[Ouretail] FW: From the NY Times: Job interview skills
paulins at ohio.edu
Tue Nov 2 20:30:22 EDT 2010
This is a great article offering insight into assertive and productive interviewing. I thigh it is worth sharing!
October 30, 2010
I Asserted Myself, and Got the Job
By MARAT GAZIEV
WHEN I was hunting last summer for a job in search engine optimization, I started by applying for positions advertised on major online job boards. I looked for openings in San Diego, where I was living, and used one résumé. I didn’t research the companies or consider gearing the résumé’s focus toward a particular job.
I got calls from about five niche e-commerce companies, and all wanted phone interviews. The interviewers would tell me to describe what I did at my existing job, which was also in search engine optimization — how to drive more traffic toward a Web site — and I would tell them. Then they’d pose a hypothetical situation and ask me to respond. I’d answer and wait for the next question. I thought that the more questions I answered well, the better my chances of getting a job. But I never got a callback from any of them.
Looking back, I see what I did wrong. I had an outdated way of thinking about the interview process. I didn’t provide any detail, I didn’t talk about how I saw the industry, and I didn’t offer any tips on how they could improve their online presence. I was doing the bare minimum instead of trying to sell myself.
I guess I thought that I had the qualifications and that the interviewers would see them for what they were. But being passive doesn’t cut it. My capabilities just weren’t coming across.
Because I was working at an S.E.O. firm when I started my search, I was in a different position than many other job hunters. Most people would probably say I didn’t have the same pressure as someone who’d been unemployed for a long time, and that’s true. But I was doing innovative work for the company and didn’t feel I was valued.
I was becoming upset that I wasn’t getting anywhere in my job search, and realized I should change my strategy. I widened my search to other California cities and other states and became more proactive. I researched each company I applied to — and reorganized my résumé to better focus on the job at hand. I also planned to offer several ideas outlining what I’d do if I were hired.
You have to be careful when you do this, however, so you don’t sound like a know-it-all. Suggesting that the company change its name, for example, is nervy. You also can’t say you’re going to make $3 million for the company in a year. You have to find small things that you might improve on a scalable level.
But you need to appear confident. You can’t afford to be tentative when there’s so much competition for jobs.
When I got an interview with a large hotel chain, I was assertive. I said: “I’ve noticed that the title tag on this page could be more descriptive so that the search engines will be sure to pick it up. I’m not familiar with your process, or what department would be responsible for that decision, but it seems like a good idea.”
My suggestions got me a second interview, a teleconference with a few team members. In it, I asked questions in a way that promoted camaraderie.
I kept making recommendations. I said I’d change the layout of some pages and include more content but keep it user-friendly. My tactics worked; I got an interview with a top executive. I knew that at this level, he’d be concerned about S.E.O. strategy, so I prepared by researching the company’s rivals. I created a quick competitive analysis for him and tried to keep it light when I presented it.
I figured that the more you progress through interviews, the more high-level the conversation becomes. If you can talk the person’s language, you earn more points. There doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast formula, like “Do this, say this and you’ll land a certain type of job.” It’s all about being flexible. You have to adapt to the industry, the company and the level of the interviewer.
I did get the hotel job. I was honored when the marketing manager called, because she said that it had many candidates and that I stood out. The salary was disappointing, however, so I turned it down and kept searching.
NOT long afterward, I saw a position at TMP Worldwide, a recruitment advertising firm, listed on a job board. I got a phone interview. Google had just updated one of its search algorithms, an important event in the S.E.O. field. I mentioned this early in the conversation to show I knew what was happening in the industry.
The company invited me to Chicago for a second interview, and I decided to bring along my laptop. It’s helpful to show a Web page while you’re talking about what’s effective and what you might change. I would also be able to demonstrate how I use S.E.O. tools on the Web, as not everyone uses them the same way. I was pleased with how it went. What a difference from how passive I’d been in those early interviews.
I’ve been at TMP Worldwide since August. Getting this job was a matter of educating myself about the best approach and adapting my strategy. Like everything else in life, it was a process. I made an effort to think about each succeeding step and what might get me further along. Luckily, it worked.
As told to Patricia R. Olsen. E-mail:
preoccupations at nytimes.com.
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