I was talking on G+ earlier this week about recruitment, and I was reminded of something I wrote a couple of years ago that I posted to a limited audience at the time. I figured it was worth posting a slightly edited version here, seeing as G+ isn’t great for finding historical posts, and everything here still very much rings true.
The following is a list of handy hints for people who apply for jobs in our team. It’s not aimed at anyone who currently works for us (or has ever worked for us), but is instead a collection of feedback I would love to have given to unsuccessful candidates (but didn’t).
1. First impressions are important. The initial greeting is a good opportunity to build rapport with the panel, and if you can’t manage a smile, eye contact (the floor does not generally have eyes), and some sort of handshake then the panel might already be questioning your basic social skills.
2. Try and wear something that is both smart and comfortable, but that also fits (if you do not know what fits then ask a friend). Also, if the weather is very hot (like is often is in August) then perhaps a three piece suit with an overcoat may lead to excessive sweating, especially if you are nervous. Excessive sweating is generally a bad thing.
3. At some point in the interview you will be asked to talk about yourself and your past achievements. It happens in most interviews so it’s probably worth having something prepared. It’s also worth bearing in mind that keeping it concise and relevant is a good thing, as is maintaining occasional eye contact to ensure the panel are still awake.
4. Interview panels will contain at least two people, so maintaining eye contact with only one of the panel for the whole interview comes across as rude and slightly creepy. Maintaining eye contact with someone’s chest is both of these things and a few other things as well.
5. If you’re interviewing for our team, then your interview panel will contain at least one woman (I’m the only male manager and we have to interview in pairs). This means that you will need to be able to deal with a woman asking you technical questions that you might not know the answer to. You’ll also have to deal with the same woman being your boss if you get the job, so being rude and patronising to her is probably not a good start. Nor is directing your answers to all technical questions to the male member of the panel, regardless of who asks them.
6. Read the job description for the job you are applying for. We might ask you hard questions like what sort of work the job involves, and if you can’t answer simple questions about what we do then we get the impression you’re not too interested in working for us.
7. We do not appoint candidates based solely on the length or the brevity of an interview. Although in some cases we do appreciate the brevity. We do say at the start how long we expect the interview to take, so that should act as a guide.
8. If you are late then acknowledge your lateness, apologise, and then move on. That is how we will expect you to deal with it in the workplace, so you might as well start during the interview. Of course, not being late at all would be better.
9. Listen carefully to each question. We are very unlikely to ask things like “tell me everything you know about connecting Windows 98 computers to a wireless network” or “tell me about every job you have had since 1980”. Answering such questions when they have not been asked is not helpful and just wastes time.
10. At the end of the interview we will ask if you have any questions for us. Again, this happens at most interviews so have a few things prepared. It’s probably best to only ask two or three though, and eight is probably too many, especially when you have to pull out a notebook to remember them all. Also, we are unlikely to tell you how many other people we are interviewing, or anything about our current hardware or software suppliers, or anything else that isn’t any of your business.
11. If you are unsuccessful in the interview, and especially if you are unsuccessful for the 4th time, then ask for feedback. We will give you detailed and constructive feedback which is not quite as candid as what I’ve written here, but which will highlight how you could have done better. Also, once you have received your feedback don’t sign the email address it was sent from up to loads of porn sites and religious newsletters and other such rubbish. We will find out, and we will know it was you.
On a more serious note, I do really sympathise with anyone who is currently job hunting, and I am generally happy to read through applications and CVs for jobs in areas I know at least something about (IT, project management, anything to do with education or Universities), because sometimes it helps to see the application from the side of the person doing the recruiting and shortlisting.