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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Table Manners at the Executive Table or Keeping your Interview Skills Good Enough to Eat

In a thrilling sequel to my previous post, I offer more complaints about Human Resource recruitment and the thrilling conclusion to my theory around applying for jobs as a networking technique. The sequels are rarely as good as the original but I think the bar for my first post was pretty low. Complaining about Human Resources falls in the same category as complaining about your hold experience with an appliance call center or the customer experience of airport security. No one's story is unique, we only want to share our complaint, have no real interest in listening to others, and these type of blog posts can be completed while someone is sitting on the toilet.

Having set the bar low enough to trip over, I can assure the reader that my post will be slightly more interesting and I will not need toilet paper after I am done typing.

Recruiter complaint: After filling out the recruiter's questionnaire, she wrote back and told me to complete the section for current employees as soon as possible. When I responded that I was no longer a current employee, she wrote that she had realized that mistake after she had sent the email. Her recovery technique was apparently waiting until I pointed out her mistake. I'm glad doctors don't use that same technique of waiting for patients to have an adverse reaction to their medication before correcting their mistake.

However, after my painful experience (that was probably equally painful to read) was done, I was allowed to interview with the division vice president. I did some preparation but there is nothing like a live interview to make you realize the difference between practice and game time. It's almost like the difference between masterbation and actually having a partner. None of the interview questions were unexpected but it made me realize how I needed to adjust future preparation. This insight enforced my belief that applying for jobs as a networking technique is a good idea because of the additional opportunities for live interview practice.

Interview Questions:
Why do you want to leave your current position and come back to work for us? The real reason was because the new job would allow me to work from home and pay based on a state with a higher cost of living. The job itself was in an area that interested me, too and I liked the company which were my actual answers. It was a surprisingly difficult question to answer since I couldn't respond with my true #1 reason. As a result, I probably will not apply to jobs in the future if I can't articulate the real top reason in my interview.

Tell me about a time where you had an ambiguous assignment.
The interviewer was fairly vague with the questions and made them very open ended. She didn't ask me to explain the results, what I did, how I responded but left that up to me. I knew to include these aspects but I did have to take a few moments to gather all my thoughts without the framework in her question. Ultimately, I used my story that I also use to answer the questions about a time that things did not go well or I had failed. As a result, I'll have to remember to develop a separate story for ambiguous assignments because. . .

Tell me about a time when things didn't go well.
Doh! I had to think for a few minutes since I had used my typical failure story. The interviewer also specified that this be a more current story since my ambiguous assignment tale was about my first job after college.

Describer your work style:
I had to wing this one a little bit and as a result, I didn't factor in that she had just told me that her department's culture is about action and getting things done. That should have been my work style too but instead I was a little too honest about the fact that I still act like a former social worker who likes to check in with everyone.

Do you have any questions for me?
Of course I do. Even though I talked with some of my former coworkers about this job, had worked at this company, and looked up your profile on Linked In, I will always have questions. Like, tell me about your background and how you arrived in this position so I know who I am going to work for. Or what will a successful candidate do in this position or what advice would you give to someone who accepted this job. Even ask what are the key challenges in the industry or with this position. It's better to ask a dumb question than no question. I've seen interviewees not ask questions and they look disinterested in the position.

The fact that I had been reviewing MBA admissions essays and offering a lot of critique of the importance of building up the stakes in the story, focusing on what you did, and what you learned helped me structure my answers. However, it did reinforce the fact that we can probably all anticipate the typical questions that we will be asked in an interview and should have a few separate stories prepared. Preparing these stories can give you something to do the next time you're sitting on the toilet without a blog post to write. While we're at it, could someone get me some toilet paper?

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