by Jeffrey Jonas
Greetings to all the NJIT Speed Networking folks!
It was a joy meeting so many enthusiastic, motivated students
and networking with my fellow NJIT alumni.
This web page is my way of sharing all I can about
Please help improve this
with your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org (remove zzz for address).
CDS (Career Development Services)
is a WONDERFUL resource for students & alumni,
staffed by friendly & knowledgeable folks.
When I started computer consulting,
one of the fine things the consulting company did for us consultants
was a week long course "how to interview".
Rick Reid's mock interviews were wonderful for the
individual and personalized feedback.
Most of my notes are just to myself
(don't figit, don't stare at shiny things, put the toys down!)
but I'll "reverse engineer" them to make them more useful to you.
I'd summarize it in 2 parts: WHAT you say and HOW you say it.
HOW you say it
- SHOW ENTHUSIASM
I've never been a salesperson but I had to convince myself
that interviewing means SELLING MYSELF.
It starts with self confidence,
then conveying that confidence to the interviewer.
I know I can do the job well and enjoy it.
During the interview, my job is to honestly let the interviewer discover how that's true.
I'm very sincere and dedicated to my profession.
The trick was convincing myself how to convince others without sounding boastful.
- Firm handshake, good eye contact
Everyone talks about making a good first impression. But there are many
subtle things that make for a great personal presentation
that conveys confidence and communicates effectively.
hand gestures when speaking
and you'll learn the tricks
that politicians use during speeches to make you more comfortable
effective hand gestures.
- Don't drop the ball, hand it back
Interviewing is a 2-way conversation.
Yes, give the interviewer time to think,
but allow only a few seconds of silence.
Yet you must balance the conversation.
Limit how much you reply! Don't hog the conversation!
Subtly control (or guide) the the conversation your way
with questions that steer the topic to things that make you look good!
When handing back control of the conversation,
use questions like
"do you want to know more detail or should we cover some other ground?".
That's a wonderful way TO SHOW INTEREST and focus on WHAT THE INTERVIEWER NEEDS TO KNOW
WHAT YOU SAY
- NEVER say JUST NO
When asked "do you know foo", never say just NO.
ALWAYS relate how you're experienced with sometime similar,
and that you're ready, willing and capable of learning it right now!
Q: "Have you used FooMumble9?"
A: I have not used that particular version
but I am experienced with using similar revision control systems.
I used Mumble8 on the baz project [and point to that in the resume].
[and now to turn the question into a sales pitch, say something like]
I can learn FooMumble9 quickly, on the job,
just I had learned Mumble8 when needed for the baz project.
- Don't compromise yourself.
Don't EVER say anything that can be used against yourself.
Self-deprecation or false modesty is NEVER appropriate during interviewing.
Have answers ready for even the TOUGH QUESTIONS.
In Martin Yate's book Knock 'em Dead
the chapter "The Stress Interview"
covers the REALLY tough and nasty questions
that are usually used to DISqualify candidates.
It gives clever ways to turn them around to your advantage
with clear examples.
Don't just THINK of the replies, rehearse them!
Be ready for common trick questions such as:
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your greatest weaknesses?
- Tell me about yourself
This is the most annoying and open-ended possible question.
My preferred response to "Tell me about yourself"
is to reply with a multiple-choice question
such as "Shall I start with my more recent research project,
or are you more interested in my related telecom experience?"
It's a subtle way to assert control of the conversation
and steer things to demonstrating your achievements and resourcefulness in overcoming obstacles.
This works best by BEING PREPARED!
Research the company and position in advance
and offer to discuss things relevent and related to the position.
Remember, your mission is to show that YOU'RE THE ONE FOR THIS JOB!
- And the end of the interview, give the closing pitch "I WANT THIS JOB!". Then stop.
Even if there's time going to the lobby or elevator,
RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO KEEP TALKING!
Before the interview
- Research as much as possible about the company and position beforehand.
If you're working with a recruiter or via a consulting company,
it's their job to brief you about the client.
