The Job Interview in the Rear View

Its recruiting season again! Interview invitations are being extended, and a number of my friends are already interviewing heavily for their desired positions. This got me thinking about my own interview process, which I like to compare to the process of dating. It was drawn out, difficult, emotionally draining and frustrating. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; I ended up with a job at a cool company 🙂

Like almost everything else in life, there’s always room for improvement with respect to one’s interviewing skills. This realization made me decide to write down the things I felt I would do differently if I had to interview for a job all over again. I came up with two major points:

1. More Research: I realized a little late in the game that background research is a very important way to ensure that you deliver a wow performance during a job interview. If I were to do it all over again, I would go beyond the basic information on the company website, and perform analyses on the company financials, product portfolios, customer segmentation, current and future challenges, and industry trends. I would then find some way to add these insights to my answers during the interview, as well as the questions I would ask the interviewer. I believe this would’ve gone a long way to demonstrate my interest in the company.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice: With each additional interview I did, I realized that my stories sounded more coherent and concise, and I delivered them in a much better maner. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have practiced the delivery of these stories a lot more, by taking advantage of mock interview sessions (usually organized by career services teams on campus), and friends who like me enough to listen to me babble for a couple of minutes, and then provide feedback.

To make this post richer, I gathered input from 2 friends whom I admire and respect. Please note that the tips they provided are entirely their opinions, and are not in any way associated with their employers:

1. Brian Hull – Inside Sales Representative, VMware.

1. Leverage Interview Practice Tools: For my interviews, I worked heavily with tools from the Career Tools Interviewing Series. I would recommend investing time on their notecard framework for answering behavioral interview questions, so one can have a broad range of stories for use during the interviews.

2. More Aggressive Followup: I didn’t hesitate to call into HR departments or hiring managers offices. However, I could have cut down the gap between followups, and being a little more aggressive in securing additional followup contacts. For example, “Thanks for your time today, would it be helpful for me to reach out late next week to touch base?”

2. Ojus Jajoo – Solution Manager, Microsoft Corp.

1. Change The Perception: I have noticed that many of us approach the interview as an exclusively ‘elimination’ process rather than ‘explore the possibilities and determine if we are a good fit’ process. The fact is that if you are a really good candidate, the recruiter is more nervous than you because they are afraid to lose you to their competition!
Don’t believe me? Well, here are a few examples: Why do companies take training sessions/informational before their actual interviews? Why do they invest time in you for group discussions/case studies/mock interviews right before the interview? It is because they know that you belong to a good pool of candidates, who might have just what they are looking for. All they want is that you don’t goof up in a ‘series of mistakes’ – under ‘interview pressure’ – and give them a solid reason to reject you outright. I believe that the change in approach from “I am going in to an elimination round” to “I am going to explore the possibilities and give the best I got” is a very subtle but crucial factor, and it occurs sub-consciously in that it ultimately gets revealed in your gestures/persona/behavior on the interview day.

2. Start Off on a Positive/Energetic Note: This is very important. I read it somewhere that the acceptance/rejection of a candidate is made sub-consciously within the first 30-40 seconds of the interview. While this may not always be true, it is a good thing to keep in mind to increase your chances.
Again, don’t believe me? Well, let me ask you this – Remember the time when you first met one of your classmates, and made some notions about him/her just based on the first conversation you had with them? The only difference here is that you meet your classmates later as well, and do get a chance to change any dull impressions you had made earlier. However, in an interview, you’ve got only one shot, and I strongly believe that the first few seconds heavily impact the image which the interviewer will hold for the rest of the interview.
3. Sharpen your Communication Skills: Communication skills are the most important to have! I can’t stress this enough. At the end of the day, it is really a make-or-break factor.

Anyone more interview tips out there?

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