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Job interview insight

Job Interview Insight

Job interview insight. Pulling back the curtain to see what really happens behind the scenes.

Job Interview Insight

I just had drinks with a couple of great friends/colleagues. Halfway through the conversation I literally burst out with a “F’ me, I’m a dumbass! I wish I had recorded this conversation, this would make a great blog post!” I immediately pulled out my phone and started taking notes in an attempt to capture this job interview insight.

The two friends consisted of an executive recruiter who I will refer to as Grumpy Old Man (GOM). GOM is the founder of a successful recruiting firm and has a ton of insight into the recruiting process. The other guy is a VP of HR colleague who I have known for 15 years. My Boy hasn’t had to look for a job in over a decade because jobs have always come to him but he now finds himself in the job hunt after his last company was sold. He has worked in Fortune companies and boutique brokerages. His presentation layer says modern, smart, new school HR.

The conversation that took place was between three colleagues sharing job interview insight on the hiring process. It started with making the use of local job search sites like this one that lists job to a specific geo. is easy to use one that happens to target the Boston job market.The conversation was centered around the nuance of the job hunt that you just won’t hear outside of folks working in HR and recruiting and I thought it would make a great post. Below are the nuggets:

Game Rep Situations

GOM’s biggest job interview insight was Game Rep Situations. He explained that if you haven’t interviewed in a long time, then you should try to take interviews for the game situation practice. I explained that I had sat down with our Boy and we went through mock interviews, he responded with, “Those are not game situations. Game situations are 4th and 1 on the goal line. They are bases loaded, 9th inning situations. Mock interviews are not game situations because they are not real. We need repetitive practice in-game situations so that when the real interview comes, we are ready and prepared.”

I completely agree, a few mock interview questions – does not a real interview make. Even if you are not interested in the position, take the interview so you can have real game experience.

Be Memorable

“Get in front of recruiters and paint your memorable picture.  Make it specific and be memorable.” In this instance we mean specificity, be specific about who you are and what you are looking for.

GOM explained that we should meet the top 3-4 HR recruiters in town for networking meetings. In no more than 30 minutes paint a very memorable picture of who we are and what we do. This would not include “I am a hard worker, I am trustworthy and I have 5 years of experience with industry certifications”. Everyone says that shit and it is too generic. Specifically, he said we sit down with a pitch outlined here (logic in parenthesis):

The Pitch

“For the first time in a long time I find myself in the job market and you are the first person I thought about contacting. (You are smart, trustworthy and obviously well-connected. Kiss up / flattery never hurts) I am being selective about my search and believe I have a very specific sweet spot. (Showing we are not desperate and not going to take just anything) I am looking for a growing company. An example of growth for me is a company that recently released a product and now is worrying about scaling the company.

This company would probably be doing between $100K and $5M a year in revenue, have between 30 to 80 employees and also have plans to scale. They probably need to roll out a 401K, benefit plan, put in a onboarding, and start hiring. Although I can think strategically, I want to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. I have a lot of experience with larger companies but I found that I had the most fun and thrived in smaller fast-moving companies that were entrepreneurial.

The point of this is that when THIS specific opportunity comes up, our boy is the first person this recruiter thinks of. He does NOT want to be called for just any opportunity; he wants to be called for THE opportunity. Being specific makes it very easy to be memorable. Which leads us to the next point.

If you just want a job I don’t want to rep you

Per the above, GOM doesn’t want to represent any candidate that says “Just find me a job” and is not specific about their needs or wants. Being specific and passionate about a role is easy for him to sell. No one wants to hire blasé’. Hiring managers want to hire perfect matches and this means that the candidate’s skills and desires meet the hiring managers job description and culture.

Can you get along?

“If you make it past the first phone screen you are qualified. After that, it is just a matter of degrees on the technical side and then 80% personality/chemistry.” 80% of the hiring decision after this first interview is based on personality and culture fit. Can I work with you? This is all about the warm and fuzzy.

The example was given: We can see the hottest woman out there, we can land a date because our dating profiles match up (resume and job description), we are everything she is interested in, but sometimes there is just NO chemistry. It sucks because she is beautiful, but if there isn’t any chemistry it won’t work out and we need to move on.

Multiple resumes for different angles

If you only have 1 resume, the chances of your resume being a perfect fit for a specific job is slim to none. Tailor your resume to the specific job.  Our boy wants a specific job with a specific profile, but if he wanted to create few different options, he just needs to have multiple resumes.  Since he wants to work for a growing company, he should tailor his resume so that his accomplishments show fast growth projects and dedication through long hours.  But if he wants to create other interview opportunities, with different sized companies his resume should be tailored to these types of job descriptions. More info here.

You are qualified for the job.  Are you qualified to sell yourself?

Just because you are qualified for the job isn’t enough. We need to sell ourselves.

The candidate that is qualified but doesn’t know how to sell him or herself will take longer to land a job than the candidate who is underqualified but does know to sell themselves and make it through the interview.

Overcome your stereotype, and yes you have one

Our boy has big company corporate written all over his resume but he wants to get back to the small company gig. His presentation layer says big company sophisticate’. We KNOW that anyone that looks at his resume is going to think “This guy is a corporate HR guy and not going to fit into our fast-moving, entrepreneurial, Agile environment”. To overcome this unspoken stereotype, he needs to break it down and call out the elephant in the room early in the interview and reinforce the idea throughout the interview.

Early in the interview, he needs to say, “I am confident that you reviewed my resume and are thinking this guy is probably qualified, but comes from a large company corporate background and won’t fit in here. We move too fast for him, we work longer hours and any one person at this level can cripple the company with the wrong decision. I want to say that I have worked in a smaller company and can’t wait to get back. I tried the large company and I tried the smaller company.  Here is why I want to get back to the small company.

  1. We move faster, I worked 10 hours a day to help make these quicker iterations.
  2. I can make real change and have a real impact.
  3. Decisions matter and consequently everybody in the room needs to be making a solid contribution. There is no room for slackers.

I blogged about stereotypes and racism here.

Be yourself

You have got to be yourself. If you are someone else in the interview (the nice guy on a first day) then you are selling a different product. We won’t be able to keep that persona up if we are hired and we will eventually fail. Be yourself. This way the true you will be hired and it will be easy to enjoy the job when we are hired.

Don’t leave a meeting without getting a name

You don’t leave a meeting without asking “do you have any recommendations as to who else I should be talking with? Any non-traditional contacts or venues I should be looking to?”

Don’t interview with 10 companies

Pick 3 and focus on them. Be discriminating with your search.

The Seattle job market is very hot. It is not unusual for developers to have multiple companies courting them. GOM had a candidate who refused to do the tech exercise. This candidate was talking with 10 other companies! I immediately shook my head in disgust. What is this guy doing talking with 10 companies? Pick 3 companies that you REALLY like and only talk with three. Concentrate on these three and put all your effort into these three. You will get a better offer. If you don’t like the offer or they don’t pan out, then go onto the next three.

The way to THE BEST offer is to give the companies the attention they deserve. We won’t be able to give them the proper research, love, thank you notes, schedules, etc. Telling the recruiter you are interviewing with 10 companies sends the sign that we are amateurs. It states you are going after the company that is offering the most. Recruiters want to hear you are purposeful. “I am being very selective with my search and ONLY interviewing with 2 other companies because of X and Y”. Quality, not Quantity.

It was a great time catching up and even I gained some job interview insight. Hopefully, this helped you as well.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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