Do’s and Don’ts of a Job Interview

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Like most people who have lead teams and companies for many years, I have interviewed hundreds of people. It always amazes me to see the same mistakes repeated time and time again. Sometimes I just want to tell the person sitting in front of me what to say, or what not to say so that I can end the interview. But I don’t, because I want to give the interviewee a chance. With so many sites and blog posts dedicated to interview advice, you might think that there is no need for another one. The difference here is that I will represent both the interviewee and the interviewer, as both sides need to do and avoid certain things. In this blog post I will focus on key things the interviewee should address and avoid.

Short and relevant resume, please!

The interview begins when you send over you resume. Of course, the interview might not even happen if the resume is the not a “good” one. There are many sites that advise on this topic, but I will only stress that the resume should be short and relevant to the job. No one has time to flip though ten pages of projects and a detailed job history. Two short pages is the max, and always make sure you customize it for the job you’re applying to. Yes, it’s more work but if you want the job, you’d better start working for it. Recycle your resume and your resume will be recycled into the bin.

Prepare

What hasn’t been said yet about preparing for an interview? And yet I still interview people who don’t really understand what Docstoc is, what we do, how we make money, don’t know me, etc. It’s only a Google search away to find something about the person you’re interviewing with and it’s a big win to do so, not because it flatters the interviewer but because it shows you did your homework in the most direct and personal way. Same for the business itself; go to the site and spend 10 minutes clicking on every link and reading key pages, make sure you really understand the business. Most importantly, figure out how you can help them, how you see yourself there, and how your experience can benefit them. That’s the goal after all, for you to join this business and make it more successful. Do your homework, no one will hire lazy people.

Dress For The Right Event

If you have no fashion sense and your wardrobe is composed of jeans, t-shirts and sandals, go to any store and spend $100 on a basic slacks, a button down shirt and basic black shoes. Nothing fancy, no tie or jacket. Don’t rent a suite and don’t borrow your dad’s; it looks funny and distracting and will not add to your chances of getting the job. I don’t believe in overdressing, as you want to see the person you will work with, not some made up version of them. Find the balance, it’s an interview not a wedding.

The first 10 seconds

An interview can last from 10 minutes to over an hour, but for most people the decision is made in the first ten seconds of the interview. The reason is simple, over tens of thousands of years our brain evolved to make quick decisions about the things we see. Should I run or hide? Is the person in front of me a friend or foe? Even though we are not running through the jungle with a spear anymore, our basic instincts are still part of us. Most people don’t understand this and translate it as a “bad gut feeling,” and the interview is over before it begins. The problem is that our instincts were never built for this kind of setting: an office interview where one person is looking for a job and the other is trying to figure out if there’s a fit. Our brain automatically and very quickly wants to classify the person in front of us, label him or her by making a “life or death” decision: friend or foe.

So, what do you do? Be as calm, friendly, as secure as possible and smile so the caveman-brain classify you as a friend. Just remember, what you wear, how your hair looks, how you walk, the handshake, your smile, it’s all part of it. I know it’s not fair but it is what it is and you understanding it will only help you win the job.

Ask smart questions

As an interviewee, asking questions is an important part of the interview but you need to shoot for the “hmmm… good question…” type of question. These questions make the interviewer sits back in his/her chair, look up at the ceiling and think. I’m still shocked when people ask me questions like: “Who is your competition?” or “How do you make money?” Really? You tell me. For all the simple questions the answers are just a Google search away; when you fail to take the time to run a few simple searches, it shows you’re lazy.

A good question to ask is something like: “What are the three most important things I need to do in this role to be successful?” Usually the answer is: “Hmmm… good question…” as it deep and shows you truly want to understand how you can help the company be more successful by succeeding yourself.

No one knows everything

You don’t know everything, no one does; so don’t try to pretend that you do. For me, part of the interview is getting to know people’s limits, trying to see what they don’t know and then how they react. Do they think on their feet and come up with a smart solution? Do they ask smart questions? Or do they get upset and defensive, or put up a wall?

This is an important test because in life we always hit our limits and you want to work with people who deal well with challenges. When I can’t get people to admit they don’t know something, even when I ask them about things I have no clue about and are probably completely impossible, I have a reason to stop and think.

