Making Yourself Relevant: The Interview
Interviews are always going to be part of the job process and they can be the most nerve wracking and hated part of the process. So how do you stand out from the pack and prove that you are best fit for the job?
Applying for jobs can come in many different forms. You could apply through Seek or Star Now, an employer or potential collaborator may approach you or you could be the proactive one and show your passion for work by forcing yourself into being exactly where you need to be, Just as described in this weeks lecture.
Employers will make assessments all along the way from the first time they read the cover letter on your resume, to the first call or e-mail and they will be asking questions all along the way. They will be trying to learn more about your career history and gaining first impressions until the interview comes along. Now your portfolio might be spectacular and you’ve followed Sex, Drugs & Helvetica’s Five ways to pimp your portfolio down to a tee, but no-one will employ on that alone.
That is why the interview is so important, Interviewers are looking to find out what your personality traits are and if you will fit in with the company. They are looking to see what your mentality towards yourself and the industry is and if that will affect your commitment and amount of work you are capable putting in.
Joel Spolsky describes three key components that interviewers look for while interviewing. This leads to what I see as three integral parts for how you should act during an interview.
One: Look for passion. Smart people are passionate about the projects they work on. They get very excited talking about the subject. They talk quickly, and get animated. Bad candidates just don’t care and will not get enthusiastic at all during the interview. A really good sign that a candidate is passionate about something is that when they are talking about it, they will forget for a moment that they are in an interview.
I have only ever had one paying job that I have truly been passionate about in fact in nearly three years later I’m still working at Footlocker. During the interview I got excited while talking about sneakers and my passion showed through. My manager later told me that just the fact I knew what I was talking about, and not my previous retail experience, is what got me the job so easily.
Two: Good candidates are careful to explain things well, at whatever level. I have rejected candidates because when they talked about their previous project, they couldn’t explain it in terms that a normal person could understand.
Explaining in simple terms might not seem that complicated but I find that it really is. I constantly struggle to relate proper names, or even just the terminology companies use for their products, to a common language that others can understand (In fact I think I just did it there).
Three: If the project was a team project, look for signs that they took a leadership role. Remember, Smart Gets Things Done. The only way you’re going to be able to tell if somebody Gets Things Done is to see if historically they have tended to get things done in the past.
Now this is probably the trickiest point of all because not everyone is a team leader but that doesn’t mean they’re not good at what they do. This is also especially interesting for me. Personally, I enjoy being the leader but don’t always have to be, if the group doesn’t need a defined leader then I won’t be it. I honestly enjoy taking a step back and making sure things run smoothly than being loud and giving commands. This, however, would all come down to who is hiring you and for what job, so really the third point comes across as a ‘be yourself and hope for the best’ type of deal.
Interviewing for jobs will always be a major part of the process and I will most likely always be nervous going into them. Although I believe by following Spolsky’s three points; showing that I am passionate for the work, my ability to use correct terminology and explaining things with ease, but most of all just being myself, I can be confident that I represented myself to the best of my abilities. Well, until I get job offers left and right because I’m just that good.