Sunday, September 30, 2007

Very helpful article for job applicants.

Very helpful article for job applicants. If you going into an interview this week or next, you should take a skim.

If you’re wondering about your next job, there are a series of Rands articles which might make the transition easier. First off, there’s A Glimpse and a Hook, which will describe how managers read your resume. Then we’ve got The Sanity Check, which will prepare you for the phone screen. And finally, there’s Ninety Days, which sketches out a plan for the first three months of your new gig.


Before you start pushing buttons, you need to gather a little data about how your interview is constructed. Is it structured or unstructured?

In a structured interview, each person interviewing you has a specific topic area: people skills, technical skills, etc. This means that each interview has a specific purpose and no two interviews that day are going to be alike. Someone has put in effort to make sure the different interviewers don’t step on each other’s toes.

The unstructured interview is a free-for-all. There’s an interview list, but no one has been given guidance about what to ask, so they wing it. With each person who walks in the door, an unstructured interview is a study in personality identification. More on this in a moment when I explain about interview creatures.

In general, the participants in structured interviews come prepared. There is a process, which occurred before you showed up. This might have involved a pre-interview meeting. They’ve read your resume and each person is likely capable of carrying the interview.

Unstructured interviewers waste the first ten minutes of the interview doing the homework they should’ve done before you arrived. It’s annoying, but, as you’ll see, it’s a great way to figure out what they are about.

As an aside, my preferred use of interview time is a structured-unstructured hybrid. While I don’t give interviewers specific topics to cover, I’ve chosen specific people because I know they gravitate towards certain professional areas such as technical aptitude or cultural fit. This structural ambiguity means interviewers can creatively adapt their questions to each person while also assuring that I get a complete professional picture of the candidate.

Understanding the structure of the interview process gives you some of your first insight into the organization, but the information doesn’t start to flow until you stare at and understand your potential future co-workers.

Then he has advice on how to deal with certain types of people.

Interview Creatures

Pissed Off Pete

Pete’s agenda is obvious 30 seconds into the interview because he’s pissed off. This isn’t an interview; this is an opportunity for Pete to rant to a captive audience. He’s going to go through the motions by bringing in your resume and feigning interest, but all he really wants to do is gripe about “the situation”.

The Button: Ask anything. Doesn’t matter, Pete is going to twist the answer so that he can ramble some more about how screwed up “the situation” is.

Influence: Low. These interviews are normally a waste of time and there are two red flags to consider. First, who thought it was a good idea for Pete to interview you? Don’t they know he’s a one-trick rant pony? Second, why is Pete so pissed off? What kind of organization lets Pete get this tense?

Perhaps your best tactic with Pete is to spend as much time as possible understanding “the situation”. If it’s so bad that he’s going to ignore the opportunity of learning about you, a potential co-worker, maybe “the situation” is something you should understand before you consider joining the company. Even better, asking about “the situation” is a great button exploration technique in later interviews.

Chatty Patty

Yeah, Patty’s here, too. Again, this isn’t an interview. Patty loves to talk and the moment you ask anything, she’ll start and it’ll be hard to get her to stop.

The Button: Ask any question.

Influence: Like Pete, I have concerns about an organization that puts Patty on the interview schedule. Unlike Pete, Patty can be a huge source of information, so use the time well. She’ll answer any question: “Why do you love your job?”, “Who’s a jerk?”, “Why’s Pete so pissed off?”

Given that Patty is going to do most of the talking, her report on you is going to be vanilla and dull. Don’t sweat her.

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