CorporateLand: How to Kill it in Your Job Interview
TL;DR: A guy who interviews candidates tells you what he looks for in job interviews, and how not to fuck yours up. Based on the reaction to my last two "CorporateLand" threads, I thought this might be useful for RPMen navigating the interview process.
Related posts in the "CorporateLand" series you may find of interest:
CorporateLand: How to Handle Salary Negotiations.
CorporateLand: A Rat Race Survival Guide For New Rats
So here is my view from the “hire” side of the desk. What I will tell you will have general application, but I work in commodities, so for tech (as an example) somethings will be different, I’m sure. This, like all my articles and posts, is the product of my own, meandering experience and may be worth what you paid for it (free on the internet).
People get fucking weird in job interviews. And I mean interviewers. They ask weird ass fucking questions, posit bizarre scenarios and attach massive over-emphasis to things that they never would in the real world. I've never understood why. Probably I should have taken more psych classes.
What to do Before:
Tailor Your Resume to the Company Don’t overdo it, but tweak it here and there. That said, some people cannot cope with a resume that is not chronological. I have no idea why, but that’s the case.
Research the company. And do more than just go to our homepage. Listen to the last few earnings calls, and read the last few 10-Qs. I mean, don’t bother if you don’t really give a shit about the gig, but nobody does this, so when someone says, “I listened to the last earnings call, and I was impressed/blown away/scared shitless by…”
Research the Interviewer. Many folks are easily accessible online, such as at LinkedIn. That’s fair game. Don’t make it awkward by discussing what a big fan you are of their daughter’s Jr. High soccer team.
Best Days. If you have any input into the weekday chosen for your interview AVOID MONDAYS & FRIDAYS. Mondays everyone is busy as fuck. I have three standing meetings on Mondays. The last gawddam thing I want to do is interview someone. The problem is that HR sits around with their thumbs up their asses all day, every day, so they don’t think about that shit. I’m perfectly fine with Fridays, personally. I like to avoid afternoons, because I come into the office for interviews, and I hate the commute. Other people have checked out completely, so best to avoid. If you can pick a time, shoot for 10am or 2pm. We do all-day interviews, so no need to avoid lunches, because we’re either bringing it in, or taking you to lunch.
Clean up your social media. I don’t give a shit how you spend your free time, what your political views are (mostly; if you’re a freakazoid who can’t shut up about politics, I’m not going to like being around you), or that you pop bottles and get high on the weekend. I’m not going to go looking. You know who is? HR. And they’re petty little fucks.
What to do During:
Show up 15 minutes before, and be prepared.
Be polite to the receptionist. I am friendly with ours, and if you’re a dick to her, she’ll tell me.
Stay calm. Just like with women, think "Abundance Mentality". Maybe you get the gig, maybe you don't; take your best shot at it and it comes out how it comes out. Learn from the experience. I got out of school during a recession and I went on a shit ton of interviews. It got to the point where I was more relaxed and better prepared than basically every interviewer I met with.
It’s ok if you bring a leather portfolio. Don’t bring a briefcase. You haven’t earned it yet. Have at least 3 - 5 extra copies of your resume with you, as well as a few copies of your references sheet. I doubt anyone will ask, but if they do, you look smooth. Also, sometimes I get sent in to interview people I would not otherwise, and I might not have been given your stats.
Oh, and don’t have a stupid email address. “Huggy-Pooh(at)numbnuts.com” is just not a percentage move. And this seems obvious, but I’ve seen some weird ones. Again, I don’t judge, but HR does.
When we meet, shake my hand. Your handshake should be firm—but please, Jesus, God, DO NOT be one of those guys who feels like he has to try and crush my hand—and dry. It’s ok if you have to surreptitiously wipe your hand on your trousers first. I prefer that to a clammy handshake. Three pumps, no more, and then a clean release.
