04 January 2008

Interview Tips

While I'm posting old comments, I might as well include this one that I submitted for WiseBread regarding my best interview advice.  This is all about Behavioral Interviews:

" If you've ever heard of a behavorial interview, you know how scary these can sound. The key to these interviews is to have a few (4-6) good (and true, every word!) stories about projects you have worked on. Even if you have only had one job, you will have plenty of stories to choose from. Remember though that you should think these up at least 24 hours in advance so you can sleep on it. If you're rubbish at remembering details, don't worry about it, the sleep will help you to remember them since you called up the framework for that memory.

The idea is that they ask a question like "Describe a time when you were working on a team project and you had to motivate your teammates to accomplish their tasks." This is a really broad question. You're really answering these questions: What was the situation? What did you do? How did you handle this situation and what was the result? What they're really trying to find out about you is how you have reacted to situations that you may get into again and how you'll act then. Past behavior is not like the stock market, in that it IS indicative of future performance.

To give you some clues, I'll go through each question they're actually asking.

Q: What was the situation?
A: Tell them who you were working with, any important factors about these relationships, and the problem itself.

Q: What did you do?
A: Tell them how you interacted with those around you, and how you went about solving the problem, including any obstacles that came up.

Q: How did you handle this situation and what was the result?
A: If there was an obstacle, tell them how you overcame it, especially including fall-back plans you made ahead of time. The most important part to the entire story is that the result must be good. Even if there was a terrible situation and you turned it into just a normal day, that's not good enough. Stress the parts of the problem or obstacles that were stressing you at the time, and show how you solved that problem. These results should be at least a 7 on the 1-10 scale of how it ended up."

Some more important points here are to dress the part.  You want to fit in, but stand out.  I know this sounds terribly contradictory, but it works.  When everyone in the waiting room is wearing black shoes, black slacks, a black suit jacket, black belt, a blue shirt and a yellow tie, you want to wear some of these things but not all.  Out of all these, I only kept the black suit jacket and made everything else work for me.  As proof that this does not hurt, I have a record of about a 4/5 success rate for interviewing.  If you have no idea how to dress yourself for such things, drag a friend to a department store and ask opinions on matching colors. 

Make sure you look presentable in other ways too.  Men, you don't have to shave off your beard, but it does need to be neat, not patchy.  If you can get your facial hair to look like a wave, lightning bolt, or flames, I'm with you, but not for the interview.  Posture and demeanor are important too.  Stand up straight and walk with purpose.  That's as general as I can be on this topic. 

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  Emphasize your strengths, but be honest about your weaknesses.  If you know you're not great at something, attempt to improve it.  You'll probably pick up something as long as you're trying.  When you do strengthen your weakness, at least you can show that you've been working on it, and have improved. 

This is about as deep as I can go on a subject as broad as interview advice.  Good luck out there!

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