Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview Tips (of the not so serious variety)

From the Girl who seems to ROCK interviews but can’t land the goddamn jobs.

For the last year and a half I’ve been job hunting. Actually, more accurately I’ve been hunting since about May of 2009. WOW does that make me feel old... I’ve found a job but not what I want to do and so the search continued.
And continued.
And continues still...

I’ve noticed that I interview well, though my interviewers have not been as... prepared for the process. So these are some tips not to be prepared yourself but to prepare yourself for the unprepared interviewers.

Tip#1: Be Prepared with resume. Like REALLY prepared.
Everyone tells you this, and yes I’ve said ‘prepared’ more than 5 times so far (counting... 1..2..3... okay only 5 times, but still) so being prepared is very important. I mean in this sense to always have duplicates. Why? Because nearly every single interview I’ve gone to, including phone interviews bringing it a to a total of around 6-8 in the last year alone, have forgotten a copy of my resume elsewhere.

Now lets look at this not in the ‘oh people just get distracted’ context but as a tip for when you’re judging this potential employer. When you prep for a meeting you bring your presentation. You bring all tools you’ll need and extra, just in case! Why is it that interviewers, who prize this abilities in their applicants, can’t do it themselves?

BE PREPARED WITH EXTRA PAPERWORK: they’ll forget it. They’ll forget that they forgot it and then they’ll look at you with that ‘yeah, so where’s my extra copy bitch’ look when you present them a clean, coloured copy of your cover letter, resume, references and of course that portfolio you never mentioned, they never asked for but know they’ll salivate over and require to validate your abilities and experience. It’s over preparation, I know this. Like why are you bringing a copy of the paperwork to your bosses office when you know he already has the report that he’s made notes on.

I’ve even had an interviewer get up, say ‘no thank you, mine has notes’ and proceed to scour the office for 10 minutes looking for a piece of paper they can’t find.
It’s unprofessional and is sign #1 that they are not the match for you.

(I will counter each point with a super serious one. Seriously, take extras. Yes it blows, but you want that job and who freaking cares. Just print it off at Staples or your current work, no one will know!)

Tip#2: Beware of Flakes
Everyone has one, everyone knows what they look like and how they operate. I’m talking about those co-workers who promise the sun, moon and Pluto before realizing they can’t because they don’t have Adobe or they were on vacation when their computer crashed and their IT guy is in Europe and they checked, saw your email but then the computer died like RIGHT then, but you dont’ have experience anyways so please wait for the rejection letter because after two weeks we’ve still not made our decision – kind of co-worker. (please not all, except the adobe excuse) was used in a conversation I had yesterday with an interviewer. YES IT WAS THAT SAD.

If you notice you’re in an interview with a flake do the following:
  • ask for specific deadlines on when you’ll hear back from them
  • take every piece of information down but note which pieces are amazing as they are probably an exaggeration
  • do not fall for their seeming optimism about you fitting the position
  • be wary of promises
  • take everything said with a grain of salt and assume you’re not getting the job, because you’re not

The Flakey interviewers at the time of the interview know you are THE one and only for this position. Their heart goes a flutter, their cheeks flush with pink, they flitter about the office telling you where you’ll be sitting and how much they can’t wait for you to meet your soon to be coworkers. Hell, they’ll probably get right down to the nitty-gritty and ask when you can start and salary negotiations.

But the flake does this with every, single, applicant.

First you’re perfect, and the others are good but you’re a nice fit.
Then you won’t hear from them for two weeks.
Maybe two and a half.
They won’t respond to your emails, they won’t call you back. Until one day you ACTUALLY catch them and suddenly “I may have over-estimated your chances for this position, but I’ve still not made my decision.”

Flakes, are at best, unprofessional. They don’t contain their emotions and are incapable of keeping their words. Try not to let this determine if you get the job (I find quite a few flakes inhabit HR offices ‘round the world). If they’re the manager you report to, seek employment elsewhere as this could be a sign that they’ll flake off your project ideas, be inconsistent with payment of salary, and determine your booked holiday status was more optimistic before but now they’ll have to rethink because they just got back from THEIR vacation and their computer is broken.

You want someone who is a little cold to the interviewing process, knows what they’re doing and is straight with you. I’d rather hear at the interview or shortly after that there’s no chance in hell I’m getting the job over waiting a few weeks to be forgotten when I had this AMAZING interview, where we even talked about ordering me a chair that would be better for me.

Totally hate the flakes.

Tip#3: Sales People, when ‘On’, are evil manipulative pricks. Even the bitches.
I like sales people, don’t get me wrong. My step-dad is a salesman and he’s probably one of the most amazing men I’ve even known in my life.
But I’d hate to interview with him.
Sales people have an ‘On’ switch. I have it to, as I’m kinda good at sales myself. It’s a switch that turn’s ‘off’ your morality and considerations and turns ‘on’ the self driven and motivated monster within. It’s GREAT when you’re doing your sales job. People know what they’re in for, they are interested in your product (or don’t know that they are yet) and the salesman knows the game.

It’s a swift kill that all parties are normally consentual to.
Interviews, in my mind, are different. Yes it is a sales transaction of sorts, where you both get something from the deal but you are hiring an employee. Not buying a coffee maker.

Notes on Sales people:
  • They want their commission, so beware of agencies. They don’t care if the job suits you, as long as you’re added to their list of ‘successful hires’ even if you quit after two weeks. Hell, they’d probably convince you to work for the devil if they get a piece. (not all, but most...)
  • Despite what they tell you they do NOT know what’s best for you. YOU DO. Don’t just do what they say because it sounds like a good idea because the inflection of their awesome movie-phone-salesman-voice tells you to think so. WRONG! NO! BEING A DOOR TO DOOR SALESMAN OF COLLEGE TEXTBOOKS IS NOT FOR YOU! Not when you applied to be a Marketing Assistant in an office.

