The Horror of a First Interview

The Horror of a First Interview

We adults have systematically lied to you your whole life. And if you happen to be an adult, you probably already know it.

We’ve told you that your entire life would be all right if you succeed in school. But once you get out, the real trial begins. And the most horrific of those is your first job interview.

In elementary school, we asked you to stop being a child. In junior high, you were almost a teenager. How could you possibly keep behaving like a child?

During high school, you were on your way to college and we demanded that you act like a grown up. Finally, in college you must obviously showcase a professional demeanor, serious, skilled, y’know, professional.

What we didn’t get around to tell you is that at the end of the academic rainbow, there’s no such thing as a pot of gold. Now you are looking for a job.

Welcome to your first job interview.

My Role as a Campus Recruiter

I once was the gatekeeper between schools and Nearsoft: I was the campus recruiter.

I created a program called Student of Excellence to help get involved with “the real world” early in their academic life. With this program we also aimed to redefine excellence in the context of world-class software engineering standards for college students.

From there, they were better prepared to start at the Nearsoft Academy, our internship program.

During my years in this role, I interviewed many students. Oftentimes, I also had to hold their hand to help them deal with the very detailed feedback they got.

The tips below are some of the lessons learned from that experience. I hope they can help you pave your way into your very first professional job.

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The Interview Process

A recruiting process involves a series of steps to make sure that your abilities are a close match to a particular job. That your personality is a good fit for the values of the hiring company.

Regretfully, companies will not make it easy for you.

They want to thoroughly know the scoop on you. So they devise exercises, interviews, deliverables, and anything that will bring some assurance that you are indeed the best option.

So, how can you, fresh out of college and with no experience whatsoever, convince a business that you are the missing piece of their puzzle? Be realistic, it will get ugly.

Here’s a list of things to keep in mind.

It Is Not Personal

The seven rings of fire you’ll leap through to land your first interview are never personal. The interview process itself is not a torture chamber they’ve designed just for you. The conclusions that the recruiting team will come up with is not personal attack.

Don’t get upset because they said no the first time you tried. Don’t waste your energy thinking that “they seemed kind of snooty, they wanted everything to be perfect.” Just try again.

Don’t get over excited either on any “thumbs up.” This is just starting out. There’s still salary and benefits to be negotiated. Hang in there.

Think of the entire recruiting and hiring scenario as a negotiation, because that’s what it is. Find out about the company you may end up working for. Read about the vacancy. Read their blog. Look up the profiles of people who already work there. Read their posts. In other words, come to the meeting fully armed with information–this increases the odds of getting what you want.

Also, keep in mind that they need you, too. They are not “giving” you anything other than what you’ve earned.

Aim for an agreement that is fair to the company and yourself. You both need each other.

Don’t Be Yourself

You’re twenty-something. You don’t have a clue as to who you really are.

Forget about being yourself.

Calm down. Keep calm, open and honest.

If you know something, say it. If you don’t know, ask. If you don’t know that you don’t know, say so. Your interviewer, as a norm, has many years of experience doing this. They’ll eat you alive if you lie.

Try to steer the conversation your way, and find a comfortable spot. If you let them do all the talking, you lose. Brag about what you’ve done, even if only school projects.

Even as a recent graduate, you bring assets to the table. Show them your professional demeanor. Talk about the actual way you do your work. Tell them how you taught yourself a particular skill. Tell a story that shows how resourceful you are.

Follow Up

Your recruiter is your best friend. Say it with me, your recruiter is your best friend.

She holds the keys to money and professional development. Follow her directions. Do not make up excuses. Send her something written as soon as possible. Cancel the night out with your drinking buddies and tell your mom you cannot take care of your little brother. You have to prepare for a job interview.

The interview process takes time. Use this time to make it go faster. At the end of each interview, ask what comes next. Will you need to take a written test? Is there any software you need to install in your machine for an upcoming Pair?

Demand Feedback

On the other hand, demand proper follow up from the company, too.

If they turn you down, ask them why. Ask them for specific feedback, “what areas do I need to improve to make the cut?” Make sure you fully understand the reasons why. If you don’t know how where they found you lacking, it will be very difficult to improve.

Ask about books, websites, etc., to be better prepared next time. Ask your recruiter how long she thinks it would take you to be ready? After all, it is to their benefit to have as many ready candidates as possible.

At Nearsoft we religiously give this kind of detailed feedback to every candidate that goes through our process. After all, they are investing time with us. And we’ll be super happy to talk with you again when you’re better prepared for us.

We even have an Office Hours program for candidates that we don’t hire right away. If you are asked to participate in this program, a Nearsoft developer will invest several hours per week mentoring you and working with you to help you improve even faster.

And Finally …

There is much you can do to avoid the horrors of a first job interview. Ideally, it can become a learning experience for you, regardless of its outcome.

We don’t want to you to turn out like one of our recruiting horror stories.

Have anything to add? You can tell me about your own experience at @jorgepistola.

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