By Dino Londis
Today, in IT anyway, the job interview has become the interview process, where applicants may speak with a company three, four or even five times.
Not too long ago, a bit of enthusiasm and a certification or two could get you a decent IT position. A job glut will do that. In today’s economy, because we’re competing with so many more people for a fixed number of jobs, employers have the luxury to sift through every resume and stage an agonizingly long interview process. Larger companies, eager to hire the right person, may ask you to return again and again without covering your expenses. And, each step up the interview ladder brings greater risk of failure.
The reason is economics. Companies use multi-layered interviews to avoid the cost of training. Better to spend time making the decision right the first time than risk employing the wrong person.
In their book Interview for Success, Caryl and Ron Krannich say "the job interview is the single most important activity determining whom they hire… (so) you should spend a disproportionate amount of time preparing." Today that means being ready for the phone, in-person, video conference, and group or serial interview.
Prepare for this just as you would for an in-person session. Dress up, right down to the hard shoes. Even if you’ll be working in a casual environment, you have to overcome that relaxed feeling of home. There are disadvantages to talking to an individual or group on speaker phone – such as not being able to read their faces, or hearing them talk among themselves – but there are advantages as well. You can consult your resume or notes with buzzwords, have a pad with some bullet points you want to get in. This will get you to the…
In Person Interview
This is the most critical interview, where you prove yourself and your skill set. "Many excellent resumes and phone interviewees don’t hold up in the one-on-one interview," says Robyn Avery, senior recruiter at Children’s Hospital Boston. "In addition to receiving hundreds of applicants for one position, the candidates that look excellent on paper and sound very knowledgeable over the phone are not making it through the in-person interviews and coding/whiteboard questions."
If you’re applying at a branch office and you’ve made it past the local HR administrator and IT director, the next step may be a sit down with – not at – the home office. Of course, this is good news: The branch won’t want to waste their directors’ time on someone they’re not keen on.
Although the technology has vastly improved, video conferencing over IP doesn’t have the immediacy we expect of television. The subtlety of any conversation is lost and miscommunication can derail the whole process. Delays can cause you to talk over your interviewer ("I’m sorry, you go." "No, you go…"
If you can, practice with a friend on Skype. Use a camera on both ends and you’ll quickly get a feel for the awkwardness. During the interview, don’t look at the screen because the timing and delay can be confusing, and you’re already walking a tightrope. Treat the conversation like a phone call, and look just above the screen. Your viewers won’t know the difference.
A company might condense the interview ladder into one grueling day. This is where you meet all the vested parties, including your peers, usually in their offices. The process may last three to four hours as each interviewer makes their evaluation. The Kranniches suggest treating each serial interviewer as if it’s your first of the day. More than likely the interview is their first of their day, and you want to appear fresh.
Not all interviewers will necessarily like you, so don’t take the positive energy from the previous interviewer as a sign everyone will feel the same way. Avoid repeating stories. Although different people are interviewing you, they’ll meet to compare opinions, and if they find you’ve scripted a few stories they may conclude you lack experience. After the last session, be sure to say your goodbyes to everyone, calling them all by name.
If you have any specific questions, post a comment below, and I’ll get back to you.
Dino Londis is an applications management engineer in New York.