While this has mostly gone away, there used to be rules for shaking a lady’s hand, which I still observe.1 I had one woman call me on this in an interview, and I explained my rationale, and she was fine with it. She was a lady lawyer, and I think her icy, black heart actually warmed up, slightly. Still frozen of course, but moved off of zero, Kelvin.
It’s totally ok that you wore a suit. I will be in jeans and a polo, and loafers without socks. On a Monday.2 If you express discomfort about it, I will tell you it’s ok to take your suitcoat off, if you want. It’s not a trap; I don’t really give a shit whether you do or not. I’m not inherently a mean guy and a lot of folks are nervous in interviews and I prefer them calm. I also like to put people at ease, so they think “Hey, this guy’s cool! I can tell him anything!” and then either (a) show me they are cool, too (win!) or (b) fuck up by telling me shit they shouldn’t, so I can ding them and not waste my time or theirs.
Try and maintain good eye contact. Not the no-blinking, “yes, I’m a total coke fiend kind” but the normal, good kind. While I do not overtly look for your body language, it will register, subconsciously.
Only accept my offer of water or coffee or whatever if you can drink it without shaking like you have cerebral palsy. Unless you actually have cerebral palsy. Then it’s ok. If you have to use the can, that’s ok, too, but try to do that beforehand. If you’re in an all-day interview, the best time is either at lunch or in between interview sessions. Unless you have explosive diarrhea, in which case I will totally understand, and I will be your blocking back on the way to the restroom, if only so I will be in front of you, and not behind.
We are going to start by talking about what I want to talk about, which is you. I always lead with “Tell me about yourself” because people have no filters these days and they will say stuff they shouldn’t.
Some other tips:
Be honest. If you lie, I will figure it out, and it will sink you, even if we otherwise would have hired you.
Be Concise. I’m on the right side of the desk to tell long stories, where I seem to lose the point, but then tie it all up with an nice bow on top at the end. You’re not. Don’t be abrupt, but don’t make me lose the plot and have to go hunting for it.
Have examples. If you tell me you’re awesome, I will want you to prove it. If I ask you to walk me through your resume, be able to do it and also tell me some things/skills/anecdotes that aren’t on your resume, but are relevant.
Show me that you are employable. One of the best ways you can do that is to tell me how you would go about doing the job that you are interviewing for. It’s rare that a candidate does this. Usually they’re more passive. When you’re more experienced, you can lay this Awesomeness Grenade down: “Let me tell you how I would do this job. I’ve done [all/part/something similar to] it before. My skills are portable.” If you get it right, it’s a total win. Remember, though, people get massive OCD about shit people say in interviews, so you may need to couch it terms of ascertaining the firm’s risk tolerances/corporate culture.
What to do After:
Unclench. It’s over. You can relax now. Right after you send a “thank you” letter to everyone you interviewed with. You can print them up, but try to change the middle paragraph at least.
Para 1: “Thank you for the opportunity to interview with Spacely Sprockets/Perfect Booty Gentleman’s Club/The Strike and Spare….”
Para 2: “I enjoyed our discussion of the aerodynamic nature of Sophia Vergara’s tits.”
Para 3: “I think I can be an asset to your firm because….”
Questions: Like Guns, They Should Be Treated Like They’re Loaded
Tell me about yourself. As I noted, I will ask this as an opener because people offer up info they wouldn’t otherwise. I also do this if I’m coming into the interview cold, which sometimes happens.
What do you know about our company? I don’t really give a shit what you know about our company. This is the equivalent of a shit-test. It’s not even difficult. Just visit the fucking website. That said, if you haven’t, I know to ding you because you’re either stupid or lazy. Research Earnings Calls, Quarterly Reports and Blog Posts. That will impress the hell out of me.
Why should I hire you? Being able to count off a bunch of reasons with relevant examples is a fucking homerun. [See discussion further down]
Tell me a joke. This is a curveball question, designed to see how you handle weirdness, apparently. I was asked this once, and I happened to come up with one off the top of my head and it worked out fine. I wouldn’t do it to a candidate, but some people will, particularly old guys who think they’re way funnier than they actually are.
