Search This Blog

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Interviewing -The undiscovered and maybe never found guide for job changers

Introduction


I recently changed employers. As an individual who had spent a long time in one organization (9+ years), I was very unsure of how best to prepare for the interview process and what to expect. I was employed in a role that required me to conduct interviews for many people from different backgrounds like Developers, Testers and Software Directors. These experiences should have made me feel quite knowledgeable and confident entering an interview but truth be said...not really. I wanted to share my thoughts around this process with you and figured, should you find yourself in a similar boat, you might find this a tad useful.

I have some links to video's as I feel they describe my sentiments as I stepped through the process.

Please note I am an NOT an authority on interviewing, just someone sharing his experience and thoughts around leaving a job and what to expect in interviews.

The Sphere of Workplace Quan


If you are currently employed, before you consider going through interview processes, you might want to evaluate your Sphere of Workplace Quan (defined here!)

As an employee of any organization, you will face some forces that are influencing your decision to stay or look else where. These forces are not independent but tightly tug at each other. It is very important that you see the below video to understand what I am saying about Quan:


Now that you are well educated on the Quan or simply Quan, lets delve into the factors that affect your Quan.

Compensation

If the market is offering considerably more for what you bring to the table or you see your counterparts exceeding your income, you need to either get your current employer to own up and bring your compensation to market or you should consider market options, your Quan is disturbed!

Work Duties and Responsibilities

When you take on a role, you sign on to a profile of what is expected of that role. Many a time, due to different forces, these start to diverge. Every one of us would like to step in and help and are ready to wear different hats as team players. If the duties and responsibilities grow and you see potential for your extra contributions to be rewarded, you should definitely take the added responsibilities and contribute. If on the other hand, you find the job responsibilities have somehow morphed into something your are not comfortable with, not interested in, you should bring it up with your manager to help address, and if that is not fruitful, you have a case for looking elsewhere, you Quan is disturbed!

Career Trajectory and Growth

Having a career trajectory is very important. An upward trend is healthy both from your own growth as well as that of the company that invests in its employees. Avenues for learning and knowing your skill set and experience are evolving with the industry is really important.  If you desire to grow and do not see a trajectory or opportunity ahead (assuming you have done the needful), your Quan is disturbed

The Mission or Vision

Working in an organization is not like when you go at something alone in your free time. It is team work. In order to do something, you need to believe in the mission. You need to commit, when you start to have doubts and are unable to control the direction, frustration has a way of creeping in. This frustration can be debilitating. For this reason, if you do not believe in the Mission as presented by your leaders, you should consider trying to impact your leaders to consider changing else your Quan is disturbed!

Relationship with Your Boss

Many a website rank relationship with your boss as being the primary reason someone leaves. A boss that is unreasonable, not appreciative, not invested in you, not having the ability to articulate a vision, not consistent with their decisions, not honest or just difficult to work with can negatively impact an employee's morale. Start by trying to make it work with your boss, have a conversation and if that does not work, try to find another position that would work for you in the same organization, else your Quan is disturbed and you should be in the market, its not short of good bosses...

Relationship with Peers

Sometimes in a work environment, one meets difficult peers or colleagues. If there is a peer who is difficult, try to understand why the relationship is strained and try to work it out with them. You might find, many a time, it is some inconsequential misunderstanding that could be causing the unwanted tensions. Spend time making your peer understand your viewpoint and come to some consensus.  If this does not work, escalate to your boss and try other avenues like HR. Hopefully your boss can diffuse this problem but if he is unable to and you have exhausted all avenues and the environment stresses you enough to compromise you health and work, your Quan is disturbed....the market awaits. While this sounds like a cop out, I have seen people quit for this very reason and find a better home.

Work/Life Balance

Some jobs are close to satisfying all the above but just seem to push the boundaries of your time. You are unable to balance your personal life with your work life. Long work hours, dealing with production issues, dealing with unreasonable deadlines, all these take away your personal moments with family or things you want to do. An occasional late night or late week is totally reasonable, one always wants to help move the needle, but when it becomes a pattern, frustration creeps in and your Quan is disturbed...

Valued and Appreciated

Feeling valued is what drives armies that are hopeless of success to fight a battle. They know their contributions matter. They feel valued and appreciated by their superior and peers for what they bring to the table. Appreciation does not have to be compensation related. A pat on your back, a calling you out explicitly in email, a gift card for lunch all can be quite morale boosting. If you are in an environment where you don't see this happening, it can be the most deadliest killers of your Quan and you need to address this soon...your Quan is disturbed...

The above are some of the forces that affect your Quan requiring you to look elsewhere. It does not have be a single item in the mentioned list but could be a combination of factors that affect your Quan.

