‘Tis the Season: Job Interview Resources & Advice

by Laura Trouille on December 14, 2012

For job interview resources and advice and to help us build our set of quality resources for our community, check out the new post from Laura Trouille (Northwestern University & The Adler Planetarium):

‘Tis the Season: Job Interview Advice  -  Women in Astronomy

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TMB December 14, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Practice! Single best piece of advice that can be given.

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2 joequant January 28, 2013 at 12:57 am

This might work well in an academic environment, but I have some advice for people looking for corporate jobs:

* Realize that you are putting on a show: Job hunting stinks. It’s humiliating. It’s depressing. It’s a royal pain in the rear end. It helps me a lot to imagine that I’m putting on a show. Yes, I’m angry, upset, and annoyed, but I care enough about you so that I’ll put on an act and make you feel good by pretending I feel good. The important thing about thinking of this as an act, is that you can get all of the negativity out of your system. You can be depressed and miserable, before and after the interview, but when the interview is going on, you are positive, nice, and chipper

* Realize that you are probably going to fail. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince, so you better get used to the taste of frog lips. But you deal with this by trying to make sure that you have a steady stream of interviews, so if you mess up one (and you will mess up many) you put that aside and go to the next one.

* The purpose of an interview in industry is not to make yourself look *better*. The reality is that you are a cog in a corporate machine, and there are a dozen people that you can do the job as good as you. What the employer cares about is not that you will be outstanding, but that you *won’t* be a total disaster. One problem with trying to present yourself as “better” than the person next to you is that you will have to work with them.

* If you are a Ph.D., then you don’t have to convince the employer that you are smart. That’s not what most industrial employers are worried about. In fact, you may lose the job, if you convince the employer that you are *too smart*. The general things that employers are worried about when hiring Ph.D.’s are “can you take orders?”, “are you going to be bored by the work?”, “can you work productively with people that aren’t as smart as you?”, “will you obey orders from someone that isn’t as smart as you?”, “can you shut up?,” “can you figure out that people want you to shut up?” If you have a astrophysics Ph.D., you aren’t going have trouble with intelligence. The trouble is that there are a lot of jobs and a lot of situations in which too much intelligence is a *bad thing*. In most industrial situations, emotional control and the ability to follow orders is more important than intelligence.

In that situation, convincing people that you are smart can be counterproductive.

* Also realize that in business, academic intelligence is only one good quality and not the most important one. One thing that people will be looking at you is if you can respect and learn from people that aren’t “school work smart” but are smart in other areas. For example, can you have a conversation with someone and leave them feeling good. Can you have a conversation with someone and leave them feeling good *even if you feel miserable yourself*?

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3 joequant January 28, 2013 at 1:12 am

Some other things:

* LISTEN and OBSERVE. The job interview is two way, and you want to be very careful at listening and observing your interviewer. Does your interviewer seems happy and content? What do you think about the interviewers technical abilities? What do you think about the quality of the questions? When you are walking to and from the interview, make careful notes about the environment. One of the reasons I ended up working for the company that I did was they had nice coffee and chairs in the lobby. This gave a signal that the company was “friendly to people that are waiting” which they are.

* Read Kafka. There are elements of the job hunt that are truly Kafkasque. For example, most companies will not tell you the actual job requirements. They won’t tell you because if they tell you that they are looking for green bottle washers, they’ll get 5000 resumes claiming experience in green bottle washing. Also, there are some instances, when companies won’t put out the exact requirements, because they don’t know what the requirements are. This happens for Ph.D. jobs. If they knew what they wanted to do, they wouldn’t need a Ph.D. to help them figure it out.

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