Remember that not knowing is not a disadvantage or a weakness, it’s natural and perfectly fine. Of course, if the things you don’t know are key to the position you are in trouble. But then again, you’ll be in trouble anyways so why prolong it?

Don’t ask: “So, how did I do?”

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes people ask me at the end of the interview: “So, how did I do?” This is a mistake. What possible good can come out of this question? Just statistically speaking, most of the time the answer is no. I used to be honest and answer it right then and there, which usually resulted in an awkward moment for us both. Do you really want to take the precious time you have to impress your interviewer and have him/her coach you on how to interview? Even if you feel the interview went so badly you won’t get the job, be professional and end it with your head held high. Send a thank you email later that day. You never know.

Will this job make you happy?

The first two questions I ask everyone are: (1) what are you looking for? (2) what will make you happy?  You may need this job badly for financial reasons, or think that it will help your career. Maybe it’s close to home so you can see your kids more often, or maybe it’s the title. None of these things are the reason to take the job,they will probably not keep you happy in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to have a job close to home, with a hefty salary and a cool title but it’s like chewing gum, the sweet flavor will disappear at some point and you will find yourself grinding your teeth.

It’s better to find a place that makes you truly happy, even if it’s not the ideal  salary, distance, or title.  You’ll do better in the long run,on both a personal and business level. Life is too short to waste it on the wrong path. I know it sounds naïve in our day and age but it’s one of the “secrets” to a healthy life: Be Happy!

Microsoft Windows 8. Is it A Game Changer?

Like all of us, I’ve been using Microsoft Windows forever. Thank to Bill Gates, Windows became a fact of life. We know that a computer is built from parts like a CPU, memory and a hard disk, hardware you must have in order for the computer to work. Microsoft made sure that you  must use its Windows operating system for it to function. It did more than that, it made sure that no matter where you buy your computer: Dell, HP, or even build it yourself, you must use their Windows operating system. Now, that is a nice market to have.

It wasn’t an easy ride for Microsoft, and there were many competitors along the way: IBM with OS2, different Linux operating systems, and of course Mac OS. But Microsoft kept the status quo, partially because of competitors’ mistakes, good products they created (sometimes, not always), and people’s tendency to stay with what they know. But the main reason that everyone wanted Windows was software. Everyone needed software because everything was implemented as software. Every game, productivity tool, utility, chat, email, etc. (and there were millions to chose from) had software you needed to install, and they all run on Windows. Other OSs had only a tiny fraction of the software built for them, which is why everyone flocked to Windows. The masses would not think about buying a Linux OS because it could not run their favorite game and Word. It was a market Check Mate.

But in the past few years things have changed. The Internet evolved, became faster, reached more people, and new types of sites were created. Not just for consuming content but for sharing content (aka, web 2.0) and lately for productivity and collaboration. You can now do everything online, you can chat, check your email, create documents or spreadsheets, work on your photos, play tons of games and everything in between. If you think about it, what software did you install on your computer lately? There are only three categories that still require installation: Anti Virus/Security, Office, and sophisticated games (i.e. Call of Duty). Everything else you can do online. There are other niches like Photoshop and movie editing but for 99% of consumers, that short list is pretty much it.

So, if everything is online do you really need Windows or just a browser? This exact question is what Google wants everyone to ask and Microsoft dreads. With less than 45% browser market share and dropping Microsoft is not even situated to control the browser market. Google was smart and fast to promote their Chrome browser, which is biting at Microsoft’s IE market share like nothing we’ve seen in the past. I guess when billions of people come to your website each day you can promote your product pretty effectively.

Microsoft was late for the smartphone market and is now in a long and expensive uphill battle. Even though Windows 7 phones are very good and not just another icon based smartphone, it’s a hard sell for the iPhone addicts market. Google is coming fast from behind with Google Docs and Spreadsheets, conquering the Microsoft Office market share and not just on the consumer space, but also in Microsoft’s backyard, the Enterprise space. Microsoft was also late for the tablet/slate market and is working extra hard to catch up with the iPad. While Apple just released version 3 of the iPad (read my though on it here), Microsoft’s slate is still in the works. To top it all off, Mac sales are at an all time high and, if it was once, too expensive and all around strange to buy a Mac, more and more are flocking to Apple stores and buying one. It feels like Microsoft is under attack on all fronts and is losing ground. Not an easy situation to be in.

