DrewDad
 
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 03:21 pm
After being in my current job for more than a decade, I've decided that I'm too complacent and I've started watching the online job boards and sending in the occasional resume.

My reasoning is:

1) It helps me know what skills are in demand
2) It might get me a better job
3) Keeps my resume up to date
4) Interviewing is a skill, and everyone should practice it from time to time
5) Worst case scenario is that I keep my current job

I've gotten any number of nibbles, but only two bites. (Nibbles were when it was immediately obvious that it was too far away, too much travel, or compensation was inadequate) I think I screwed the first bite up by being too honest. I was interviewing for position A, but I also have the skills for position B. They asked which I would prefer, and like a dummy I answered B. Obviously, that was a huge blunder.

Second bite came this week; I have an interview scheduled.


Now that the background is done, let's discuss:


Interview questions:
Phone interviewer asked "what's an accomplishment you really take pride in?" I drew a blank on this, since most of the stuff I could think of was way too involved for a phone interview. My final answer: "I try to take pride in everything. I'm happiest when customers don't have to call me." Too glib?

What interview question has really tripped you up in the past?



Appearance: Should I shave or keep my "suburban dad" goatee? (Eyebrows and beard have a bit of gray, is that a concern?)

I haven't worn a suit in over a decade, and I don't plan to buy one for this single event. Khakis?
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 03:23 pm
@DrewDad,
And what's up with the question, "what's your preferred work environment?"

Er... professional? Reasonably quiet?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 03:31 pm
@DrewDad,
I don't think the position A/ position B thing was necessarily a huge blunder. I think it indicated that you're not desperate and that they might have to work a little to get you. It kind of depends on what your goal is, there. From your numbers 1-5 it sounds like it wasn't a huge blunder. If you really, really needed the job, it would be worse.

I think your "take pride" answer was pretty good, but specifics might be more helpful. Something that shows your technical know-how and your personality a bit more.

Personally (re: what interview q has tripped me up), I hate the "mistake" or "regret" ones, because they're really a rock and a hard place. Either you admit a weakness (which is never fun in an interview) or you give one of those smarmy "I just always try so hard and sometimes I get burnt out" kinds of things. I've gotten through them fine but I dislike them.

I think dress code really varies by profession. You're a techie type (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong), suburban dad goatee and gray are fine I think. Khakis again depend on the job, but nice ones with good shoes and a button-down shirt should be okay for a techie-type position.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 04:11 pm
@DrewDad,
Good luck in your search, DrewDad!

It's been a long time since I interviewed for a job or even gave a job interview, but here's my take.

The business/casual look I see most here (and our cities have a similar vibe, I think) is dress slacks, patterned shirt (open collar) and v-neck sweater or cardigan (unpatterned) and short boots (think desert boots). It looks a lot fresher than khakis and a plain dress shirt.

I think the best answers to the "weakness" question is to talk about the way you think but avoid using "outside the box". Something like "I sometime take ideas off road, approaching a problem in a roundabout way. It can be mistaken for daydreaming but I really am working!"

"Accomplishments" don't have to be work related. A lot of employers like to know that you have a life outside of work. Talk about something you genuinely like to do and have some talent in and then try to find a way to tie that into your career -- "I like to _______ and I think that helps me _____ by giving me a different perspective on _______."

The interview questions I hate the most:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Why do you want to work for us?
roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 04:18 pm
@DrewDad,
I can't help on the interview itself, but I do have a comment on the ones that require too much travel. Don't. Unless they are paying travel costs to the interview location, just don't. The job far away is no more likely to be better than the one close to home, and like you, they might just be testing the waters.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 04:30 pm
@roger,
Yeah, we're pretty locked in on where we want to live. Kids are in the right school, family is nearby, etc. Plenty of tech jobs here in Austin. I've passed up several inquiries when it was clear the commute would be 45 minutes or more.



I hate the "regret" or "mistake" questions, too.... In my profession, it's really easy for a small mistake to inconvenience a large number of people. For that question, though, I have a great example from 10 years ago or so, and a nice moral that I learned. Got a laugh at the other interview, anyway, and nods of understanding.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 04:31 pm
@boomerang,
It still gets into the 90's here, so no cardigans for me!

Although I'll be all bundled up when it hits 60. Wink
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 04:58 pm
@DrewDad,
I think you should give a specific answer to the "What accomplishment do you take pride in" question. It is a easy question and a great chance to sell yourself.

Stories about your past work are a great way to highlight you best attributes in a way that is sincere. When I am interviewing I always come prepared with a list of stories that show my strengths. It is one thing to claim you solve customer problems, it is another to give specific examples where you solved problems spectacularly that you are prepared to tell with enthusiasm.

This is the best question you could ask for. This guy is asking to tell him a story that highlights your best work (exactly what you want to be talking about with potential employers). You should jump on this opportunity to make your strongest pitch.

Saying "I'm happiest when customers don't have to call me" may be a good start. But not following that immediately with a specific example where you showed intelligence and initiative to solve a customer's problem before they called was a real squandered opportunity to promote yourself.

maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 05:01 pm
@DrewDad,
The "preferred work environment" question is also a good question. I would certainly answer this honestly (without being too specific in a way that would disqualify me).