Read their web site. See if you're being interviewed for their core business or something else.
- Have spare copies of resume, business cards
Have the resume, references and other notes READY TO HAND OUT,
preferably in a colored folder in your briefcase/tote-bag
so you can whip them out in an instant.
DON'T WASTE VALUABLE INTERVIEW TIME fumbling for papers or items!
- Bring a notepad and several pens (they love to run out of ink at the worst possible time).
It's okay to take notes so long as it doesn't interfere with the interview.
During the interview
Show how YOU CAN PRIORTIZIE your task at hand (the interview)
and wisely use the precious little time & attention you're given!
You'll usually first have to sign-in at the front desk
with a receptionist or security.
BE COURTEOUS and go into "data mining" mode:
perhaps they have important information such as how many others
have interviewed, if the people you're about to see
are in a rushed or relaxed mood, etc.
(I'm reminded of the PBS NOVA show "The Echoes Of War"
where the general's secretary warned folks
"you might not want to see him right now" when he was in a bad mood.
It's your job to gather all useful clues and heed their warnings)
READ ALL NOTICES on bulletin boards, even the bathroom.
I found some product notices and tech info posted in the bathroom,
intended for tech employees.
- Most of the time the first person encountered during the interview process
Here's my personal checklist of things to handle at that time:
Ask about their ground rules for interviewing:
Who will you see?
How much time per person?
What is each person's role in interviewing?
Large companies tend to have this already printed out for you.
USE THAT so you know WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS TO ACCOMPLISH.
For example, one person may be ONLY giving you a technical quiz.
Don't waste their time with anything else!
(only once you've passed the quiz, if time permits,
ask them about working there, what's their assignment,
what's the project, what part is being offered to you).
Do NOT ask about benefits, time off, etc.
There will be plenty of time for that once you're hired.
Just accept any brochures or literature offered and READ IT LATER!
Many times, the H-R representitive is a "gate keeper":
there solely to screen OUT candidates.
Your job is to GET THRU THIS STEP AS QUICKLY AND EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE.
Save your efforts for the folks making the hiring decision.
There's usually an escalation of people you meet,
starting with team members, working up to project manager,
dept head, etc.
The first people you meet should brief you about the company
and the project at hand, where they think you'll fit in.
With each successive person,
YOU ought to spend LESS time learning about the company
and either refining that knowledge or applying it
eg: I'm really excited about the foo product,
but I'm unsure how it's different from bar (so tell me more)
eg: I've learned a lot from Mr Foo about the Bar process.
Ms. Baz elaborated with details how the xyzzy group tests it
[show what you learned during the interview,
say all the names of the people you met, pronouncing them correctly]
That is something that greatly interests me
and I'd love to be part of your group!
[yes, a sales pitch: say how you're really IN LOVE with
specific things about the job being offered]
Like bookends, the cover letter initiated interest in your application,
and the followup letter shows you're interested in following thru.
Send the thank you letter to the all the people you met,
thanking them for their time and consideration.
I like to summarize what I learned from the meeting
and any afterthoughts such as questions that came to mind on the way home.
I'll be honest: many companies don't show any consideration for their
interview candidates and won't reply.
But that's no excuse for lack of manners or courtesy on your part.
Some people may intentionally withhold their phone number or email to avoid
further direct contact. But you had to contact somebody to get the interview,
so have them relay the thanks to the interview team.
Writing your resume
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
The people reading your resume are an impatient lot.
but when there is nothing left to take away.
They'll barely give you even a full minute and won't give a second chance.
Make the most of it and LEAVE THEM WANTING FOR MORE
without being TOO BRIEF.
I have several versions of my resume on my web site:
in plain text (to view directly from the web site)
and in "word" format (as required my many recruiters)
There's no concensus as to the ideal length for a resume. Some say 2 pages no matter what.
I've heard that enough times that I finally gave in and edited, revised, hacked and trimmed
my resume to 2 pages (despite 20+ years experience!) but offer the full length version also
(on my web site, which is on all resumes and correspondences).
