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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

 

Secrets Recruiters Won’t Tell You


Applying for a job seems like a fair process. You apply online, and if you’re a good fit for the job, the company will give you a call. You’ll go in person for an interview and show your expertise. Then, the company will carefully decide who the most qualified person is.

When you don’t land the job, despite being extremely qualified, it can leave you wondering what you’re doing wrong. “Why didn’t the company hire me? What could I have done differently?”

The issue is, not everything is really as it seems in the world of hiring. There are a number of things the recruiter won’t (and often can’t) reveal to you when you’re interviewing for a job.

  1. The hiring manager has a preselected candidate. Sometimes this person is internal, and sometimes they come from the outside. It’s not uncommon for the hiring manager to have someone picked out before you get there. But, the company continues with your interview. This is often because they need to meet their internal process requirements around hiring.
  2. The position has been put on hold. I have seen this more times than I care to count. A company is midway through the hiring process. They have already started interviewing candidates. Then, something happens to put the brakes on the entire thing. Perhaps, they have run out of funding, and a hiring freeze has gone into effect. Or, it’s possible that the hiring manager has moved to another department, or has left the company completely. The big boss doesn’t want to move forward until a new hiring manager is in place, so they can make the final call.
  3. The company is reworking the role. If a role is new, it’s possible that after the hiring manager conducted a few interviews, they realized that their expectations were a little off. Perhaps they want to find someone with a slightly different skillset. Or, they may have realized that the talent they’ve interviewed is a bit outside of their price range. Whatever the reason, they’ve pulled the job posting down and are going through the process to come up with a new, refined role.
  4. The organization moves slowly. This one is always a big surprise. Perhaps you had a great interview and were told you would hear something within a week. Then, nothing happened. You assumed the job was completely lost until a few months later, someone from the company calls for a follow up interview.

Your best chance of landing a job is to practice and prepare. But, if you don’t receive a job offer, don’t assume it is 100% your fault. The company has a number of things going on behind the scenes that will impact whether or not you’re hired. Unfortunately, they will rarely disclose these issues to you.

Rather than focusing on failures, use them as practice to prepare for the next big interview!

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

The New World of Social Media

Social media used to be so fun. We could all stay connected with friends and family, for long periods of time and around the world. It felt like social media was expanding our friend circles. For example, I have reconnected with friends that date back to kindergarten. Before the internet, this would have been much more difficult.

Fast forward to today. If you’re like me, you may feel at a bit of a loss about the purpose of social media anymore. Sharing a photo of the wonderful food you ate last night feels insignificant. We’ve also learned that posting beautiful family photos or vacation pictures may come across as bragging. Many folks feel negative after seeing their friends doing so well – even if their online personas are a bit of a show.

If what we were posting is so insignificant, perhaps we should be posting about something important? There’s so much to pick from in today’s news. Is that what we should be posting about? Should we use our online voices to be heard?

I’m honestly not sure. If you’re like me, you can probably see the argument for both sides. On one hand, it’s important to speak up for what’s right. It’s important to share your views and try to make a difference. On the other, I wonder how much social media is helping our cause, and how much it’s alienating us from others.

Someone recently said to me, “Wow, I had no idea how many of my friends I don’t like. When they start posting their political views on Facebook and I don’t agree with them, I know we can no longer be friends.”

In a certain regard, this is sad. The more we divide ourselves by our beliefs, the less we are willing to talk through important ideas together. As children, we made friends based on who share the same hobbies, not who voted for the same person.

This recent string of bad news has left many people struggling to define the role of social media. When social media first started, it was a relatively positive experience filled with cats and babies and vacation photos. Now, it’s all a bit different.

At the end of the day, we each have to decide how we want to use our social media. Whether it’s sharing family photos or discussing politics, the decision about what to share is a personal choice.

With that said, one thing is for sure. If you’re looking for a new job, your future boss is likely looking at your social media. We may assume they are just looking at our resume, but it is rarely the case. They will Google your name, and will go straight for your social media profiles.

Managers are people too. They have unfair biases that come into play. When you decide what to share and how to use your voice, just remember – the world is watching.

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

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 Importance of Thanks

The holidays are here again. Along with the turkey, stuffing, and loved ones, there’s more to consider. This season is a time of giving thanks. One of the topics I’m often asked to speak about is personal branding. And, part of your personal brand comes across in the way that you say thank you to others. After you interview for a new job, it’s always a good idea to say thanks. For the most part, I think we can all agree on this idea. But, the question is really – how do exactly do you do it? What’s the best way to say thank you, and what are you saying thank you for?

Think of yourself as a salesperson. You’re selling your services. The company and the hiring manager – they are your customer. You may say, “But, Angela – I really put a lot of work into the interview. It was not easy on me at all.” I get that, and I don’t disagree with you. But, the hiring manager is still the customer, and they will ultimately make the decision on whether or not you’re hired. With that in mind, saying thanks is critical.

The very best solution is to two fold. First, send a thank you email the afternoon after your interview. Then, write a hand written note to drop in the mail. The company may make a decision quickly, so the email ensures your message will get there in time. The handwritten note however is the one that will make you really stand out from your competition. In all likelihood, you will be the only candidate who sent a handwritten note.

Each email and each handwritten note should be personal and sent to just one person. Ideally, send one to each person who interviewed you along the way. The note itself should be brief. You want to thank the person for interviewing you, and if possible, mention something from your conversation. But, stay positive. If you are afraid the interview went badly, this isn’t the time to bring it up. The most important thing is to say thanks.

During a presentation I recently gave on this topic, someone in the audience asked a great question. “In the age of the internet, is it really important to send something that’s handwritten?” The answer is yes. Hiring decisions are not made on the internet. They’re made in real life. People hire people. And, they hire people who they like. The more that you can remember this, the more you’ll increase your odds at landing a job offer.

An online thank you card doesn’t replace a hand written note. I’m sure you may remember the last time you received a hand written thank you note. You may even still have it somewhere. I know that I do. I appreciate these notes, and I keep them. So do other people – including hiring managers. They will keep your hand written message and it will influence them in both this decision, and in the future.

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