Job Interviewing 101 And 101.1

I’ve never been one to think that I would spend my entire working life at one job.  Maybe it’s because my dad devoted several years to a company he worked for only to have his pension taken away as a cost cutting move a few years before he retired.  Maybe it’s because I’ve learned over time that loyalty is a two-way street and there are always construction crews blocking one of the lanes on that street.  It could also be that if I’m not challenged I tend to get bored after a year or two with one company.  When that happens in my relationship with my vehicle, I go out and get a new one.  Same thing with my job.  The downfall can be you don’t get a warranty with that new job like you do a new vehicle!

If you’re going to be changing jobs every few years there are certain rules you have to accept as reality.  Things like how the economy will most likely dictate when and where you’re going next, the logistics involved with moving your 401(k), you’ll most likely upset some people, you’ll most likely make some people happy, and you’ll have to go through that process that most people hate, known as the job interview.

There are a lot of so-called experts out there when it comes to interviewing for a job.  Some of them believe you can go after any type of job using a blanket approach to the interview.  I don’t think that’s true at all – you can’t use the same strategies when going after a blue-collar job as opposed to a white-collar job.  There are many differences between going for a job hocking beer at a sports arena and interviewing for a job as a sales manager.  Although it’s true there are many similarities between those two jobs, the ways to successfully land them are not the same.  Many of the so-called experts have a list of rules to follow in an interview setting.  Well, there are some unwritten rules that need to be followed as well that I’ll touch on here.

I’m a business applications web developer.  I write web-based applications (what the newbies now call “apps”) that help businesses run their business.  It’s a white-collar job, and it translates into sitting in a cubicle all day with my head down writing program code.  It’s not overly glamorous, and it’s a little different for me because like your average computer programmer, I don’t consider myself a geek.  I don’t write code in my “spare time”.  I haven’t seen a single Star Wars movie.  I wouldn’t even own a cell phone if the company I work for didn’t provide me with one to make sure I’m tethered to them at all times.  I’m not a big fan of most technologies if they make the world too small and they take away our identity or privacy.  With that being said, I’ll look at some interviewing guidelines from the standpoint of going after a white-collar job.  If you’re looking for tips on how to land that dream job at your local 7-Eleven or Burger King, you might want to Google that and head off into some other place.

Job interviewing is both an art form and hard work.  Personally, I love the entire process.  Too many people get bent out of shape and nervous about it.  The way I look at it is I am interviewing them as much or more as they are interviewing me.  You’re making an investment in your future here, and if you really believe you have a future, then do it right.  To me it’s a chance to meet new people, peel back their onion layers and see what makes them tick.  I have never bombed in an interview.  I’ve always made it to the final stage of acceptance of an offer or turning it down.  Don’t let people tell you that you have to imagine that the interviewer is naked.  Don’t let people tell you to write things down on notecards.  Those people are clueless and their suggestions will lead you astray and keep you working at the same job you’re trying to leave.

The first step is always to update your resume.  As soon as you start a new job and realize what it is you actually do, update your resume.  When you’re ready to start looking for another job again, your resume is the first thing you’ll need.  It is also imperative to note – jobs will NOT come looking for you.  You have to hunt down your job to make it happen.  You have to become a job stalker.  Realize that looking for a job is a job in itself and it takes committment and effort.  Use the web as a resource – there are ten million web sites out there to help you get job postings, job seeker advice and other tools to assist you.

Here are the hard and fast rules to successful job interviewing (Job Interviewing 101):

