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Friday, November 18, 2011

Advice from an Interviewee

After my scintillating series about how employers have no clue how to hire people, this post is from the other side of the desk. I believe in interviewing every 6 months whether you need to or not to keep skills and contacts fresh. This also helps me check out if my suit still fits.

The other reason for this Always Be Interviewing Approach is that the line between the employed and long-term chronically unemployed who are getting discriminated against by recruiters is as thin as the Kardashian's credibility. That is why I will march with and donate to Occupy Wall Street even if they are a little dirty, their message is a little muddled, or their positions are not that crisp. There is no longer a lot of difference in the backgrounds of someone who logs into a corporate version of Microsoft Outlook every morning compared to someone who is soaking their bandana with apple cider vinegar to protect themselves from pepper spray.

I interviewed for a provider strategy position at a large insurance company. I don't know if I got the job or not but wanted to write the post before I was tainted one way or the other when judgement is rendered. In this post, I will describe the three things I learned which were 1) the importance of answering why you want the position, 2) how career switchers can position themselves, and 3) uh, it's um, uh, Oops (bet none of you saw that one coming.)

Why do you want this position? Of course, I came up with 3 reasons for the job. My formula is a basic one of 1) this position will allow me to participate in market trend Y, 2) this position will support my career goal of doing Z, and 3) I really admire the company for reasons ABC. What I didn't do is reinforce the message constantly during the interview. An interviewee needs to hammer that message like a presidential candidate. The interviewer is always concerned that someone won't stay in the position and this is the best way to address that concern is talk about how perfect the position is for you.

With my interview, since this position represented a new functional area, I really needed to do more than come up with 3 reasons. I need to show excitement, industry knowledge, the opportunity, why I couldn't do it from my current position, and crank it up to 11. I don't think that I threaded it into enough answers to satisfy a skeptical interviewer. I used too much terminology from my current job and not enough of the new position's lingo.

What career switchers can do? I wasn't a career switcher but within health care this was definitely a switch. Employers are increasingly reluctant to hire anyone who doesn't done a job before. Training is not considered part of the onboarding process anymore which prevents employers from filling a lot of positions. I do fault the employers for not taking the time to determine what skills can be taught, what skills cannot, and how to assess how different experiences meet the skills that cannot be taught. That's half the story behind the belief that there aren't enough skilled workers for certain positions. However, we can't hate the player, just the game.

To address the lack of direct skills that I had, I drew clear parallels from other experiences. I hadn't negotiated with providers but I had negotiated with vendors. I hadn't done statistical analysis on bundled payments but I had done other statistical analysis. I pointed out that I learned indigenous South American languages in 3 months so I could learn skills. What I should have done is been more clear about career switching that I had done in the past and how I had been successful with projects where nothing in my resume indicated that I had the direct skills.

Fancy Graduate Degrees still matter. During the interview, my fancy MBA was referenced three times indirectly. One asked if I knew her former coworker who graduated from my program, one noted my major, one asked me if I had taken classes in a specific area. As in the past, my fancy degree got me the interview since the employer probably just wanted to see what fancy MBA's look like, just like folks from Appalachia want to see if Jews have horns. Of course, it won't get me the job but you also can't get a job if the employer doesn't have a reason to interview you.

For all those who criticize graduate degrees and promote alternatives like blogging or starting websites that one claims are a business, the evidence isn't there. This blog certainly wouldn't have gotten me an interview. It's more likely to get me on a federal no fly list than it is to get an interview scheduled.

The benefits that blogging provides are a way for me to require myself to take some time and think about the interview in a way that does not involve telling myself that the smell coming out of my butt is a rose. It forces me to explain the experience to a vaguely interested third party (my faithful readers) in a way that's relevant. Most importantly, I now have a better understanding of what I need to do better the next time that I interview. The third and final thing that I learned is uh, um, uh, oops (now I really bet that you didn't seen that one coming. Hey, if Nancy Pelosi can beat this horse to death why can't I give it a few kicks!).

1 comment:

Shona said...

Excellent post; I especially like #3, where the graduate degree is seen as a door opener (albeit a very expensive one)!

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