I continue to see people who have no idea how to prepare for an interview. I’m pretty sure they won’t read this, so do your young friends, siblings, students, kids, or grand kids a favor and give them a clue.
One reason you might not be landing a job is because you don’t have a clue how to show the hiring manager that you can do the job.
There are three job-specific assets you can bring to the interview table: experience, a degree, and vendor or industry certifications. I share my views on all three, and then conclude with how to prepare for what really gets you the job – the interview.
I’ll give the most preference to anyone who can demonstrate they’re capable of doing the job, and the best way to show you can do the job is to show that you’ve done the job. That doesn’t mean someone who has been in a job for X number of years. We all know seat warmers who’ve been in a job for years. I don’t care what temperature my seats are, I want someone who can get up to speed and do the job quickly. I want someone who’s demonstrated that they can learn and adapt.
Education or Degree
If you’re right out of school, you probably don’t have much experience. I expect that you’ve learned how to learn and that you have decent writing and verbal communication skills. I also expect that you have good time management skills because you’ve had to make choices while getting your degree. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have many skills that directly translate to what I’m looking for: network engineers, security engineers, or application integrators. You have to demonstrate that you have the attitude, maturity and mind to grow into the job.
The certifications I’m looking for are Cisco, Juniper, RedHat, GIAC, CeH – nothing followed by a +
If you have experience and certifications, that’s a bonus. If you have education and certifications, that is good. If you have a certification and little or no experience and no education, you’ll have to work a bit harder to convince me that you can do the job. You’ll have to do a great job on your emails and phone calls with me. The thing you have in your favor is that you’re motivated enough to get a certification. Lazy people who lack passion usually don’t spend their time getting certifications.
Prepare for the Interview
The interview is your best shot to get the job, so prepare for it. You can bet at least one person you’re competing with will.
- Research the company. In a recent poll, this was determined to be the biggest mistake job candidates make. Read the company’s website, know their products, have an idea how you can fit in and help them make money.
- Sell Yourself. Why do you want the job? What skills do you bring? What can you do to help your future boss?
- Demonstrate you have the skills for the job. Show your work. Show you have programming, networking, or documentation skills; show your hobby projects; show anything that helps demonstrate that you have the skills needed for the job.
- Demonstrate that you have the maturity for the job. Follow up to get the interview. Follow up after the interview with a thank you note, email or phone call. Present your resume and business card at the start of the interview. (Yes, a business card. They’re cheap and an easy way to spread the word that you’re looking for a job)
- Ask Questions. Think of 3 questions to ask. Write them down if you need to. Not asking questions reveals you to be unprepared and makes you look uninterested and that you don’t understand the purpose of an interview. Read this list of 20 questions from The Ladders.com if you need some inspiration.
- Connect with the people you meet. Interact, ask questions, initiate a conversation with the receptionist. People want to work with people they like, so show them you’ve got enough poise and confidence to behave like a human.
- Polish your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a great marketing tool to help you land a job. It is one of the first places I look when researching a candidate. I look for common connections and who has recommended you. You can use it to research your future company and coworkers. Find someone you know that works at your target company and see if you can get a good reference from them.