Do you want the job? This is another “old guy” question. They’re trying to see if you will betray a lack of commitment by equivocating.
Tell me about how you manage projects/time Maybe you have a better way to do it than I do. I keep a worklist. I used to have a whiteboard and it would go up on that, and later I just kept a file on my PC. Just show me you can manage time and you’re not a fuckhead.
For “Problem Solving” Questions, Think Out Loud. This sort of ‘left field’ question (“Fermi problems”) sometimes comes up. “How many dogs are there in the United States?” Who the fuck knows? And how is it relevant? But rather than thinking for 45 seconds and blurting out an answer, say something like, “Well the population is ~300 million, and let’s assume 3 people per household on average. That’s 100 million households and let’s assume that 40% of those households have dogs. So there’s 40 million dogs. But some dog owners have more than one dog, so let’s say 1.8 dogs per household, which gives a figure of 72 million dogs.” I never ask these types of questions but sometimes you get them.
What is your biggest weakness Come the fuck on! Do people actually ask this question anymore? And whatever you say, don’t say “I’m a perfectionist.” I would ding you for that. If you use that *“honesty” 3 joke that’s been floating around recently, I would at least respect you way more. “Redheads” would also be acceptable, but dangerous. So how to answer? Well, lead with a strength, then discuss a weakness. For example, I’m a deal guy. I am good at building rapport, and very good at getting people to do what I want them to do in negotiations. You know what I suck at? Regulatory bullshit. I would rather watch old people fuck, or stay at home chewing aluminum foil and learning about the metric system. So here’s what I say: “I’m a deal guy. I’m very good at getting to agreements. I need to improve on the regulatory side of things. I view the opportunity here as a chance to do just that because…” I can say this, and make it sound believable, because it’s true. And everywhere I would ever possibly work is going to have a Compliance Department, so all I have to do is be smart enough to spot an issue, and walk it over to them.
Incidentally, the Compliance folks where I work love me b/c I set the land-speed record for reporting reportable shit to them.4 Not because I give a shit, b/c a lot of regs are total bullshit, but b/c I want it to be Not My Problem. Sue me. [In actuality, I’m not really quite that lazy, and I used to know a lot about the FCPA and the UK Bribery Act back when that was important to me. They’re both largely stupid and overreaching, but you know what? Violating them can get you jail time, and I’m allergic to prison, so I comply like a motherfucker and then go back to making deals. And don’t get me started on FATCA, which should be called “FUCKYA” b/c that’s what it’s about.]
Questions You Should Ask Me:
Why should you hire me? If I haven’t asked you this, this is a KILLER question for you to ask me. The more reasons you can count off on your fingers, the better I will like it. Done correctly, this is a show-stopper. I’ve had interviewers (when I was the candidate) tell me they dug this questions. The next one also.
What you will close with: “Based on our discussion today, is there anything about my candidacy that you perceive as a weakness? Is there anything I can provide a fuller discussion of?” Here’s why this question is awesome: either (a) there’s nothing they perceive as a weakness in which case they hear themselves say that, or (b) there is something, and you get to address it, and get your side of the story out. Q: “Tell me why you withdrew for two semesters.” A: “My father died and I had to go run the business for a year, just like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The board voted down Mr. Potter, but only if I stayed and ran the Building & Loan.”
Secrets of the Temple.
We will talk about you. If you show you are fucking weird in any attackable way—bad B.O., picked your nose in front of one of us, something else douchey—it will be discussed. So best behavior, and use your indoor voice.