There’s more that all falls under the category ‘they’re lying to make the sale’, the sale being you getting the job. Sometimes, if all you need is ANY old job great! They’re your best friend. But you’re not going to Williams-Sonoma to get a Wallmart quality coffee machine. If they tried to sell you one you’d strangle them with your overpriced Burberry scarf you bought at the Holt Renfrew next door.

Tip #4: Local Phone Interviews= sad-face L.
No one likes interviews. They’re not fun. You either rock them or blow them and it can’t be avoided by doing it over the phone. It’s often worse because you’ll probably still have to do an in person anyways and you’ve just extended your interviewing process. Or limited it needlessly because you say ‘umm’ on the phone too much.

Example: Marketing Assistant Agency Interview over the phone.
Location: Me, Pickering. Interviewer, Toronto. NOT THAT FAR.
Time: 7ish-pm on a Wednesday

Now I understand that he would be home during this time, so I’ll preface this by saying no I don’t expect him to be in the office. BUT I didn’t expect it to be with his friends laughing and joking in the background either.

Me: Hello ***, it’s Lisa-Marie calling for that pre-interview for the-“
Interviewer: OH YEAH! HI, hold on, *goes to talk to his friends, TV and music in the background. I wait about a minute or two before he comes back and closes a door* Sorry about that. So yeah, tell me about you.
Me: Well I’m currently working as an OE clerk and looking to begin a career in Publicity and Marketing.
Interviewer: This isn’t a publicity job.
Me (taken a back but the curt juncture): I’m aware, but I’m still interested in learning as much as I can about marketing with on job experience. It would be a nice change from where I am now.
Interviewer: I don’t have your resume.
Me: Oh, well I can give you a brief summary –
Interviewer: Nah, just tell me about you. Why do you want to work in Sales.
Me: Well I want to work in Marketing to gain some valuable industry experience. The position was listed as within the media so I thought-
Interviewer: You’ll learn more about the company when you go to the actual interview. This is more a preliminary phone call to see if my employer will like you. She had a great girl in this last position, like really amazing and she wants someone to come in and do everything exactly the same.
Me: Well I’m sure I can learn everything important on the job. Could you, give me some more information on the position? What it entails? The posting was rather limited. I know it did list a starting price at 35k but didn’t state the responsibilities-
Interviewer: 32k. Nah, not 35k.
Me (looking at printed off copy of the posting that clearly states 35-42k commensurate with experience): I see. I suppose the 35k must have been without the benefits, is that included in the 32k-“
Interviewer: Nah, you’re coming at this all wrong. You don’t know how to interview. You never ask about the benefits. I know her, she’ll not hire you for that right there. Sounds like you’re all about the money. And you’re a young girl, not like you have kids or anything so what do you need benefits for? Look. I have another position open. It’s in ‘books’. It’s a sales position but I think it’s just right for you. Part time, full time, it’s a travelling position. North York selling books.
Me: Oh? It’s a sales position with a publisher? I didn’t see that listed.
Interviewer: Well it’s a sales position yeah, you’d be going from school to school with some books and selling them. It sounds better for you now that I’ve talked to you.
Me: Well I’m more interested in a Toronto job, not really looking in North York or at anything just specifically in sales and I would like to know more about the company for Assistant position, I don’t even know the name-
Interviewer: Well, how about I get you to come into my office for an interview. You know, go over the basics of the job. Salary, company, location information. You have a car right? Yeah you’d be perfect for this book selling job. Why don’t you come in this Friday at 1pm?
Me: I do work 9-5, and would be unable to come on Friday with such short notice. But I could come in Monday.
Interviewer (who does not respond right away, the door to his room is open and someone is talking to him.):hmm? Oh, Monday sure. Yeah. Whenever. I have to go though. I’ll see you Monday.
I didn’t get a chance to say goodnight before he hung up.

I might not have been the right candidate for that position, but I made it clear I did not want this other job but he pushed it again for another day in emails before I called and cancelled the interview.

Morale of this Tip: Sales people are bad interviewers.
I don’t think he even knew my name by the end of it. So at the very least be prepared if you know the person interviewing you is a sales guy/gal. They might try to throw you under the bus and convince you want something you REALLY don’t.

Tip #5: Be yourself and do not give up.
Super Serial moment, all joking and bitterness aside, you should never give up looking for the right job. I’m not saying go live in your parent’s basement playing videogames all day long while eating all the food they buy for you and live like a social sap to those around you.
Get a day job. Work that shitty ass job you hate to stop from leeching off those that love you and keep looking for the right job. I am, I’m still a leech but I’m working hard and I know others in the same boat. This market right now is brutal and giving up is not an option.

Eventually you’ll have that interview that’ll either go great or horrible but will land you in a job you can be proud of.

Until then, fuck the fakes, screw the unprofessional flops, curse the sales people and be you. I’ll be here doin’ the same so at least you’re not alone?

Happy Hunting.


Tip the Final: Don’t Blog about this shit.
It could nip you in the ass, but I feel like sharing anyways. I like livin' on the edge!



  1. Great tips, even that last one. Thanks for visiting this morning.

  2. Joshua - Haha I guess they're good. More, no one talks about it so it should be said.

    Now if only this could get me a better full-time job...