The Push-Pull Principle When Changing Jobs


Someone I once knew would always ask employees when they turned in their resignation, "Are you running away from this job or running to your new job?" It is a very valid question and can put someone into retrospective. I have used that same question many a time, and most answers have been that they are running to a new job. In my naivety, I always assumed it was a binary answer, which I have come to realize was a flawed assumption. An existing job might be just great but a part of it might be disturbing the Quan which a new position might be fulfilling.

Are you running TO something or running AWAY from something? The Acid Test that helps you answer is really below...



As you get to work every day, ask yourself one question, are you dancing or close to it? You should be! If you are not,  your Quan is disturbed. Every day that you go to work, it has to be one where you are motivated and happy in your sphere of Quan, if that is not the case, you are doing yourself and the company you are working for an injustice.  A disturbed Quan bites!

Please note, that sometimes its all about putting bread on the table and/or circumstances that might require you to suck it up with hope the situation will change or it is the best you got. You are a survivor and you will fight to "Die another Day":

Interviewing

If you are here, your Quan is sufficiently disturbed that you are looking elsewhere or you simply are someone who wants to take your Quan to the next level. Welcome!
Below are some thoughts I am sharing. If you choose to use it, it is at your own risk!

Preparation


Interviews are hard. Yes they are, don't let some someone convince you with: "Just be you and you'll be fine". It's you making a case about your desire to join an organization and how you will be the best fit for a job profile. The interviewers are judging you vs. all other candidates they are working with to fill the role. Prepare, even Rocky did!


It is very important that you prepare the right things though. There is no use building your biceps for a spelling bee competition right?


So how do you prepare?


Understand what is expected of your targeted  new job and assess whether you have the chops to do it or you have it in you to pick up the skills to deliver. It's very important that you understand what will be expected of you at your target job and whether you feel you have the aptitude to learn and deliver and most importantly will it make you dance?

Now that you know what is expected of you in the new job and you want to do the job, start your preparation:
  • Read through the Job Description in Detail. Determine compensation, trajectory etc etc associated with the job.
  • Learn about your target organization. It's is quite important that you know why you want you want to join wherever you are applying. Wikipedia it, google it, LinkedIn it,  see youtube videos, call a friend who works there...etc etc.
  • Glassdoor and other company focused sites - Never say no to a gift horse. There are sites like Glassdoor etc that provide information on interviews that you must familiarize yourself with.  Sometimes Glassdoor interviews and reviews might be enough to act as deterrent. 
  • Understand what the job skills are and that they match your interest. Hone them or refresh them. For example, if the job requires strong Data Structures and Algorithms knowledge and you want to be in that area, you should definitely spend some time refreshing those skills.
Don't target a job profile but target what you want to be doing.

Your preparation is complete. In Rocky terms, you can sprint up the Philadelphia museum of art without breaking a sweat. 

The Interview


You will face many challengers along the way that you need to overcome like the 36th Chamber of Shaolin:

Chamber One - The Recruiter


You have been reached out to. Your first contact is usually a recruiter assigned with filling the position. These folk can range from just wanting to know your basics to deep divers who want to know:
  • What your passions are?
  • What you bring to the table?
  • Why you want to join the organization?
  • Why are you looking to leave?
  • Do you meet the checklist expected of this position?
The smarter requiters will put you in a conversation rather than run you through a bullet point question list. These folk are the sentry into the interview process. They are very good at what they do. Take this time to understand the role, the company, the benefits, any asks from your end, like 'relocation', 'Work from Home', 'Commute' etc. This would be a great place for you to get some basic questions answered that are important to determine whether you want to move ahead with this job.

Chamber Two - The Phone Screeners


This is where you will arguably meet the some folk who might well be the people you are directly working with. These folk will be evaluating your chops to see whether or not you are ringing true to your resume and how well you would fit the job and team. These are also the folk who usually determine whether or not you are invited to a face to face interview. The screens are usually under an hour long and are either over the phone or via video chat. While their goal is to determine whether you are a potential fit and whether or not to proceed to the next level, you should also consider that this is where you get to chat with folk who you might be working with and to gleam whether or not to invest more time with this opportunity. As with every step in an interview process, knowledge is half the battle. If you are able to get information on your interviewers, take some time in researching them. Linked In, google search etc. The simple steps to approach this are:
  • Answer questions to the point without meandering too much. Let them drive.
  • Be honest. These are people who know their job and it's in your best interest to stay true. If you don't know something, it might be better to say, "I am not very familiar in that area but..."
  • Demonstrate why you will be a fit for the job. Highlight something you feel is pertinent from your experience.
  • They are looking to see how you would fit into the team(s). Inject your personality here and gauge how they work on a day to day basis and whether its a place you want to be at.
  • Get your list of questions answered. It might range from company/team life, culture, asking interviewers of their tenure at the company, etc etc


