Let’s get one thing out of our way.
Your interview is about you! Not about the school you went to, not about your grades, who your parents are or for whom you worked for or with. Nope! None of that. Your interview is about who you are, what you do and how you do it. For everything else, there’s the CV.
This article will focus on what to do:
– Before the interview (CV, cover letter, portfolio);
– At the interview (types of interviews and how to handle them);
– After the interview;
– After the interview test/assignment/homework.
Applying for a job, it’s not just clicking a button which says something like “Apply with LinkedIn” it’s more than that. You can look at it as a sale — that’s what this mostly is. You’re selling your skills/services to a third party. Someone who doesn’t know you and probably doesn’t care that much about you. You’re just some random person who happened to click a button on a website. You can’t honestly expect that someone knows who you are and what you do!?
What I’m saying is that the CV and portfolio are the means which get you to the face to face interview. Unless you’re some hot show which everyone knows about and dies to hire, then just ignore what I’m saying (The End). If you’re like me (just a random dude) you pretty much need to improve the way you sell your services.
So yeah! Let’s jump into it!
First things first. Fix your CV!
“But my CV is perfect! It has experience, education, skills, hobbies, everything. That’s exactly what everyone has on the CV nowadays!”
Just because you got a CV template form, the internet it doesn’t mean that you’re CV is ok.
Your CV should tell your story. It’s not supposed to be generic; a monotone digital print. It’s supposed to be awesome because you’re fucking awesome! Now show that.
It’s your time to shine, to show what you’re made of. Won any awards? Show them! Got some sweet mentions in mainstream media? Talk about it.
Disclaimer! List your achievements only if it’s relevant to the job. If you won a local beauty contest five years ago and you’re applying for a job at NASA, I doubt it’s relevant to them.
Focus on what you know best.
Don’t add bullshit which you did only once and never touch again. Don’t spam with random technologies like (CSS, UX, C++, MySQL, excel, word, whatever). If it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for, don’t add it. It might come as a surprise, but no one cares that you’re an excel expert if the job does not need it.
Describe who you are.
A brief intro 2–3 rows. That way everyone will know who you are. How you work, maybe drop a thing or two about your process (design thinking, human center design, design sprints — fancy words).
Add roles and responsibilities to each of your previous jobs.
You’ll want to make sure that everyone is aware of your significant contribution to your current/previous position. Write about them.
Avoid displaying your skills as graphs/charts.
They are meaningless if you can’t back them up with real/relevant data. Interviews will see them and draw their conclusions, surprisingly very different from yours. Consider using time of experience with them. For example — 15 years experience with Microsoft Office Suite (something clear with no room for interpretation).
Make sure your shiny new custom made CV is printable for both A4 and US Letter.
You’d be surprised how many times I tried to print a CV just to find out that printer can’t handle the size or document format. A color CV is cool, but a readable CV is a king!
Imagine how many trees had to die so I could print a CV like that. A lot of them. I’m telling you!
Don’t ignore! Look at it as an elevator pitch which gives you a slight edge over the competition. You have a brief moment to convince them that you’re the right person for the job. Use it to your advantage. Tell them why they should consider you for the position.
Regardless if you start as a junior or are a 10+ years expert, you will be required to have a portfolio…this is pretty much your calling card. If you don’t have a portfolio, it’s not a big of a deal if you’re staring. You can always do UI challenges to sharpen your skills or start building a portfolio.
If you have 4–5 years and you have nothing to show then you’ll need to think about it and start putting something together asap.
Now, while building a portfolio considers this:
- Showcase ONLY your best work.
Limit your portfolio to 5–8 projects. Anything above will be overkill. If you have new things to show, start replacing the old ones so that you always have 5 or 8 projects. This is a recommendation, not a rule, after all, you’ll do what you want.
- Write a proper case study for each project describing your role, responsibilities, and contribution. Talk about the problems the users and business had and how you solved their problems.
- Do not zip everything you’ve done and send it over email. It screams lazy.
- Consider showcasing each of your projects as a standalone PDF or use behanced (really powerful when you need to showcase a full project).
Things you should know in an interview.
There are multiple interview types. Regardless of who you’re interviewing with this is what you should know:
- “Fake it ‘till you make it!” doesn’t work all the time.
A good interviewer will spot your bluff, but he won’t necessarily call it which will pretty much render everything to nothing…
- The interview is more about what you’ll do in different scenarios.
Its primary focus is on soft skills like communication, teamwork, patience, conflict resolution, work management, etc. rather than the hard skills which can be assets from the portfolio.
- Talk like you mean it, show passion if what you do and engage with the interviewer, build a connection.
Don’t be stiff and silent waiting for the next set of questions.
- Be curious. Ask questions about what they do, how they do it. About the team, projects, goals for the role you’re interviewing. It’s your moment to get some quality insight information helping you decide if this is the right company or position for you.
Just to set the right expectations. You’ll have your fair share of bad interviews, where you’ll feel like you need to get up and live. If you do it or not, it is up to you.
The most successful interviews are the ones who focus on the future and what you’ll do and how you’ll perform in specific scenarios. Classic interviews which ask you “How do you do x or y?” are dull and lack creativity.
Side note. My preference type of interview is the situational one which is like this.
- A free talk about you (not a CV download). What you do, how you do it, what you like, what you dislike.
- Based on what we previously talked about we’ll brainstorm a scenario, something crazy like “We want to send people to Mars, but have no money. Build a solution which would help us do just that.”
- We turn the tables, and you ask whatever you like, and I’ll answer all your questions as best as I can.
What happens after the interview?
You’ll have to wait for an answer and keep in consideration that some companies will never write you back. That’s life!
One more thing before I let you go.
Should you or should you not do the test or assignment for the interview?
This one is up to you, but make sure you’re not giving away free work. You’ll be surprised how many scumbag companies are out there. Protect the rights of your work whenever you end up doing a test on which is apparently a live product or something which the company is working for/with.
For me, a test/assignment is a game breaker if I’m supposed to give improvement ideas to their product. Another dealbreaker is when before the HR interview the first thing is a test, without even knowing if my mindset and experience match with the company (I’m looking at you Bitdefender).
So yeah! Ultimately it’s your time, your work, you do what think is best for you. But be aware of all these things.