Friday, June 25, 2010

Prep time

The last few days have been a little intense in terms of cramming. Not for an exam, but for interviews. I've been fortune to land several interviews recently and so I've spent some of my free evening time just getting ready.

Things I like to do to prep for an interview:
* Research the company by reading the website, rereading the job description, checking out recent PR, and doing a google search to see if anything comes up. I'll also checked LinkedIn to see who works at the company. If they're given any presentations or papers lately, I'll review one or two of those, maybe even print it out and take it with me to the interview so I have something to read while waiting in the lobby.

* Get my resume printed on nice paper. I usually go to Office Depot and make 5 to 10 copies on the heavier cotton paper. It's been rare that I've actually had to give an interviewer a copy of my resume, but I like to have it. Also, it's good to be able to pull it out and review it at the same time as the interviewer. Honestly, I wrote my resume, but I can't always remember off the top of my head what's on it.

* Prep my questions. My rule of thumb is always to ask three questions at every interview. I don't have a good reason for the number, it's just what I've always done and in general, has been successful. In order to have three questions to ask, I brainstorm and write down at least 10. I've found that the majority of those get answered during the actual interview, but if my list is long enough, I'll be able to get at least 3 questions in.

My go-to questions are as follows. In fact, I think I've used this list pretty consistently over the last 5-7 years, and the questions have worked pretty well. Keep in mind, these are the 'general' questions -- I like to have at least one or two questions written down ahead of time regarding the job in question.

1. What do you expect the person who is in this position to accomplish in the first three months? First six months? Nine months?

2. How do you measure success?

3. What is the toughest challenge facing the person in this position?

4. What percent of the time will this person be expected to travel?

5. What skills do you think are the most critical to be successful in this position?

6. How would you describe a typical day in this position?

7. What is the management organizational structure?

8. How many people are in the team? What groups will the person in this position be expected to interact with?

The remainder of my brainstormed 10 questions usually have to do with the job posting itself. These questions give me a good idea of the pace of the organization and how the manager works. I never ask about salary, vacation, or other benefits on the first interview. During the second interview, the benefits usually come up for discussion and I may have a question or two at that time.

Most people advise not disclosing salary information. I gave up this tactic a while ago and now I just tell the employer up front what my current salary is and what my expectations are for a switch. I've usually been in a situation where I'm switching from one job to another, so it's never been a problem. I also don't fudge the salary number or do a range; it's super easy for HR to check if you fudged your salary and it might be grounds to rescind an offer in the future.

In general, it has never hurt me to reveal my salary expectations ahead of time. Could I have done better if I didn't? Sure. But I've never been disappointed in the results. Also, because what I do has such a wide range of salary based on experience level and education, I found it best to let people know where I'm at the beginning of the process or fairly early on. It definitely has thrown me out of the running for a couple of jobs but I don't think that's a bad thing.

In general, I don't like to play games, I like to be honest and up front, and I like to be uber-prepared. So far so good. I'll keep you posted on how all this plays out.

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