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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 »

Landing The Interview Is About More Than Your Technical Skills…Must Read Advice For Anyone Interviewing

April 15th, 2016 by Mark Gilbert

I have placed more candidates than I can count and have additionally prepared more candidates for their interviews, than I have yelled at my kids… (OK I admit to stretching there a bit).  I cannot begin to tell you how many candidates make the most elementary mistakes during their first interview(s), serving to eliminate themselves before they have even had a chance to prove their worthiness.  It is certainly great to possess the needed technical skills for the position but it is even greater to know how to showcase those skills, to give you the best shot at acing the interview.

Here are a few of my more basic tips and what I always tell my candidates before they interview. I explain to them that the simplest, most logical goal is to have one single objective…and that is to get through the 1st interview successfully. Since most first interviews are phone screens, the discussions can vary depending on the company and the person doing the interviewing.

You would probably approach the interview differently if you were to talk to the head of HR as opposed to the head of engineering. However, the same premise applies…The ONLY way to land a second interview is to convince your interviewer during the first screen, that you are someone they need to learn more about, and to get them to actually bring you in to meet you in person. In order to pass the first phone screen, you need to know a few basic fundamentals, and this applies to almost every type of position at ALMOST every level.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “I am too good for this”, because I assure you, you are not!  So let’s review a few of the basics…

The first thing you should hope to accomplish is to get your interviewer comfortable with you; liking you is an essential part of going to the next level. If your screen is on the phone, it starts with warm pleasantries; if in person, it starts with a warm handshake and a look right into their eyes with a nice to meet you greeting. As the conversation gets started, (either by telephone or in person), you want to make sure to convey how impressed you are with the company and the domain they are in…but don’t overdo it, just make the point.

For example, I have heard a lot about Whatchamajig and you seem to be in a good place doing badadeboom.  From what I can tell and have heard, your tool(s) are respected and compete well against Vadadedada.  Keep it casually conversational but start there and let that help you to roll into your experience in that domain.

The first screen, USUALLY by phone, is USUALLY not too technical but as I said earlier, it depends on who the screen is with.  Here are a few things to consider, depending on who you are talking to, meaning HR or someone technical. If it is HR, they will want to get to know you and do a simple review of your history.  You should have clear reasons why you left each company and they should never include anything negative about your boss or the company. Blame does not fit well with new hiring managers. They may ask basic experience questions that relate to their specific technical needs.  Generally, the first HR screen will not be too extensive, usually more domain-related to learn how you fit with their requisition. Remember, no matter who you are talking to, IT IS A TIME FOR THEM TO INTERVIEW YOU AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.  Keep your questions to a minimum; your chance to ask questions will come if THEY decide to bring you in, for the next phase of more in-depth interviews.

Make sure that you have spent time on the company website and that you understand their products.  Additionally, if possible, try and understand how the company positions themselves in the market against the competition. There is not much that sounds better to a hiring manager than a candidate knowing about the company. I have had candidates ask, “so what exactly is it that you do exactly, I did not have time to review your website”.  As you can imagine, that is a showstopper.  Be prepared!

It is also not the time to discuss the title nor the compensation. Nor is it the time to ask for too much information about the company or their customers. Don’t ask for their revenue or if they are profitable…those type of questions will come soon enough, if you get the chance to have more interviews. Again, your only goal is to get them to want to bring you in for a second interview and for now, nothing more.

Should any of you want more detailed advice, I am always available whether you use me or not.  Please feel free to call me anytime and I will gladly walk you through some of the dos and don’ts of interviewing.

DAC is getting so close and it is in Austin this year.  I will give you my thoughts on the next DAC in my next column…right now I need to make sure my white sport coats are ready to shine in Austin.

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