  • Prepare.  There is no excuse for walking into an interview and not knowing anything about the company.  That’s one beautiful thing about the Internet – do the research!  Also bring several copies of your resume with you and have your resume memorized.
  • Dress the part.  Always over dress.  If I’m interviewing someone and they dare walk in without wearing a suit and tie I send them home.  It’s disrespectful and a waste of my time.  If I don’t send them home, I hate them through the entire interview.
  • Use good posture.  During the interview, leaning back in your chair means you’re either not fully interested, bored, or you don’t understand what’s going on in the world around you.  Leaning forward too much means you’re desperate or you’re having cramps.  Having your arms folded in front of you means you’re on the defensive.  Relax, don’t slouch, and open yourself up to the information the interviewer is giving you.  If you have to stand during your interview, you’re at the wrong place.
  • Back up your statements with actions.  When you say, “I created a tool that changed mankind forever”, don’t stop there, take it to another level.  Add something like, “Based on the statistics gathered by usage of this tool over time, it’s been determined that 98.5% of the entire world population uses my product.  It’s called a toilet.”  Impressive!
  • Hygiene goes a long way.  Take a shower before you go to your interview.  Don’t overuse perfume or deodorants, rather use them in moderation.  Guys, trim your facial hear, trim your nose and ear hair.  Gals, don’t go overboard on your makeup.  If your fingernails are painted make sure they’re not neon yellow with little LED lights that flash.  If you’re going to smoke a cigarette before the interview, have something on hand like gum or breath freshener.  If you’re going to smoke something other than a cigarette, then best of luck to you.  Get rid of your gum before you walk in the door.
  • Ask questions.  Asking questions shows you’re interested and actually care about the position you’re interviewing for.  When the interviewer asks you if you have any, the quickest way to kill your chances is to reply with a no.
  • Don’t discuss politics.  In most cases you don’t know the interviewer’s political orientation.  This is a potential minefield that you should avoid at all costs.  One footstep in the wrong direction and you’re interview leg has just been blown off and in most cases, triage is not offered at job interviews.  You’ll bleed out and have to go back to the job you hate with your tail between your leg if that’s even possible.
  • Don’t discuss religion.  Oh my God don’t even get me started with this one…
  • Don’t discuss salary and/or benefits until the final stage of the process.  Doing so beforehand tells the employer those things are more important to you than having the opportunity to learn and grow in your position and make serious contributions to the company’s bottom line.  I know, it IS all we really care about, but play the game and it’ll work well for you.  The main thrust of the interview should be what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • If at all possible, talk to a former employee of the place where you’re interviewing.  I was fortunate to be able to do this the last time I interviewed, just last week.  That person’s perspective saved me from making a huge mistake, accepting a position at a place where I didn’t really want to work after all.
  • Leave your cell phone in your car.  It comes off as looking really stupid if your cell phone rings during your interview and it’s your babysitter calling to tell you your kid is face down in the bathtub or your wife wants to remind you to pick up a gallon of milk and Jack Daniels on your way home.
  • If you’re a female and you have some serious physical assets, it’s best not to try to flaunt them.  If you use that tactic on a male interviewer, you won’t like what’s waiting for you down the road if you’re hired, if that’s why you are hired.  If you’re being interviewed by a female interviewer, well, let me think about that for a few minutes and I’ll get back to you…
  • At the end of the interview, if you want the job, tell the interviewer that you, um, WANT THE JOB!
  • Follow up with an email thanking the interviewer(s) for their time and further express your interest in the job.  This could be your last impression and it’s just as important as your first impression.
  • Never use a new job offer as leverage against your current employer.  When you made the decision to leave your current job, there was a reason why you wanted to leave.  Don’t use a salary offer from a potential new job as leverage with your current job thinking that it will make things better.  The reasons why you wanted to leave your current job will still be there, and if you stay, those reasons will still make you want to leave.  Most employers understand this.  Once you give your notice to leave, any employer that asks, “Is there anything we can do to get you to stay?” is either not worth working for or is looking for something to hold against you down the road at pay increase or layoff time.

Here are the soft and slow rules to successful job interviewing, the ones no one teaches you about (Job Interviewing 101.1):

You have to always remember that if (when) you succeed, you will be working with these same clowns that are interviewing you now.  How do you get to look into that crystal ball and get the info you need on these potential co-workers?  It’s simple – Interview Rule #16: Get the person interviewing you to talk about themself.  It’s been proven that most interviewers have an ego thing where they like to talk about themselves.  Ask them how they got started at the company, ask them how they climbed the ladder there.  It’s a form of you stroking their ego without coming across as a brown-nosing suck up.  Save that for later after you’ve been hired and need a pay increase.

Another thing to remember is in many cases the person interviewing you isn’t comfortable doing the interviewing.  It’s a drag when this happens because oftentimes this creates an uncomfortable atmosphere.  It’s like a bad first date where you realize three minutes in that you have nothing in common with the other person and it’ll probably end after the dinner.  No movie, no first date nookie, not even a kiss goodnight.  You’ll sense this right away.  Hopefully you have developed a decent personality over the years and you can help this poor sap out by taking charge and leading him or her into a more comfortable conversation.  Try to find something the two of you have in common and use it to steer the interview.  Interviewing rule #31B.

