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Mark Gilbert
Mark Gilbert
Mark has been involved in EDA recruiting for over 18 years. He is Founder and President of EDA Careers, but started his career in EDA as executive Vice President at EDA Jobs. Mark was also VP of Marketing and Business Development in the beginning of the Internet revolution and has been a … More »

The Must-Read Interviewing Guide For Candidates and Hiring Managers…How Both Sides Can Win In An Interview!

October 5th, 2015 by Mark Gilbert

This is a crucial column that every candidate and hiring manager should read so they can each wisely get the most out of the interviewing process. First to the candidates…

Acing an interview these days is incredibly difficult. Sometimes, your technical abilities are simply not enough. Knowing how to interview and how to be prepared is CRUCIAL if you want to get to the next round of interviews. Your primary goal should always be exactly that– to get to the next round. Here are some thoughts to make that happen…

First and foremost, be prepared before you interview! There is quite simply nothing more important than knowing as much as possible about the prospective company and their tools. I have had candidates ask their interviewer things like, “So, what problem are you attacking”? This is usually followed by two phone calls: the first is from the candidate saying, “I think I did pretty well”, and the second is from the hiring manager saying, “he/she did not even know what we were doing, so that was the end of that”. Interviewing smart is crucial and this is precisely why I always prep my candidates for their interview and make sure they study the company’s website and read a few white papers and do a little digging. Bottom line, be prepared before the first call or visit. Some candidates take it a step further by going above and beyond and they prepare a presentation to show just how much they know and how proactive and serious they are about their craft and their desire for the position. This approach can of course vary by the types of positions you are interviewing for, but showing what you have done, what you know, or even what you can potentially accomplish, should always bode quite well and make you stand out from the pack.

Few things are more important than conveying the right energy, excitement, and enthusiasm about the opportunity. For many engineers this is the hardest part, but it’s something that needs to be accomplished. After all if you are not excited about the opportunity, then who is? Be likable, smile, and make them feel comfortable that you are someone they can work with as part of their team.

The first round should always be about the company learning about you. You must be compelling and interesting enough to make them want to bring you back for another round. The first interview is not the best time to ask, what most would say, are reasonable questions. Questions like: what are your revenues, what title will I get, what is the comp, what is your exit strategy, are you profitable? Those (and similar) are best asked AFTER they know you are someone they want to pursue, and this also puts you in a better position to ask those reasonably relevant questions going forward. Make them feel your passion, your energy, your knowledge, and your desire to work for their company. There are few Superstars to which this does not apply, and following these guidelines will increase your chances of advancing through the process and ultimately getting hired.

Don’t be afraid to bring the conversation to a conclusion. Ask if you answered all their questions adequately and if there is anything more you could add. (This is especially true if you are in SALES; after all, a good Salesperson better be able to show that they can close, especially a deal on themselves). Thank them and ask when you might hear back or what the next step is, and leave by conveying your appreciation and excitement.

Now to the Company hiring, interviewing…

Knowing how to properly and successfully interview is equally crucial from the employer’s side as well. Having realistic expectations of what an employee can deliver on in the first round is what differentiates an experienced, successful interviewer from the pack. Remember, some candidates simply do not interview well, especially on the first time talking. A good interviewer can see through to a deeper level and beyond what might simply be (especially in EDA) the inability of a candidate to perform well to other HUMANS!   Recently, I had a candidate tell me he got stuck on the second question of an interview and even though he knew the answer (he just needed another few minutes and buckled under the pressure), he never got to go further. All too frequently, interviewers relish outclassing the person they are interviewing and (usually, not intentionally) are proud of the fact that they asked a question that the candidate could not answer and they knew. (How many of you have unintentionally thought this, after seeing a candidate stumble)? Sometimes, a successful interviewer helps them through the process, which can allow the candidate to truly showcase their skills and show the hiring team how they can contribute to the TEAM, no different than in a TEAM meeting. Not everyone can be put on the spot and immediately answer (what could be difficult) test questions, no matter how seemingly basic you think they are. Often, as is the case in EDA, a little thought and group interaction can lead to incredible results and allow the candidate to truly show his/her knowledge. A good interviewer should focus on how they work in a team setting and how they contribute to the solution or conclusion. This leads to another frequent interviewing mistake.

Candidates deserve a fair shake. All too often, the interview process is set up with the wrong expectations. This is something I have written about several times before. It is not uncommon for someone that has NOT interviewed extensively to have expectations that relate too closely to their product. It is one thing to ask overall domain questions and quite another to ask how to solve something that realistically one would not know without at least some fundamental knowledge of the company tools; after all, that is what makes it proprietary. A good interviewer looks at how the candidates approach a solution and whether or not they can muster the resources to actually solve the problem.

I feel like all too often the interviewer is looking for reasons NOT TO HIRE rather than reasons TO HIRE. A good interviewer looks for reasons “TO HIRE” and not the other way around. Approaching the interview with a positive perspective can make all the difference in the world in discovering and hiring strong candidates.

Sometimes the hiring process seems to go on and on, turning down candidate after candidate. Companies need to honestly ask themselves a fundamental question: “Why have we turned down several seemingly quite qualified candidates? After all, they were invited because they seemed to have what it takes on paper.” Yes, MOST LIKELY you are correct in your assessment, but it would not hurt to examine the process to see if in fact your expectations are in line with what is realistic for a good candidate to know. Here are the facts: good interviewing candidates don’t always work out and candidates you were unsure of rise to the top, the opposite of course is also true. Every company has lost and been surprised by hires both positively and negatively. That is why it is so important to judge their ability and/or motivation to learn something new, to test their ability to come up with answers even if it means a little collaboration. Look at their past and what they have done and ask if they are teachable and will work well with your team. Remember, your product (typically) is breaking new ground and as in all new technologies, people need to come up to speed. Gauging that ability is essential to making good hires.

I always question situations where the company continually turns down seemingly strong candidates; the company must dig deeper as to why this is happening. Just as important, on the candidate’s side, if he/she is turned down by seemingly good companies, there must be a reason for that. I think companies (from the very top) need to always examine the process to see if in fact, their expectations are in line with what is realistic for someone to know. It is also important for an interviewer to judge the candidate’s ability and/or motivation to learn something new, since chances are most products are breaking new ground, and as in all new technologies, people need to come up to speed. Gauging that ability is a crucial and essential part of the process. Candidates, if you have been continually turned down time and again, you need to ask why and examine your style of interviewing and your experience and how it relates to the positions you are applying for. If you are overstating your knowledge base or accomplishments, most likely they are not standing the test of questions to prove it. You may need to adjust what types of positions you think you are qualified for, in order to improve your chances for success, even if it means less money or a different level of position.

I am available to talk to any company and/or candidate whether you are working with me or not. Feel free to call or email me anytime.

Mark Gilbert


Next column, I will discuss how to write a good resume for today’s database-driven world and more.

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