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Conquering the Tech Interview with Confidence

I often get questions about what it’s like to interview for a technology job. In particular, job seekers ask what it’s like to interview to be a computer programmer. In fact, my most popular podcast episode ever was with a former Google recruiter, Gayle Laakmann, who described how to prepare for a coding interview.

Years ago, after my bachelor of computer and systems engineering, I competed in a few technical interviews. In the most memorable interview, I was asked to create a complete website. This was before the days of Squarespace and WordPress. The site had to be hand coded, and frankly, it took forever. I learned in this interview that employers have high expectations of computer programmers.

Perhaps they have good reason to give extensive interviews. It’s been said that a great coder can produce ten times as much code as a bad coder. And, it’s hard to get rid of a full time employee after they’re hired. Plus, unlike many other jobs, you really can give a developer a skills test. There are few other jobs where the interview process can give such clear and accurate feedback. On top of everything else, developers aren’t cheap. A company wants to be sure they know what they’re getting in advance.

A job seeker recently shared their coding interview experience with me, in hopes that it might help other developers. They had an initial interview at a company that was looking for experience with a particular programming language. Quickly, the candidate shared that they have not used this programming language in a number of years. They were assured that it would be no problem. The fundamentals were much more important.

During the second round of interviews, the same candidate was asked to complete a test. The test was using a technology that they weren’t familiar with. They were able to do research on their own, but it wasn’t enough. As you can imagine, the candidate walked away feeling unhappy with the experience.

Similar to the “build a website” homework that I had, this homework was meant to push the candidate’s limits. As frustrating as the experience can be, companies use these techniques to vet out potential employees. And, in some cases, the company does this to their own detriment. They can easily burn through candidates and come up with no one to hire.

As a candidate, one takeaway is this. Interviewing is a two way street. I often compare it to dating. Since when do we go on a first date and hope the person will marry us, before we’ve even ordered drinks? Interviewing is no different. Prepare and do your best. But, take the time to pay attention to how the hiring manager treats you. Look for a mutual match. If you don’t find a good fit, keep moving on. Just like with dating, if you stay with someone who’s a bad fit, you may miss out on the right opportunity.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Apply Test & Learn to Your Job Search

As you already know, I started my career in the technology world. My undergraduate degree is computer and systems engineering, with a concentration in manufacturing. It’s like a combination of computer programming and electrical engineering, with a little mechanical engineering for good measure.

A decent part of my career has been spent creating new things. Whether it’s a technology, a website, or a marketing strategy – I was working on some kind of new idea.

But, this is the thing. New ideas fail. They fail a lot. They’re risky.

So, how do you get technologists to take the risks that are needed in order to come up with new ideas?

There’s more than one answer to this question, but one practice is what’s known as “test and learn.” According to Wikipedia, the test and learn process is designed to answer three questions.

  1. What impact will the program have on key performance indicators if executed across the network or customer base?
  2. Will the program have a larger impact on some stores/customers than others?
  3. Which components of the idea are actually working?

In other words, try something. See if it works. If it doesn’t work, adjust it and try something else. A CEO of Capital One, Richard Fairbank, described the test and learn process as, “a marketing revolution that can be applied to many businesses.”

So, what if that ‘business’ were actually your ‘job search’? What if you could start a job search without knowing all the answers? Or, you could go for an interview at a company without knowing for sure if you would take a job offer, if it was given?

When it comes to job searching, there’s not just one way to do it. There’s not one perfect elevator pitch or one right resume format. Thinking there’s one right answer will leave you frustrated to say the least.

Take a little pressure off of yourself. You don’t have to get it right the first time, or every time. But, if you don’t try at all, you’ll definitely fail.

If you give something a shot and it doesn’t work the way you want it to, adjust your approach. Then, try again. And, adjust your approach again, and try again. This is a never ending process.

I truly believe a test and learn approach might free us a bit from the idea of failure. And, it would give us more time to focus on landing that next job.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

The Myth of the Perfect Resume

I love resumes. They’re a very important part of your job search. They allow you to brand yourself. You can feature your past work experience. A resume allows you to highlight accomplishments, such as awards and education. It allows you to share who are you, and who you want to be in a future career.

But, if you had one hundred hours to use on your job search, how exactly would you divide up your time?

