Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do your homework before you interview!

Got an interview coming up and feel like you are prepared? Well, here are a few tips to make sure you are ready and have done your homework!

1) Have you researched the people you are meeting? You may only know a few or maybe just the recruiter...that's ok. Do the research. LinkedIn or just a Google search can tell you a ton about someone. You may be surprised to see that you went to the same college or if you can search Facebook that you have common friends. Seriously, no better way to start the interview right having something in common with the folks you are meeting.

2) What's the interview like? Ask your recruiter what you should do to prepare (do I even have to say that?) The other thing is to spend some time searching the web for blogs or web pages to give you a few tips. Some companies (like my current employer) have pages set up to help, and provide links to Youtube videos that can help. The Google example is here, other companies like Yahoo do similar things here. Plus, if you are having a technical interview you should be able to find a few sample questions that will help you understand the style of careful here though, if you see a question on the web and it gets asked during the interview you should tell the interviewer you've see it. Why you ask? Well, let's say you get asked a technical question that takes an excellent candidate 35 minutes to answer and after reading it on the web you can answer it in 10, not good, people will notice, TRUST me. So, research the interview as much as you can but be honest if you uncover something that comes up in your interview.

3) Have friends at the company? If you have friends at the company, ping them, ask them for a referral. Companies typically hire about 50% of their new employees via referral so if you can take yourself out of the random pile and put yourself into the "referral"'ll be much better off.

4) Read the news - Big announcement at Microsoft yesterday? Well, you'd better know what's going on at the company you are interviewing. Nothing more annoying than a candidate who knows nothing about the firm, especially if there has been some really big news that has everyone buzzing.

5) Know the environment! - Again, not the most earth shaking advice but really important. Interviewing at a Financial Services firm? You probably want to wear a suit or at least ask your recruiter if that's appropriate. Coming to meet w/ a software start up? Doubtful you need to wear a suit. This sounds so simple and silly but it's really important. Not sure how to find out what you should wear? Ask your recruiter, ask friends, as anyone you know to make sure you don't stick out as the dude in the just sends the wrong vibe. And finally, part of the environment is knowing the location. Don't be late, don't show up and say things like "My car is double parked out front, can you move it?" (that really has happened). With Google Maps, Streetview, GPS, etc etc not being on time or getting lost is just not cool. It never was cool but now it's just really lame.

That's it, do your homework people and you'll find your interviews are much more successful!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A job, a career or an opportunity?

Something a little different this week! A friend of mine, had a question that I thought would be relevant to anyone looking for a job right now. Hope you enjoy!

Hello, my name is Bonnie, and I am unemployed. It sounds like an admittance statement at a support group for the jobless, doesn’t it?

To some, this admittance may evoke a shameful reality or an overwhelming feeling of failure. And yet, to others, it elicits a sense of relief and an impetus to try something new or escape from the dissatisfaction of the status quo. When the world hands you lemons, make some lemonade, right!?

But I have to wonder how those lemonade makers got into a life of drudgery in the first place. Did they settle for below-average compensation? Did they choose the wrong company? Or, was it because they fell into the wrong career path altogether?

I have friends who have turned down good jobs in which they have great experience, in the hopes that their ‘dream job’ will come around the corner. And yet, they continue to search as their bank accounts dwindle, looking back with regret because they turned down a job during a recession.

Personally, I find myself stuck in a ‘seller’s market’ where competition is tough, and the ‘perfect’ job opening is hard to come by (let alone define). My grandmother, who grew up in the Great Depression, calls me weekly with worry over my jobless state. And my bank account too is dwindling day by day.

As I pursue my next employment opportunity, I can’t help but question whether I am looking for a job (a way to make ends meet) or am I truly paving a road by which my life’s happiness is dictated?

Hi Bonnie, I think this is a really critical question and also a great time to think about it. I was at U2 this week and had a revelation about your question. With Bono singing "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" I had an "Ah Ha!" moment!. Here's a quick sample of the lyrics:

I'm not afraid of anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard
I'm just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company
I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere, baby
You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it

So, you're stuck w/ unemployment....well, it's time to get out of that way of thinking. So, when in comes to taking a job or finding an opportunity I think you need to do both......sounds silly right? If you get a "job" who cares about other opportunities. Wrong attitude. You can take a job, pay the bills and be a strong performer without having to feel like this is something you want to do long term for your career.

For example, let's say you always wanted to be an EMT or a Lab Technician. You could find a job, a job you like even that helps you pay the bills while you go through the requisite training to become an EMT. Make sense? Let me give you another example from my past employment history - I moved to Washington DC in 1996, "no job and no clue" as I like to say. I wanted to get into politics and work ideally on "The Hill". Well, anyone who knows anything about DC knows you don't just get jobs on the Hill they require a ton of networking and even that doesn't usually work. So, what did I do? Well, I first got an internship (unpaid!) for a place called the Center for Security Policy. A defense "think tank" where I did a ton of government affairs work and started to build up a network of connections. To pay the bills, well, I sold Karate services....that's right, I sold Karate. My friends in DC can verify this if you need confirmation. Pretty much, the worst job ever. I started in "collections" and was promoted to "sales" after one day on the job. I can honestly say say, these were some of the hardest days of my life........BUT, it worked. After four months of 16 hour days, I found an open role with a Senator from my home state, was referred to the Chief of Staff by a friend and now not only had an interest in the role but had four months of government affairs experience that sealed the deal.

So I think if I had to give advice right now, I'd find something to pay the bills. Doesn't really matter if it's a good job, bad job, whatever......but make sure that it is something that gives you the freedom to keep looking for great opportunities. Of course it's not realistic to work 16 hour days or do crazy things forever but if you can find something you are passionate about than do it even if you can only do it on the side, weekends or at night. Eventually you'll build up a set of skills and experiences that will allow you to do what you love full time.........and then you'll be on that road to happiness! Happy hunting, if you are reading this and would like to try and hire someone awesome, ping me for an intro to Bonnie!