The question we need to ask is the following: is Microsoft the type of company that, when major challenges arise, will make tough choices and come out on top?

I believe so. I’ve been paying close attention to what they are doing and I strongly believe they are making a comeback, and it’s called Windows 8. It’s not just another OS with nicer icons and cooler drop shadow effects. Microsoft is making some brave decisions here that, no offense, we’ve seen coming more from Apple than Microsoft. Windows 8 is significantly different from anything else currently in the market with its Metro style, navigation and user interaction. They are basically betting the house on this one and they know they can’t lose. Playing with my Windows 8 tablet (slate) I was fairly impressed. It’s very different from anything else out there and its something we haven’t say about a Microsoft product in a while: IT’S COOL! It’s designed in a way that tech babies as well as dinosaurs can understand, which is very important to Microsoft. They have about 500 million Windows 7 users that they hope to convert to Windows 8. They integrated a store into the OS and are working hard on getting as many apps as possible ready for launch. Windows 8 will work on all computers from tablets/slate to heavy servers, which is a huge advantage to developers and consumers alike. Since Apple brought the importance of installing applications back from the grave, I believe Microsoft will take that approach with a thunder. This time, Apple simply followed Microsoft’s gameplay not the other way around. Apple only called them “Apps” instead of Applications or software, but Microsoft invented the concept.

Doing a pivot in a startup is easy, turning a ship the size of Microsoft is hard, slow, and risky but it looks to me like they are doing it right and with a lot of though. I would not bury Microsoft just yet; more likely start buying Microsoft stock while the price is low, before Windows 8 hits the shelves.

iPad 3. Really? That’s it?

Let me start by saying that I owned an iPad from the very beginning. I had the first iPad and currently have the iPad 2 and I love it! My wife loves it and my kids love it. The iPad is on a very short list of technologies that changed the world as well as changed us, and probably for the better. I’m sure that we’ve seen only the beginning of that the iPad/Widows8/Android type devices will do in the future. The question I’m asking here is: should you upgrade to iPad3 if you already own an iPad?

 

As part of my responsibilities as a CTO of a technology startup is to try different technologies, being software in nature or hardware. So I really “had” to get an iPad 3, ahem… I mean the NEW iPad (sorry Tim) and check it out. Yes, I know you feel my pain… so here goes:

 

The screen is crisp and sharp like nothing you ever seen in your life. And that’s about it.

 

If you look hard and watch the hour+ long Apple presentation video, like all good tech geeks, you’ll see other cool features. These will make you feel good about spending about $800-$900 on this new purchase. Don’t tell me it’s cheaper, you’ll need the cool cover and the Apple Care is a must and, of course, you have to add tax unless you plan on driving to Vegas.

 

But most people are not tech geeks, they don’t watch the Apple videos (and cheerfully clap while watching) or read TechCrunch or share every new small feature discovery with everyone else they know. They don’t know about “Retina display” (it was funny to see my kids’ reaction to that word when I told them) or care about the A5X processor. Most people are, well, normal people that like the iPad because it an amazing device that a two year old can figure out.

 

Until now Apple took the market forward in leaps and bounds in each release, and not just on the iPad front. I was pleasantly surprised each time to see the advances they make between releases and in a relatively short time. Not just in software changes, but especially hardware ones. I think we just became used to actual change that is worth our time and money and Apple delivered.

 

My reaction to the new iPad was chill and a bit disappointed. I expected more for the money. My kids reaction, when I put the new iPad next to the iPad 2 was: “What’s the difference?”. So I pointed it out and zoomed in on some email to show how crisp the text is, but then I realized that it’s too late, they don’t care. As for my wife, you really don’t want to know her reaction…

 

In conclusion I can say that if you don’t have an iPad stop being a dinosaur, step out of the cave and run to the next Apple store and buy one today. If you have an iPad 2 save your money for something better because this is not it. If you have an iPad 1, think hard if you want to spend $800 now.

 

Apple, I expected more from you.