flag.
An employer who focuses on the potential of their human capital is where you want to be. You don’t need them. They (should) need you [but don’t be cocky].