I don’t give a crap what anyone says, people judge you during an interview.  That’s really what the process is all about.  Everyone puts their best face forward and is on their best behavior.  If your best face has 27 piercings in your nose, cheek, eyebrows and chin, you might want to use some spackle and fill those in and leave the hardware at home.  If you have a dragon tattoo on your neck, cover that thing up with clothing.  If you find that coloring your hair a shocking shade of purple and dying your eyebrows orange sets you apart from other candidates, you’re right, it does, and you’re wrong.  White collar interviewers usually have some sort of stick or prod up their ass.  You want to present yourself in the most conservative way you can.  Sure, I know a lot of people are into self-expression, but a job interview isn’t the place to do it, unless you want to express the fact that you might be some sort of freak creature from Neptune.  Sorry folks, that’s not my opinion, that’s just the way it is, and that’s interviewing rule #11.

The rules about asking for and giving out personal information vary from state to state.  You want to limit how much you offer up.  This is an area where, if you’re not a skilled interviewee, you can start to ramble on about nothing.  I think it’s ok to tell the interviewer about things that could affect your job like how long your commute would be because of where you live.  But if you tell the person that you will be late into the office on Tuesdays because you have to take your illegitimate daughter to visit her daddy at the state correctional institution, that might be a bit much.  If you’re asked about your family, it’s alright to offer your marital status, how many kids you have, and the fact that you volunteer in your town’s annual Chamber of Commerce garden sale.  But don’t tell the guy your daughter is in and out of juvy because she hangs out with the wrong crowd or the fact that your son’s been arrested three times for smoking dope under the bleachers at Friday night high school football games.  If it doesn’t affect your ability to do the job you’re interviewing for, then keep it quiet and just let the councilors handle your kids.  Interview rule #22A.

It is important to always tell the truth during an interview.  It is also important to lie.  Your task at hand is to know when to do which.  If you lie on your resume about your skills I can guarantee it will come out within the first week or two after you start your new job.  Employers have certain rights in that regard.  The solution is to simply not do it.  Save yourself the time and the embarrassment and just be truthful.  Aside from lying about skills, there is some leeway when it comes to former employers.  You should never lie about dates of employment or salary because by law, those two things can be checked and verified when your potential new employer calls your former employers.  You can stretch the truth a bit about the details of your position based on your perception of them.  But if you’ve got an employer listed on your resume that you know will bad mouth you, get creative.  I have two former employers that I don’t want anyone to know I worked for them.  I simply dropped them from my resume.  To explain why I have a year-long gap in my employment history, I simply tell the potential employer that I took a planned sabbatical.  Done, over, and I’m not telling him anything that he can or can’t prove.  At the same time, it looks like all of my former employers loved me and hated to see me go.  Interview rule #64.

This could be the job of a lifetime for you.  You’re more excited than a catholic priest at a boy scout meeting.  You’ve finished all but the final stage of the interview process and you feel like you’ve got the job sewn up and in the bag.  Of course you want to tell the world, maybe some of your co-workers, so you make some phone calls and you’ve scheduled a night out on the town with a bunch of your closest buddies.  You have a great time that night, you go to bed confidently looking forward to the final formality of meeting with the department head two days later.  You go in, have a great meeting, your future boss comes in and puts the salary and benefits paperwork on the table.  Oh my God, you’ve really struck the big one here – you never thought in your wildest dreams you’d make that kind of salary!  Your own office, great benefits, someone to get your coffee every morning, a beautiful cafeteria in the atrium downstairs, and everything else you’ve always dreamed of in a job.

Then your new boss says, “Go ahead and sign the paperwork, then we’ll set up your drug test and see you in two weeks!”

If you like to occasionally delve into things that aren’t quite legal, the one biggest mistake you can make to spoil your shot at the big show is to have something in your system that will tip off a drug test.  You can be the world’s greatest interviewee of all time but this one little thing will bite you harder in the ass than any other interviewing flaw.  If the job is important enough to you, then take the necessary precautions and keep your system clean while you’re interviewing.  It is the dumbest mistake I have ever seen made and it’s something completely under your control.  Only dopes use dope…when they’re actively interviewing.  This one thing can make you madder than a three-legged dog trying to bury a turd on a frozen lake.  Poof, you’ve blown it.

The bottom line when interviewing is the usage of common sense, being prepared, being confident (without being cocky) and not shooting yourself in the foot.  You have to do all this while trying to convince someone you’re the right person for the job.  Walk in there with the attitude that the job is yours for the taking, not yours for the losing.  You never know, you might find that rare jewel of a job that enables you to have a long, fruitful career with one employer.  Or you can find something that gives you a few years of real satisfaction before you start the entire interviewing process over again.  Those jobs are out there, and if you really want one of them, you can have one.  It’s up to you, just be ready to work for it.

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