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Interviewing: The other side of the table

Sorry there was no post last week, but we’re back! Recently, I’ve been helping interview candidates at my job for a position very similar to mine (slightly more junior). I know, I know — how the turn tables.

And while I’ve already written on here about interviewing, that was from the perspective of someone being interviewed. Before this, I hadn’t been the person interviewing candidates in almost 2 years. In college, I interviewed dozens of people for almost as many positions when I was working with my student media organization. So today we’re going to tackle interviewing advice from the perspective of the person asking (most of) the questions.

Yes, your resume matters. Especially for a Millennial or Gen Z candidate, I expect not to see rookie mistakes. Other than including the most vital information, all the “rules” of resumes are technically just guidelines, but you need to have a darn good reason if you’re going to break them. That means:

  • Keep it to 1 page. Unless you have 8+ years of experience, you shouldn’t need more than that. Concision is a necessary skill for almost any job, so prove you have it.
  • For the love of all things holy, make it a PDF. Word docs are nice, but they are prone to formatting glitches, font issues, and accidental edits. You put a lot of work into your resume. Keep it crisp with the extra 3 seconds to save it as a PDF.
  • If you have a professional website or portfolio, definitely include the URL. Do NOT include personal blogs or non-professional websites. The people who are deciding whether or not to hire you do not need that info. (Pro tip: If you are including a website, make the URL as simple as possible. This is 2019. You don’t have to put “www.” or “https://” preceding the domain name.)
  • Don’t include a bunch of irrelevant info. It’s just more that I have to read, and lowers the chance that the relevant info will stick with me as well. Trim the education section down significantly after your first job out of college, and only include skills/experience pertinent to the job you’re applying for.

But if you make it to the interview, that matters more. I’ve seen resumes that, um, could use improvement and then been genuinely impressed by the person during the interview. The resume is how you get your foot in the door. The interview is where you get a chance to make an impression (and is almost always what people base hiring decisions on).

We’re just as nervous as you. Seriously. An HR person might have interviewed dozens of folks, but chances are most of the people across from you don’t enjoy the process any more than you do. I try really hard to put interviewees at ease, but just remember this isn’t anyone’s comfort zone.

We want to like you. Virtually no one goes into this with a bad attitude. Even if we weren’t keen on your resume or some other previous info, we want to be proved wrong. Interviewers would rather have a lot of great candidates for a position than just decent ones. Be friendly, be attentive, be professional. It goes a long way.

We know the questions are weird. Myself and my fiancé have been interviewing folks at our respective jobs recently, and since we aren’t too removed from the experience (especially the intense job hunt right after college), we try not to pepper candidates with questions we hate answering unless it’s necessary. Sometimes, it’s necessary. While I don’t really care about your greatest weakness, I will ask what drew you to the role and company just to see where your interests are — and often to check if you’ve done your research. Some organizations have lists of questions interviewers have to ask. Just roll with it and try to have a number of examples/answers that can apply to common questions.

There’s rarely a single right answer, but there are wrong answers. I have a decently extensive list of questions for the folks I’ve been interviewing (and I usually throw some more in on the fly). For some of them, I’m looking for a specific type of answer, but for a lot of them I’m just trying to get to know the candidate. Compose your answers in a way that honestly reflects your experience and personality while acknowledging (even if indirectly) what the interviewer is likely looking for in a candidate. There’s a lot of wiggle room, just be aware of how you’re presenting yourself.

Ask good questions. This is one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from other candidates. When I’m interviewing people, this matters more than a good number of the questions I ask. If you ask thoughtful, insightful questions, I’ll remember you. And it will prove that:

  1. You’ve done your homework
  2. You’re truly interested
  3. You’ve got critical thinking skills.

Some good stock questions are things like what the day-to-day routine is like or what a person’s favorite part of working there is, but try to think of one or two that are highly specific to the role/company or otherwise out of the box. One of my favorites when being interviewed is to ask people what they wish I would have asked. One that endeared me to a candidate when interviewing them was about my preference on a highly contested (like to the point of being an inside joke) topic in my field.

Think about it as a date, not a test. When it comes down to it, this isn’t about simply checking boxes or passing a test (see above). Interviewers want to see if you’re the right fit for the company and the role, and you should be considering the same thing. If it’s not a place that would be good for you (and you aren’t in a situation in which you really need it), it might be best to consider other jobs. It’s about both parties assessing the chemistry and likelihood of a successful partnership. Make them want to swipe right.

Ultimately, breathe and do your best. You’ll be fine.

I hope that was helpful! If you have any interviewing advice (or questions), feel free to leave them in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because it would not be professional to post the inside of my office building.)

P.S. I am still locked out of Instagram (@ support, come thru), but all the recent posts will get updated on there as soon as I’m back in!

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On things that last forever

I got a tattoo last July. It’s small, personally meaningful, and I’d planned it for years. It felt like a bit of a big adult moment. And though I have no regrets, I have found surprised. It has often provided the reminder I needed, just as I intended it to. But a lot of things that hold a great deal of meaning for me (special words in particular) end of as sort of a timestamp — a bright, poignant reminder of the moment they were really what I needed to hear.

My tattoo isn’t like that. Maybe because it’s physically part of me, maybe because it’s only one word. But I think mostly because I’ve learned to hold the meaning behind it with an open hand.

“Hope” has long been my favorite word. Clichéd maybe. I don’t really care. It’s the only word that captures strength, acceptance, resolve, compassion, and resilience in any circumstance I find myself in. It’s four letters that fortify what I believe in and offer a hand when I don’t know what to believe.

I made a playlist recently that centers on a slightly different version of hope than the one I hold, but was still strongly influenced by my feelings around the word. As I was verifying it (I listen to all playlists once through before they’re final, to ensure they flow and hold together), I realized it’s got some sad and bittersweet songs on it. Even some of the happier ones are more about longing or commitment than overt happiness. I wondered if other people would also feel that those songs belonged on the playlist, and was a little surprised at how firmly I felt they did.

My idea of hope used to be more sunshine-and-butterflies optimism. Life, over time, has made me rely on a more complex understanding. If I was still clinging to a simpler definition or understanding, I would have lost more than missing out on the depth of meaning that I now find in the word. It’s also likely that circumstances that pushed the limits of what that narrower idea of hope covers might have made me feel like hope wasn’t enough, or wasn’t worth it.

But I’ve learned not to clutch my idea of it too tightly. Holding onto it steadily, but more gently, has allowed my understanding to grow, and has allowed me to grow and learn as well. Life isn’t simple, nor will it ever be — so it doesn’t make sense that the ideas we hold most dear should be terribly simple either. Simply beautiful, or simply awe-inspiring, perhaps. But simple doesn’t describe any of our universe very accurately, which means the best way for us to live and collaborate within that universe is to meet it where it’s at: complexity.

We can be both steady and ever-changing. We can be full of sadness and still embrace joy. We can offer grace and be just. We can be honest with our fears and still brave. We can disagree and still love. We can fail and not give up. We can not know and be confident. We can live in the tension. We can hope, whatever that looks like.

What’s a word or quote that has grown in meaning for you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. I am still locked out of my Instagram account (@ support, where u at), but I promise all the recent posts will get updated on there once I’m back in!