Many job seekers would devote ninety-five percent of their time to their resume. It makes sense, right? If your resume is perfect, then you ought to get a job faster. Because, job fit is determined by experience. And, experience is outlined in your resume, right?

Well, sort of. But, not exactly. In reality, many job offers are determined by other factors – like who you know. Look back at your own resume and think about how you got each job. If you landed every job by applying online with the perfect resume, you’re an exception to the rule. Most people find jobs through other people.

Does that mean resumes don’t matter? No, they’re important. But, it does mean that you should update your resume and then move on to other job search activities. For example, spend more time researching the companies you want to work for. Devote time to meeting new people and networking with people you already know.

One of my most successful friends has a six page resume. For years, I’ve had a burning desire to update it and shave it down to two pages. But, before I have ever been able to get my hands on that resume, the friend has already landed a new job. He has both unique skills and a strong network of contacts. Most likely, his resume is a complete afterthought. It’s a formality. After a company has decided to hire him, he submits the resume to complete the hiring process. It’s simply a checkbox.

What’s the lesson in this? Is it that you should forget your resume completely? No. The resume remains an important part of your job search materials, along with your cover letter, your elevator pitch, and your LinkedIn.

But, your resume is not the ultimate destination. If you feel that your resume is high quality and you’re still not landing interviews, step back and look at the bigger picture. Take a look at your entire job search process. Aside from updating your resume, what else could you do?

Consider spending more time at networking events. Ask more friends to have coffee meetings with you. Connect to new people you want to know (but don’t yet know) on LinkedIn. Volunteer for nonprofit boards.

If you spend your time looking for ways to connect and to grow your professional network and your business skills, you will go much farther in your job search than if you stay behind your computer screen.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

The Secret to Using LinkedIn Effectively

There’s a question that many new job seekers are thinking about. “Do I really need to use Linkedin, and how can I use it effectively?”

The first answer is straightforward. Yes, you need to use LinkedIn. You need to use it for your job search. And, honestly, you need to use it before your job search. It should be part of your professional brand – similar to carrying a business card. Integrating LinkedIn into your daily business practice will make it both easier and more effective in the long run.

So, the next question is around how to use LinkedIn effectively. Sometimes, people ask me if there’s a course they can take. And actually, I do teach a workshop about LinkedIn. But in reality, you don’t need a special class to use LinkedIn.

The main thing you need to do to become good at LinkedIn is use LinkedIn. You heard me right. Use it. It’s like Facebook. If you only looked at Facebook every six months, you might wonder how it works. It would be a bit unclear how to find your friends or how to accept party invitations. But, if you’re like most people, you use Facebook every day. And, after a while, it becomes second nature.

So, where to begin? First, you need a profile picture. I get it. You may not really like putting up photos of yourself. You may not have a recent photo you like. I totally hear you. But, in order to use LinkedIn effectively, you’ve gotta do it. Don’t feel like you need to hire a professional photographer. A friend could even take a decent photo on your smartphone. Just be sure that you look professional and the photo is only you. Ideally, you want to smile.

Next, fill out your profile. Put in as much information as you can. Include a mini-bio of yourself in the Summary section. Include your jobs in the Experience section, along with detail about what you did. Include your degrees (but omit the year you graduated). Fill it out – all of it.

Then, ask your trusted contacts to leave reviews of your work under the Recommendations section.

If you’re really feeling ambitious, turn on the “open candidate” feature. This is where you let recruiters now that you’re open for new jobs. It’s also a place where you can leave notes for recruiters about your dream job, including desired job titles, locations, and industries.

Now, get out there and use LinkedIn. Follow companies, participate in discussions, share articles, connect to colleagues and yes – do consider connecting to someone you don’t already know in real life. After all, how are you going to meet new people if you don’t meet new people?

That’s it. Just like Facebook, the more you use LinkedIn, the easier it gets. The more intuitive it becomes. The more aware of little features you become. It’s just that simple.

Remember, don’t put information on LinkedIn that you wouldn’t want your boss to see. Don’t share confidential company stats. And, definitely don’t SAY that you are looking for a job.

