Friday, February 6, 2015

Want a job interview? Whip inflation now!

Based on a flood of interviewing that we're doing here at Brivo, I thought it would be good to discuss a couple of very basic principles around interviewing for a new job. Those of you who currently work for Brivo, please ignore... :)

Even cursory scans online will produce an enormous quantity of information for handling yourself well in a job interview. But, for this discussion, I'd like to only cover the points important in actually GETTING an in-person job interview. No, I don't want to talk about writing a well-formatted resume, or whether to use a recruiter, online job board, or massive letter writing campaign to get yourself into contention. I want to talk about what comes right after that... the telephone interview.

The phone interview is your first, and BEST, chance to make a good impression on a prospective hiring manager. Out of many dozens (or even 100s) of resumes, you will probably be one of 10-20 folks who are phone interviewed, and that will result in 2-4 of you being invited to appear in person. Handling the phone interview well is critical, and amazingly, handled TERRIBLY by the vast majority of candidates.

First, show that you can communicate! Speak clearly, be to-the-point, and don't ramble on throwing every buzzword you know into every response. Answer the question. If you like, give a couple of sentences answer, then ask, "Would you like me to go into more detail regarding xxxxxx?" They'll love you.

Next, be prepared to represent your experiences to the best extent possible. You should reread your OWN resume and make sure you are 100% familiar with it, and be ready to discuss any of the items on it in full detail. Just a few examples of items you should be ready to discuss for each job you've had:
  • What was your basic function on the team?
  • What products/services did your participation affect?
  • Which of your skills most came into play?
  • What were your biggest challenges?
  • Etc, Etc, Etc... Ad infinitum... Ad nauseum...
The exact answers to these questions aren't as important as showing that you can communicate, express an opinion, and back it up. Hiring managers don't care if your favorite tree is the elm or the pine, but they do care that you can give an answer and back it up in a couple of sentences.

Finally, here is the WORST mistake you can make, and it is the mistake that is most-often made. Do NOT over-represent your skills. It has become very common for folks to include every skill known to man on their resumes, and to list themselves as "experts" in the area, or as having "extensive experience working with" it. This is called Resume Inflation, and it might get you a call, but it will get you shut out of an in-person interview faster than anything else.

Look, your perspective hiring manager can have a difficult time finding out if you REALLY had a particular function on a particular team. He can't know that you didn't really have someone helping you get that product done 5 years ago. He can't know that you really didn't bring it in on time and with perfect quality, as you say. What the hiring manager CAN do is ask you questions about skills you have represented you are an "expert" in. And, any good hiring manager will do that. Some of the interviews we've been having recently have resulted in conversations analogous to this:
Us: So we see you list "driving a car" as a skill you have, yes?
Candidate: Absolutely!
Us: So where would you say you are on a scale of 1-5, where 1 would be "just passing knowledge", and 5 would be "total expert" with respect to driving a car?
Candidate: Oh I'm a total 5, maybe even a 6. I drive one multiple times a day, everyday.
Us: Great. So tell us, when you drive a car, which foot pedal is on the right?
Candidate: Well, uh, I usually don't have to do that... I have a tool that helps do that for me... what I think is important is that people in the car wear their seatbelts and you use a GPS to get where you want to go, and...
Get the point? If he had said, "Well, I've seen it done, so I'm a 1 or a 2 with that," then we wouldn't ask detailed questions. We might only NEED someone with passing knowledge of something, but misrepresenting yourself will be a showstopper.

Putting a million buzzwords on your resume might get it found by more searches, but separate out those areas you have passing knowledge in from those areas you are truly gifted in. That way, the search will still find you, but it will be clear what you truly know. You might not get as many calls, but those that you do get will be more targeted to what the employer is really looking for.