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Kevin Mack
Kevin Mack

Posted on • Originally published at welldocumentednerd.com on

Tips for Job Interviews

So I wanted to take a second to talk about interviewing, and how to go about interviewing for a position. I recently changed job at my current employer, and have actually had this conversation with quite a few friends, and I did want to put out a post of some quick tips for interviewing:

Tip 1 – Your Resume should really be comprehensive.

One of the number one mistakes I see people make with their resume is they get too beholden to this idea that a resume can only be 1 page, and I honestly don’t know why people believe that.

I know part of that comes from the fact that people want to keep it brief. I totally get that, but if I’m being honest if you are approaching ten years in your field, you more than likely have quite a breadth of skills and relevant experience, that should be documented. And to be honest you don’t know what specific skills they are most looking for, so it’s important to make sure you make your resume comprehensive to ensure that you check the appropriate box they are looking for.

Additionally, and I see this mistake a lot, people leave off skills because they don’t think they matter but do. For example, if you’ve ever had to work with an end customer, done a sales pitch, managed an escalation or expectations. These are valuable skills that many people just don’t have and should be documented in your resume.

Tip 2 – Build a brand deck, it’s the trailer

I have to be honest, in my experience the practice of a Cover Letter is really out of date. Most people I’ve ever known don’t put a lot of stock in them. I would argue a better medium in my experience is a “Brand Deck”, which really enables the ability to showcase your skills.

If the resume is a comprehensive view of your career and skills, the Brand Deck is the “Trailer”, the goal being that it allows you to shape the narrative around your skills and strengths and present that to a potential employer for their review. This can be a powerful tool for helping to show your skills ahead of the conversation in an interview. And ultimately help setup a more productive conversations for both potential employers and you. Instead of having the “What kind of experience do you have in Scrum?” They can see in your brand deck, “Lead team with Scrum Master role, and coordinated activities for Sprint Planning and Retrospective.

Tip 3 – Be on time, and very professional

This one I shouldn’t have to say, but I will. You need to be on the spot, and even potentially early for every interview. Also, treat this with a professional approach. And if you have a scheduled time slot be respectful of that. Don’t try to go over the allotted time, and be respectful. I have a whole blog post on how to run a meeting, and you should treat your interview in the same manner.

Tip 4 – Never use the word “Expert”. I don’t care how good you are.

This is a good rule that a friend of mine gave me. Never…EVER say you are an expert in anything. There is always “a bigger fish”, and there will always be someone who knows more than you on any topic. So I find the term “Expert” is just inviting people to play “stump the chump.” And honestly that’s a waste of your time and theirs.

Tip 5 – Be humble, hungry, and smart

A great book, that I’m going to do a post on is the Ideal Team Player, And the book really is a fascinating read, with some amazing insights into how someone can be a true team player by embodying these values. And at it’s core, the simplistic explanation of these values are:

  • Humble: Don’t have an ego, or a chip on your shoulder. Be the kind of person who isn’t in it for personal glory, but rather has a passion for the work they are doing.
  • Hungry: Be someone who has a passion for the work, and finds ways to do better and accomplish the goals set out for the team. Be someone who wants to find ways to contribute, and doesn’t need to know how to move forward.
  • Smart: Be someone who knows how to communicate with people. That you treat everyone with the same respect and know how to talk to people. You are smart enough to know what’s appropriate.

Tip 6 – Do your homework

Another key point I’ve seen people not do enough of is, do your homework up front. Research the company you are applying to, and make sure there’s a way to ensure that you make that part of the conversation. One of the most important aspects of the interview is that you are “selling yourself”, to a potential employer.

Tip 7 – Always ask questions

Another key piece of wisdom I’ve learned over the years is that you must always ask questions. ALWAYS. And don’t be afraid to ask about the culture or the team, some of the questions I’ve asked are the following:

  • What is the best part of working with this team?
  • What is the worst part of working with this team?
  • How do you feel about the leadership of the team?
  • What about the culture?
  • Do you find people are willing to discuss new ideas?

Tip 8 – Stick the landing

I got this advice from a very good friend, and honestly it is the best thing I’ve ever done in an interview. I now end every interview with the following two questions.

  • Do you have any reservations about me for this position? And if so can we address those now?
  • Can I count of you for a “Yes” vote when it comes time to hire?

What I love about these questions, is it gives you a very specific conversation that is focused on the reason you are all there. Let’s face it they are looking to see if you are a good fit, and you are looking to see the same. What I love about this question is that it gives them a chance to talk to you about anything they might have reservations about.

The biggest thing here is if they say “Well you don’t have a lot of experience in _______.” You can possibly clear up that misconception by talking about something adjacent.

The final question really helps you to show them how committed and interested you are in the position. It solidifies that you want this, and are ultimately looking for that to happen.

Tip 9 – Remember this is a sales conversation

Remember, interviewing is a sales motion, where you are selling yourself. You are selling them on why you would be an excellent addition to their team. So approach this as such, and it will always help to orient you in the right direction.

Final thoughts

Remember at the end of this process, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. You want to make sure you are going to enjoy and want to work with these people. So make sure you pay attention and ask questions during the interview.

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