There’s no secret to it. Well, except maybe this one. The secret to using LinkedIn is to use LinkedIn. :c)

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Using social media in your job search

Social media isn’t part of a job search. In order to find a job, you only need a resume, business cards, and a nice suit. Right? This was true – if you were looking for a job in 2001.

In today’s wired world, there are so many more options available to you. Why not try them? After all, submitting your resume blindly just isn’t working. If you want to try something new, social media is a great place to start.

Hands down, the best social media site for the job seeker is LinkedIn. It’s an extension of your resume and a Rolodex of your contacts all rolled into one. I often hear the question, “Do I really need a LinkedIn page?” The short answer is yes. LinkedIn is free and it allows you to decide how much you share and with whom you want to connect. In fact, there are estimated to be half a billion users on LinkedIn from over 200 countries.

Use LinkedIn to expand on your resume, connect to old colleagues, and grow your network. The LinkedIn search tool is a great way to find (and to connect with) your future boss. It can also be a great way to learn who else works at your target company.

But, don’t stop there. I have been impressed at the number of business executives who use Twitter. It’s not uncommon to tweet to someone in the C-suite, and to actually receive a real response. It can be an unexpected way to grow a new relationship.

Another site you may want to consider if you’re in a creative field is YouTube. An advertising agency CEO once shared with me that some of her most impressive applicants submitted a short video about themselves via YouTube. It helped them to get the agency’s attention in a sea of other applications.

The one social media I would think twice about using is Facebook. Facebook has long been considered a private space to connect with friends and family. In fact, if you send a stranger a direct message, Facebook will typically filter it out of their inbox by default. That means that the person may never see your message. So, before using Facebook, try other social media sites.

Using social media in your job search can give you a leg up on your competition. It can also help you to shape your online presence. After all, when a company searches for your name on Google, your social media pages are certain to be the first thing that pops up. Think of Google search results like the new cover letter. Your social media pages tell a personal narrative about you and your beliefs.

Don’t worry too much about bothering the person you’re contacting via LinkedIn or Twitter. Social media is just another form of communication, similar to email or phone. Be professional and polite and you’ll find an entirely new way to grow your network. It’s far more effective than blindly submitting an application on a website.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Helping a Hopeless Job Seeker

If you have a job seeker in your life, there’s a decent chance you’re concerned about them. This is especially true if they are currently unemployed. They’re upset. You feel upset. You may secretly wonder what they’re doing wrong, and what you can do to help.

The right answer to this question can be tough. One thing to keep in mind is that although the job market is improving, it’s still not easy. Jobs are more specialized. Many roles are done by fewer total people than in the past. And, different markets and cities are improving at different rates. As you would expect, not every job seeker is having the same rosy experience.

The online process also presents huge challenges. It’s hard to overestimate this issue. Companies often use their websites to collect resumes, but it can be tough to know which internet applications are actually seen by human eyes. The online process sounds like it should be simple, so a job seeker may wonder what’s wrong with their resume when they don’t hear back. They begin to take it personally. This negative experience is compounded when family and friends begin to question the job seeker regularly on what the problem is, or perhaps more accurately, what “their” problem is.

One of the best things you can do is be supportive and provide a listening ear. Job searching, especially when you’re unemployed, can be an isolating experience. This is true for almost everyone. The job search and its difficulties is something job seekers rarely talk about openly to other people. Because of this, the job seeker will likely assume they’re the only one struggling through the process, or the only one not getting calls back from online applications.

A second helpful thing you can do is to offer assistance. Offer to review the job seeker’s resume. Offer to introduce the person to contacts you have. But, be prepared to follow through on your promises. During this time of change, the person needs to know they can count on you.

Last, try to be understanding and supportive. If you haven’t looked for a job in some time, realize that the job market is constantly changing. Finding a new job takes time – even for the most seasoned and successful professional.

It’s also important to note that finding a job in one field (for example, technology) can be much easier than finding a job in another (for example, communications). Some fields are flooded with applicants while others have very little competition. And, certain jobs require certifications or education while others are open to a broader base of candidates.

The bottom line is, don’t assume the job seeker isn’t trying, or that they have chosen the wrong career path. And, if they have a tough time emotionally, realize that it’s just part of the process. They’re normal and they will find something new in time. Until then, try to be as patient and supportive as you can. It will help them in the long run.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.