I feel it's too terse but if that's what people insist on getting, I'll comply.
- 2 page version for humans
- a long "buzzword compliant" version
Some companies don't even read the resume but use a program that scans for keywords.
Therefore length is not a consideration but containing enough of the required terms
to get a high score to warrant further considersion.
Some employers will web-search for you before the interview,
particularly for FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social media.
If you have a web site, keep it professional! No facebook, No LiveJournal
(unless it's appropriate for your profession, such as an artist's portfolio).
Using an email address that's ONLY for interviewing may help protect your privacy,
and help you give priority to all job-related emails, keeping them totally separate
from everything else.
But be aware that some folks don't take kindly to free email providers such as AOL or hotmail.
Using an email address that conveys professionalism helps, such as your own domain
(they're cheap from godaddy.com), or via a professional society (such as ACM, IEEE).
Resources and References
These are the books I keep re-reading to keep myself sharp and ready:
Martin Yate's Knock 'em Dead
series of interview books are the best for up to date information
about the entire interview process from cover letter and applications
to anticipating all sorts of interview situations to followup letters.
Highly recommended reading for all the useful examples of cover letters, resumes, interview questions
and the best ways to answer them (particularly trick questions intended to make you fail).
I'm cheap and only bought the book.
The web site lists workshops but I'm always scared by
such expensive things.
How To Win Friends And Influence People
is essential reading for effectively showing interest in others and eliciting positive responses.
Dale Carnegie Training offers courses too (but I've never taken any).
first published in 1936, which has sold many millions of copies. It was a New York Times best seller for 10 years. This book appeals to people who want to change their life and gives tips and strategies for communicating with people. In contrast with some modern theories of psychology, which emphasize autonomy, self-expression and assertiveness, it echoes Lord Chesterfield's view that pleasing others is both a duty and a paradoxical route to personal success.
An interesting companion to writer's guide "The Elements Of Style" is
The Elements Of Resume Style: Essential Rules And Eye-opening Advice For Writing Resumes And Cover Letters That Work
by Scott Bennett. It is a small, non-threatening concise guide to writing resumes and cover letters.
Available at amazon.com.
I got mine for $5 at New York's Strand Books.
Other people have recommended:
What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
by Richard Nelson Bolles.
I'm unsure how this compares to Yates for effective job hunting.
Both are listed as "recommended reading" on http://www.uiaa.org/careers/strategy.html
Citing the author's web site http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/
This site is designed as a supplement to my book…It will be
particularly helpful if used along with that book,
as there is much that is covered there that I cannot cover here.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
and Who's Got Your Back
The One Minute Manager by
Kenneth Blanchard, Spencer Johnson.
"Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies"
and "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't"
by James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras
teaches folks how to be comfortable
with public speaking, addressing large audiences, etc.
Essential Writers Tools
I was forced to use some of these books when writing term papers,
but when it's not homework writing can be fun and enjoyable!
The Elements of Style
by Strunk & White was the inspiration for "The Elements of Resume Style".
It is a small, non-threatening book to remind you
of all the important things you forgot from English class.
The Elements of Style … is an American English writing style guide.
It is one of the most influential and best-known prescriptive treatments of English grammar
and usage in the United States. It originally detailed eight elementary rules of usage,
ten elementary principles of composition, and "a few matters of form"
as well as a list of commonly misused words and expressions.
Updated editions of the paperback book are often required reading
for American high school and college composition classes.
The American Heritage Dictionary
was the preferred dictionary of the AT&T documentation group,
chosen for clarity of contemporary and technical English. Definitely the engineer's dictionary.
The Webster's New World Dictionary of Synonyms is a great way to find
"just the right word". Unlike a
it's arranged like a dictionary
with explainations and examples how to choose among the synonyms to best express yourself.
is a similar online version.
Non-Essential Writers Tools
These are books for enjoying the English language.
Updated March 15 2010 by email@example.com (remove zzz for address).