Job interview guest writer

2008/11/25 - computers

This week I collected an article from a valued friend, and respectable employer. Assistant Vice President of EBSCO Industries, Roger Rohweder, explains his experience with hiring employees and how one can appeal to the employer and acquire the job he/she is looking for.

Yesterday I interviewed a candidate for a tech support position here at work. The young man had recently graduated from Appalachian State, so I thought of both of you as he crashed and burned trying to get hired. While that painful experience was still fresh in my mind I thought I'd try to help you avoid his mistakes, and give you a better chance at securing the job(s) for which you will soon be applying.

I knew that the applicant had very little experience, but was open to the possibility that he was bright, eager, and had somehow gained some of the skills I needed. Maybe he created his own web site, or facebook application. Maybe he did projects as part of his coursework that directly apply to the work I would have him doing. Maybe he organized and successfully held a successful event. Anyone I hire will need to learn quite a bit -- why not give a rookie a chance?

Selecting the Right Opportunity

My candidate was in trouble early. He was very soft spoken, in the geeky way you have seen before. Yet the position required communicating with customers, including training sessions for groups of customers. This was not a position that was going to work for this guy.

Where do you feel confident? Are your computer skills stronger than those around you? Are you the one (among your friends, classmates, etc.) who organizes and leads? Are you a problem-solver, for you and others? Are you a counselor? Do people seek your advice? Did you excel in a class or activity? Think about how areas in which you feel confident would make you successful in the job I am offering. It will help you decide if the position you are considering is a reasonable fit. And you can use those strengths / accomplishments to sell yourself to me.

The Resume and Cover Letter

My applicant provided no cover letter, and the resume was probably exactly the same one he used for every other position he applied for.

I have reviewed several hundred resumes a year for a number of years now. It is easy for you to do better than the hundreds that I immediately dismiss. Make your resume and cover letter fit the opportunity.

Don't make me wade through lines and lines of information that doesn't apply. Talk to me about exactly what you bring to the position that I have advertised. If there are other reasons my position is attractive to you let me know: "I am also a voracious reader of historical fiction, so the fact that your company provides readers advisory products means I would probably be working with people with shared interests."
Show me that you took the time to understand MY needs, and THIS company. Mention my company name and the specific position in your cover letter. Tell me specifically what you will bring to address my particular needs in your resume. In other words, even if you have a "base" resume and cover letter, customize them for each company that you are applying to. It takes more time but is worth the effort.

The Interview

The applicant I interviewed came to the interview apparently expecting that I would figure-out whether he had what I needed, instead of coming prepared to convince me that he had what I needed.

Every interviewee is nervous. That is natural. Keep in mind, however, that I want you to be the right person. I am not trying to eliminate people, I am trying to find people. I would love to be done interviewing, confident that I have found the right person for the job. I need to know that you have the capacity to do the job -- that you can either demonstrate that you already have the skills or can convince me that you can gain them (typically some of each). I need to decide whether you will "play well with others". That you communicate well, have reasonable social skills, and that you convince me you will eagerly work with the team to help it achieve its goals. And I need you to convince me that you want THIS job.

The Follow-Up

If you are told you are not going to be considered for the position, take the time to learn why not. It is hard to do this right after a disappointing "no", but you need to look at each interview as an opportunity to do better in the next one. If you are given the impression after the interview that I am going to consider you for the position, write a follow-up email. Thank the interviewer(s) for their time. Pick the strongest argument you now think you have for being selected and briefly make (or repeat) your case. Remind them that you want THIS job. Do not take shortcuts in this important part of the process. Approach each opportunity as you would a competition rather than as an unpleasant task.


Your university's Career Development Center can provide much of the support you will need to get your career started. Take the time to take full advantage of that resource. And there are oceans of materials for job seekers on the web and in libraries. It is not for lack of available help that applicants send me inadequate cover letters and resumes. It is because they didn't spend the effort needed to succeed. Here are a couple of brief articles I came across that you might find useful, however:

Cover Letters

Taking Notes