I once again find myself writing this month's column in one of the more prestigious places on the planet Chili's restaurant in LAX. This is the second time I have done this I need to get out more, or travel to better places. Last year, this month, I wrote the following article about the best way to approach an interview. It was by far my most reviewed article, and the one that had the most real effect on helping my readers. So since it is conceptually so important, and since it is the best way I could think of to present such an important part of actually getting the job, I have edited it to make it more inclusive of areas I did not previously discuss, and am now re-releasing it.
Now for those engineers that never heard of American Idol, I say two things, 1) your lucky, (but I have to personally admit I really like it), and 2) the show speaks to my point emphatically. I know exactly what you are thinking your thinking that Paula, Simon and Randi do not know anything about EDA, so this does not apply to you. (Well a few of you MIGHT have thought that), Or you're thinking that you could be the next American Idol and give up EDA. (More of you likely thought the second choice). But just in case there are a few of you out there without a sense of humor, let me make my point. My point might seem so basically fundamental and elementary, that Simon would blast me for even mentioning it...you might be shocked how many intelligent “fools” have ruined their shot at a great opportunity because they neglected some of the most elementary principles of interviewing. Let's move on and see if I can make my American Idol metaphor tie in. (And if you do not know what American Idol is, I suggest you pick your heads up out of your monitor a little more often).
So your recruiter (or whoever) arranged your first screening either by phone or in person, same principles apply. The interview is set and you have “x” amount of time to convince the person doing the first level of interview, to actually ask you back again for a second round, OR NOT! What is so basically fundamental here is that you must never under estimate the importance of that first meeting or phone conversation. All to often-prospective candidates “under interview” thinking their resume tells enough of the story. Or worse yet, that your experience “should be” so “understood” that no explanation is needed. OH HOW WRONG YOU ARE!
You see, these few minutes, will be the deciding factor on whether or not they want to meet with you again. The impression you make here will either make the hiring manager (or whoever) decide to “let you through to Round 2, or in AMERICAN IDOL terms, (AI for you acronym loving engineers), to Hollywood. See, interviewing is like auditioning, actually not like, it is! And here is the tie in. Think of yourself as auditioning for American Idol. You have seen how many people go up and REALLY THINK THEY ARE GOING TO BE THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL! It is amazing to see how many really believe they are great down to their core, (just like some of you engineers). Then comes the audition/interview, and it is so plainly clear that they/you were either not as good as they/you thought, or they/you were not as prepared/ready as they/you should have been. And the same applies to technical folks “auditioning” for their/your future. If your audition-interview is not stellar, you have no chance. If the judges (the management you talked to) were not impressed, nor thought you were the next great person for the team, it will go like this, “Ok Paula yes or no no, Randy, yes or no , no, Simon, “it was abysmal, I can see no useful reason to have you occupy a space or chair in our office, or even breath our oxygen, ..it is a no”. Perhaps this is (just a little bit of) an exaggeration, but it makes my point perfectly!
So just like AI, your personality, skills, and dedication need to shine from the first second of your interview. You must be ready, prepared, before your interview, so you can put on that great audition. They have to see your star potential. Are you personable, are you showing your passion and desire for the position, will you fit in to the culture, are your skills sharp enough to make a viable contribution. Have an objective. Know the company. Know the space, the competition. When they ask you, “what makes you think you will be the next Amer..” ummm engineer we hire, you have to have the right answers. You must be able to convey your knowledge of the area to the person judging/meeting you. Will you make him/her feel your passion, your excitement? Will you be able to convince them of your knowledge, your abilities? Will you convince him/her that you can make a valuable contribution to the company, the team? Will you be prepared and know what they are doing, and how you could fit in. Will you know how to convince them that what you don't know well, you can learn quickly! Will you be there next American Idol?????? Only by being prepared do you have a chance of winning, of getting the position.
If you want the job, be ready, be prepared, and that means both mentally and emotionally. This is your defining moment to shine, and just because it is technical, it is not less important.
Engineers in general, tend to be very focused on their attributes, and specialties. They know that they “know” what they do, and each of you firmly believe you do what you do well. Convoluted sentence perhaps, but the reality is more problematic than the sentence. You see, if you cannot convey your expertise to the person interviewing you, your extensive knowledge base just stays and resides inside of you. No matter how much you have done, accomplished, fact is, if you cannot prove it, or say it convincingly, you lose. It is almost that simple.
So here is what I suggest, and I urge you all to follow these guidelines.
- First, learn as much as you can about the company. Read the website, white papers, and even look up close competitors and know about them.
- Second, be confident, yet humble. Most hiring managers can be intimidated easily, so make it clear that you are there to be a part of the team, to be another cog in the wheel. Aspirations of management, and advances come when you prove your worth, or further in to the interviewing process. Let them see, feel your energy and excitement. (Of course this does not apply to interviewing specifically for a manager/Director type position).
- Third, talk about your skill sets with confidence; explain BRIEFLY your successes and roles in previous projects. Ask relevant questions about what part of the flow they are attacking, and let them see your vision and intelligence. Ask how you can contribute.
Next month I will write another column on writing a strong resume. A strong resume, and a well-prepared interview will give you the best fighting chance at securing your next great opportunity. My goal is to make you the next American umm engineer at the label/company you decide you want.