Chamber X - The interview

Preparing for the Interview

You have passed the most important gate now. You have an invitation into the building. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on your accomplishment. Your goals, drivers and skills seem to be in line with what your target company desires
As part of your preparation, ask your recruiter for the interview schedule and interviewers you will be interviewing with. It is very important that you understand your audience when presenting your stance in an interview. For example explaining the details of a core dump file to a Business person might not be a good use of interview time. Researching the persons you will be interviewing with ahead of the interview on LinkedIn, Facebook, google etc will arm you with information to assist during your interviews.
Lets to get to the site. Ask ahead about the attire, people have been denied just because they looked too stiff. Not sure I agree with the rationale behind that decision but there is usually nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. Remember that one of the most important areas that interviewers will be evaluating you is on is how much the job would mean to you. 
You are dressed to kill now, go tiger!!!!! Don't forget a copy of your resume...

Execution

It's almost always down to this. If your preparation was good, this should be about translating that into a days work. As you enter into your day take these thoughts with you...
  • These are people you will be working with. While they are judging you, remember you are also  judging them to see if you will be a fit into their team and culture.
  • Relax. This goes without saying and is the hardest to do but stress and nervousness can impair your ability to project your full potential. Understand that these are just people like you and most likely will be the folk you will have your morning coffee with in a few weeks. So chill!
  • Be honest on what you bring to the table
    • What you are good at
    • What you want to do
    • What you can do
    • What is expected of you
  • Look for a...holes, they pop up like pimples and are obvious to spot...count the number, it matters, less is better. 


  • Ask questions about the work, the company, the culture, the vision, the target. These will help you understand more about the people and whether you want to work for the company.
  • Signs - Keep you radar up at all times. Be attentive to the environment around you, see the signs. A boss shouting at an employee, terminals unlocked, you being left alone in the interview process, interviewers not prepared...while there are negative, there are many positive signs as well that you can witness like courteous people, collaborative work, ease of access, quality time for employees, prepared interviewers etc etc
  • Honesty - As mentioned right through this process, your best bet is being honest and up front.
  • Pace of Interview - Pace of the interview is really the employers show.  However, you do have an influence on the pace of your the interview Don't fear to ask and assert appropriately. 
  • The Boss - Hopefully you are able to get some time with your would be boss. Ask about his management style, try to get an idea of how it would be working for him. Try to determine if he receptive to inputs and ideas. Look for data around his interaction with his reports.
  • The Team - If you are able to meet the team you will be working with, that is great as you will be able to visualize how you would fit with them and get some idea of the dynamics as they might play out.
  • Rock on - Be open, be free, be focused,  Answer questions to the point, don't wind into to unwanted areas. 
This is where you get a chance to decide whether or not you want to be part of this organization if an offer were to be made. For this reason, you should take your time, ask what you need to, get as much data as you can. 

The Offer


You are here because previous chambers have been positive. You have made a positive impression and are ready to receive that call.  If you have the luxury of refusing an offer that is lower than what you are making, you should, unless your Quan is significantly disturbed that would need you to opt out of your current job,
Things to focus on the offer;
  • The Base: Your base salary is what you take home. That is the one that puts the bread on the table for sure.  Bonuses and other promises are nice but not guaranteed unless contractual.
  • The Benefits: Very important perspective that can either make or break. You should consider health, dental, retirement contribution etc etc.
  • The Bonus: Bonuses are promises that might pay out well or never materialize. For this reason, its very important to get your 'Base' where you are comfortable with. That said, in some cases, companies are known to go lower on the base but have a large variable bonus component. If you see that model working for you, get some historical data of how that worked for others to help your decision making process.
  • The Perks: Perks are things a company goes above and beyond with. These matter a lot to some folk. Understand what these are and see how they impact you.
  • The RSU: If your target company can offer RSU's, ensure you negotiate a good settlement. Working for your employer is a mutually beneficial relationship. You want the share price to climb and they do as well, RSU's are a mechanism that make you feel like an invested owner.
  • The Relo: If you need to move to join the new gig, ask about the relocation expenses your employer would bear. 
  • Sign On: Many employers will give you a sign-on that kinda represents a good-faith from their end. Ask for this else you might be leaving money on the table.

The Commitment


This is where you say "Yes or No!!!!". It's a major decision. You need to be as sure as you can, you need to understand the change involved for you and yours and make a call. Hopefully its like below:

If you are now here, congratulations....you are entering your 'Honeymoon period' with your new company with a hope that it lasts as long as possible ;-)...

As mentioned at the beginning, this is me sharing an experience. I am at my new employer with whom I am having a blast but I thoroughly enjoyed working at my former employer. I leave you with some fond  memories of my time with my former employer.


Some Good References

No comments: