Thursday, May 05, 2005

I Have an Interview!

Yes, it's true folks. I've been sending out resumes and cover letters like mad for the past few weeks, and I finally got a bite. I'm interviewing next Tuesday for a job as a production supervisor for a windows manufacturer.

Now before you get all elitist on me, remember that I am a redneck! Prior to getting my college degree (I graduate next week), I worked in a factory doing a real dirty job. So my experience is in "manufacturing". That doesn't look too good on a resume for someone trying to get a white collar job. But I'll take what I can get.

This job has what I'm looking for: A good starting salary and potential to move up. That's all I need for now. I'll also be pursuing an MBA, which should help me get more career opportunities.

So does anyone have any interviewing advice? I know I'm not supposed to use words like 'douchebag' or 'choad mower'.

Oh yeah, I could give you some interview tips. I interview tons of people every year. This is mostly software developers but there are many generic interview tips that I've picked up.

The way I see it there are 3 main areas in interviewing and I will give some tips in each one.

Body Language:
1) Have good posture, no slouching, but don't appear too stiff. Try to be relaxed.
2) Look at your interviewer. Don't let your eyes wander around the office. Appear as if you are paying attention.
3) Speak clearly, don't use break up your speech with ums and uhs. It's ok to take a moment before giving your answer if it helps you formulate your thoughts more coherently but don't take more than 5 secs.

1) You have to appear enthusiastic for the job. Nobody wants to hire someone that doesn't want to be there. So if you have to muster up some fake enthusiasm, so be it. You have to convince your prospective employer that you want to be there and you will be a positive presence on the team.

2) Appear bright and eager to learn. Sometimes the attitude of wanting to learn can catapult you over another more experienced candidate if the employer thinks you will be more teachable and have greater potential.

Domain knowledge:
1) Be honest. If you don't know the answer, don't try to BS. I don't know how often I have to call bullsh*t on someone's domain expertise. This will all but kill your chances if the interviewer thinks you're a BS'er. Just try to be eager to learn, ties back to #2 above.

2) If a question relates to work that you've done, answer the question and try to relate it back to your own experience. People are more impressed when you can give them the impression that you've been there and done that.

3) When answering a question, try to stay relevant and don't wander off into the weeds. The interviewer will be annoyed if they have to cut you off due to rambling.

That's about it for quick tips, I can give you more if you ask me specific questions. Hope it helps and good luck with your interview!

Send a thank-you note after the interview. It makes you look thoughtful and committeed and followy-uppy, plus it's a chance to reiterate your strengths and paper over any interview gaffes...
Oh my god! Yami is right. You cannot underestimate the power of the thank you note.

When I was in college, the career center made the thank you note seem like the polite thing to do, as if you should do it, but if you didn't, no big deal.

But I've seen plenty of people who were perfectly good interviews not get asked back because they skipped the thank you note. And don't do it by email. Take the time to buy a stamp.

Good luck!
You could try knocking off the 'redneck' stuff. Anyone with a bachelor's degree and pursuing an MBA has lost the right to that particular colour of neck. You'll just have to find some other chip on your shoulder.

Wow, thanks for all the advice. Especially to Michael_L for the very thoughtful response. I'm sure I can do everything you said, but I'll have to really work at not letting my eyes wander. I'm horrible at that. My fiance is a software engineer, btw.

And I will send the thank-you note. I had actually forgetten about that, since I'm still buzzing that an employer actually CALLED me.
Anonymous, I think anyone who uses the word "colour" has also lost redneck braggin' rights.

Let me go off on a tangent that's not directed at anyone in particular... This isn't the first time I've been berated for going to college. I got it all the time when I worked at the factory. That's what's odd about class struggle -- many of your fellow class members don't want to see you overcome it.

But the truth is: I'm still dirt poor, I still live in an old farmhouse, I have no job, I don't have my bachelors degree YET (next week!), and I'm not yet pursuing an MBA because I need a job first. Heck, even if I do get this job, I'll be a production supervisor -- not exactly a glamorous position.

I don't want to be a redneck forever. I want to rule the world!!! (Or a large company...)
Okey dokey, let's see what I can do to help you out. I've actually only interviewed for three jobs in my 20 some odd years of work experience, funny enough. Every other job I've held, the employer came and recruited me and the situation was more one of me interviewing them to decide if I wanted the job. On the other hand, I have interviewed and hired quite a few folks myself and I have a fairly good track record of hiring competent and capable people. This is not as easy as it sounds, by the way. I've seen a lot of poor candidates hired. I have an ability to see past the "interview technique" and, in my opinion, portraying your real person and capabilities is more important than good interview techniques. Don't get me wrong on that, being calm and confident is important. Some nervousness is not bad, but you have to show an ability to overcome it. If you are too calm and confident, especially at your age, pursuing your first "real job", it is not likely to appear real. I would push to see why you aren't nervous.

On to some specifics.

Respect, courtesy and a demeanor appropriate to the organization you are interviewing with is very important. Nothing fake, but good manners.

I don't, personally, like thank you notes. They always strike me as scripted straight out of the "how to get a job in X easy steps" book. I can, honestly, say that I have never hired someone who sent me a thank you note.

Give good details in your answers to questions, preferably from your own personal experience. But also pay attention to the interviewer(s) and wrap up your answer when it is clear they have gotten the information they need. There is nothing more annoying than a candidate who takes over the interview.

It is perfectly acceptable to ask the interviewer to repeat a question ...... once.

It is perfectly acceptable, after asking, to take notes during the interview. This is a good way to get a handle on the question and make sure you actually answer it. Also, you are just coming out of college, note taking should be second nature to you, and it is crucial in the business world in meetings to take good notes. So, you will demonstrate an important skill.

If you are more comfortable answering certain questions by drawing or writing, ask if you can do so. Then make sure you explain your drawn/written answer. I work in information security. I asked a candidate I was hiring to explain how to create a simple public internet site with appropriate security. He asked if he could draw it and proceeded to diagram exactly what I would have done myself. He ended up with the job offer.

If you are good enough, you can turn the interview into one where the employer is trying to recruit you. If you do that, you are solid gold. I'm not suggesting that, in this interview you should try to do that, but it's certainly one of the best interview behaviors I have seen and leaves you in the driver's seat.

I highly suggest not broaching the topic of compensation until the employer does. If you start that conversation you are ceding all control of it to your potential employer. Get them to make the offer, then you can counter if you need to.

Finally, the first five minutes of the interview is crucial. You can absolutely lose the job in five minutes. Courtesy, a firm handshake, open, confident body language will get you through those first five minutes. If you are offered water, coffee, etc. accept it but don't allow it to become your focus.Humor and a smile will demonstrate confidence during these first few minutes.

Good luck and good hunting!
Good luck. I hope this doesn't mean that you've given up drumming.
All best wishes, but I hope that it doesn't mean you'll quit your wonderful blog. I've just recently discovered you!

Who needs glamour anyway? It doesn't pay the bills. Don't you dare losing the redneck-posture. Be true to your roots and all that...;)
Congratulations on imminent graduation and the first interview. That's great news.

I used to give tons of interviews. the two above have given you good advise already & I can't think of anything to add right now.

I will suggest that you don't knock production supervisor or manufacturing in general. There are many interesting problems to work on both in managing people and improving production. A redneck background with a strong business sense is a real strength in that situation. My company has many people who work their way up through manufacturing.
Good luck on the interview, Red! I usually wear a conservative black suit. A little bit of make-up, maybe on small item of jewellery. I try to look as generic as possible.
Congratulations on your graduation!!!!!! Good luck at your interview, and put in a good word for me.
That's good stuff, Eric, thank you! With regard to the thank-you note, I'm going to play it by whatever impression I get of the employer.

I'm not the only one who thinks I got good advice. I noticed people coming to my site via this link

So again, thanks to everyone who gave me advice. I honestly think I got better tips here than I did in my Career Management class.

But don't worry, I won't give up the drums! And I'm sure I'll still be able to update my blog once a week.
RE:Interview advice
Do some research on the company and make a list of questions that you want to ask them. Asking questions tells the interviewer that you made the effort to find out something about the company (ie. you are diligent) and also helps to leave them with the impression that you're actually looking for the right job rather than just whatever you can find. Like the guy said earlier, companies want to hire people that want to be there. Good questions can also show intelligence and spark a more interesting conversation. I've had to interview lots of people, and after a while they tend to become one big blur. Smart questions make you stand out.
Also, it sounds trivial but dress appropriately for the job you're applying for. I've found that looking too obviously girly tends to make people take you less seriously, especially if you're an attractive young woman. I had a few interviews where the guy spent the whole time flirting with me and didn't offer me the job (but did call me later to ask me out) before I learned this lesson. So, avoid excessive jewelry, very short skirts etc. It's sad that just being a woman means that you have to think about this crap, but trust me it really does make a difference.
In general be professional, be prepared (that's where the research comes in), look interested and enthusiastic, and and be confident.
Oh, and about how to hanle to salary issue. Interviewers will often ask you what salary range you expect. If you state a salary that's too high they may write you off, but if you lowball it they may offer you less than they had been willing to pay. I've found that the best response is "I'm willing to be fairly flexible on that. What salary range did you have in mind?" or something along those lines. Then you at least know what the ballpark is and can negotiate from there. Beware of underselling yourself - I've seen way too many women do this and end up with a salary lower than what the company originally budgeted for the position.
OK, this is getting too long. If you want any more specific advice I'm glad to help (in my last job I interviewed tons of people, and I used to work for a staffing firm). Good luck!
Girl, you can be a redneck as long as you like! ;-) Don't let folks that razz you about your education get you down. Just remember your roots, where you came from, and you'll be alright.

And after your exams are over, pick up a copy of Alfred Lubrano's "Limbo", a book on blue-collar folks who entered the white collar world. Very interesting read. One of the people profiled is Dana Gioia, one of the premier Italian-American writers. He's also the former V.P. of General Foods. He discussed the culture shock of the corporate world, but used it to his advantage. He was the only high-ranking exec who actually grew up using the company's products, and thus knew how to redesign and market them most effectively.

So, with that said, never feel bad about sticking your blue-collar past on a resume. For one thing, it denotes your willingness to work, and your ambition. And having that background can give you key information you will need for your white-collar future.

Good luck.

La Lubu
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