In most cases I would answer this question with a story about a time I accomplished something with teamwork and collaboration. These are two things that I find very important, and if they exclude me for this answer, then I wouldn't want the job anyway.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 05:05 pm
@maxdancona,
I'll definitely make a "best of Drewdad" list before I head in for the face-to-face interview. And next time, I'll have a list ready before the phone interview.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 05:09 pm
@maxdancona,
Every datacenter I've ever been in has been the same. Loud fans, occasional beeps, and folks focused on their work.

Same for almost all of the offices I've been in... and I've been to a lot of offices installing equipment.

The only job I've had that hasn't been a professional atmosphere was when I was a busboy.
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  2  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 05:37 pm
@DrewDad,
A suit's probably not 100% necessary but I would go with a nice shirt and a tie, good slacks, hard-soled shoes.

Possibly too glib re the answer but it can be easily turned into a positive, e. g. you want to make it so that customers don't have to call you.

Worst interview questions? I agree re "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Christ, I never know, and I have not held too many jobs that lasted for that long (sad, but true), so the honest answer is - "Somewhere else." But that doesn't go over well. I usually say something to the effect that "it's hard to tell because tech changes so fast and new job titles come up all the time, but I hope to be using my skills and expertise to their fullest extent."

I'm also not a fan of "Why do you want to work for us?" "Because you have openings, you're in the area, the job is in my wheelhouse and I will be paid a decent wage." Sorry, but I am not much of a kiss-up re companies. There are very few companies where I walk in there and think, "Wow, how awesome it would be to work here!"

My best interview story is when I'm asked about an accomplishment I'm proud of. I have a doozy and it also works because I can get big laughs with it. My story -

Quote:
I have worked for X Company on three separate occasions. On the second, I went into the Y Department. And I was there for all of two hours when I hear this woman swearing in the next cube. Loudly, too, and with a Malden accent.

So I go over there, and I introduce myself. And I ask what the problem is. Well, she is swearing about a report that my department produces. I ask her to explain to me why it's a problem, and how she uses it. She explains.

It's a monthly report, and she needs to compare last month to the one just before it. So she is printing the two reports, taping them together and then, using a highlighter and a ruler, she is going line by line. "This matches, this doesn't. This matches, this doesn't." It takes her three weeks to do this. For a monthly report, this is utterly unacceptable.

I agree with her. No one has asked me to take this on; I just do it. What the heck! I'm a new employee. I ask for a license for Microsoft Access, and I explain the situation. It is purchased for me.

It takes me about three months to get it all together. I put together an Access database with - no lie - 56 queries. These include things like getting the program to match "Sr." and "Senior", as the report does not use uniform job titles. I finish working on it and test it, and this report, which originally took three months to process now takes -- drumroll please -- three hours.

The swearing woman from Malden is gracious and lovely and nominates me for a company award, which I win. And that's how I won a company award.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 08:16 pm
@jespah,
Quote:
Worst interview questions? I agree re "Where do you see yourself in five years?"


Best answer... "Your job seems pretty nice".
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 08:38 pm
@maxdancona,
I worked 47 years (gah!) and no one ever asked me that.
On the other hand, I never dealt with corporate interviews. University employee interviews, yes.

Remembering back to different jobs ... most of them involved talking about my background and what was going on at the new place and camaraderie happened naturally. Once I was wrong (I quit after thirteen working days), but mostly the more relaxed interviews of the time seemed to work for both hirer and me.
So, no advice from here except to get them talking too.

I'll be interested to hear how it goes, Drew - what you learn from the interviewing process, and of course whether you end up getting and liking a new job.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 08:54 pm
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:

I don't think the position A/ position B thing was necessarily a huge blunder.

I saw it in their faces, as soon as I said it. Like I kicked 'em in a tender spot.....
Jet Fire
 
  3  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2012 09:31 pm
@DrewDad,
Had 2 interviews on Monday. It wasn't for a job, but med school admissions.

There was one crazy lady (whose college I won't mention) went on to ask: "If you could tell me the greatest defect in our society what would it be?"

me: "ummm ... well a defect that has an overall domino effect on society concerns itself with the outlook of education in America..."


Another school, this bald guy asks me: "Is McDonald's Amercia's problem, and please support your answer?"
me: "Well, it is one facet ..."
That went fairly well after that first question.

Good experience nonetheless.

Always expect the unexpected in the first question they ask.

Good luck on your interview.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Sep, 2012 05:45 am
@DrewDad,
Ah. Yeah.

Could still go towards the idea that you're far from desperate (which might be good for you overall while distressing them in the short term) -- but I get what you mean.
0 Replies
 
laughoutlood
 
  3  
Reply Thu 20 Sep, 2012 06:19 am
@DrewDad,
after i type my tripe i'll read what sensible people have written

know that you will be brilliant in the position and show that in the interview ie psyche up

pride? you wrote the book on whatever and created such and such, just spill your achievements

tripped? none, if you didnt know an answer youd seek clarification of the question because you know your stuff,

appearance? if you have to ask i'd sharpen and call a friend of similar size who may own a suit if the job calls for one

don't over think it , just go and get the job

environment? show me the work the environment is secondary
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Sep, 2012 07:25 am
@Jet Fire,
Good luck getting into Med School!
0 Replies
 
esharef
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Sep, 2012 11:39 am
@boomerang,
totally agree that "where do you see yourself in 5" years is so annoying as a question. I don't know where I see myself in 5 years -- it's way too far out. Even most companies don't know where they seem themselves in 5 years. And even if you might have some sense of where you want your person life to be in 5 years (kids, marriage, etc), this is much harder for job planning

Thanks,
Elli, hireart
0 Replies
 
 

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