Sometimes, I try to hire women. I really do. And not just the hot ones with big tits. And by “try” I mean on a ‘straight-up’ basis, but they manage to fuck-up the interviews at alarming rates. And when we find one we can make an offer to, they can’t make up their fucking minds. This happens no matter what. In one instance, the woman in question was, literally, the last person in her department at a company that had just filed for bankruptcy. Not only is the writing on the wall, it’s on the floor and the ceiling and it’s in LARGE FUCKING PRINT. She couldn’t’ put it together. /shrug
Another one actually had the temerity to ask us to keep the job open for her for six months. Six months? I understand if you’ve got a couple of other interviews you’re going on, but Six.Fucking.Months? Sorry, princess, we’re not going to hold the job for you while you shop for a better offer. Oh, and you know who is hardest on women candidates? Other women. As I mentioned in a different “CorporateLand” post, I had to drop into HR to pick up a copy of the interview schedule for a candidate and the HR chicks went off on the woman’s choice of shoes for the interview. Like I would possibly give a shit.
I Really Care About Two Things: First, can you do the fucking job, or am I going to have to continuously correct your stupid mistakes? Second, are you going to be a team player, or a whiny bitch? We don’t need to be best buds, but I need to be able to count on your to do your job, and not be a tool.
I go with my gut. My instincts are finely-tuned. I trust them. My armor bears the scars of many an internecine war, and I am a goddamn survivor. I am the fucking honey badger of CorporateLand, only without the gay guy doing a voiceover of my daily activities. Once, I was the only person out of 10 or 12 who dinged a guy. I didn’t like him. I mean he seemed nice enough, but there was something about him. Anyway, for whatever reason, the head of HR wanted to plow the road for him, and she offered me the ‘chance’ to change my vote to a ‘yes’. I declined. Four months later we fired him for trying to punch out two vice presidents at a party. In fairness, we also fired two other guys for being drunk and disorderly, but they didn’t show up at work the next day—still drunk—to continue the fight. That’s got to be a tough one to explain to your wife and in-laws later.
If You Are an SJW, I Will NEVER Fucking Hire You. Not much to worry about in TRP, but I mention it anyways. The last thing I want is to have to listen to some twat drone on about her political views. We have an intern like that, and I can barely stand her. She has this idea that she is entitled to be included in every conversation everyone has and we’re supposed to gape in wonder at her stupid ideas. Ugh. Anyway, this is why I love “Gender Studies” or “Oppression Studies” degrees. They are Big Giant Fucking Signs that say, “Don’t Hire Me! I’m a Fucking Loser!” I don’t care if you are a double Ivy with an M.A. in French from Stanford besides, if I get the slightest whiff that you are an SJW, I will ding you. I will find a way to do it surreptitiously if I have to, but you will never darken my door again. Happily, SJWs have stupid degrees and experience that is off-point, so it’s not difficult. Also, they’re more likely, in my estimation, to sue the firm b/c they got their widdle feewings hurt somehow b/c they overheard guys talking about pussy, or they never got promoted because they suck at their job, etc.
Good luck and the floor is open for questions.
1 Rules for Shaking a Female Interviewer’s Hand. This is an ‘old school’ rule, and most modern businesswomen aren’t going to mind, however, I always wait for the woman to extend her hand. Why? Back in the olden days of covered wagons, or at least back before color TV, the thought was that if you offered your hand to a lady to shake, she might not want to shake your hand. That would put her in the uncomfortable position of either an unwanted touch—women were previously thought to be delicate flowers, during both the Victorian and Reagan Eras—or of refusing, and looking like a cunt and/or embarrassing you. So I wait. And when she puts out her hand first, I am also clued in to whether she’s offering the dainty lady-shake (palm parallel to the floor and I gently take her fingers) or the standard ‘man-shake’.
2 My traders once decided that the measure of value one had to the firm was how badly one abuses the dress code, and I won. I also don’t bother to show up at the office. /shrugs
3 Q: “What’s your biggest weakness?”
A: “Honesty.” *
Q: *“I don’t think of honesty as a weakness.”
A: “I don’t give a shit what you think.”
4 Not in a “fuck somebody over for no reason” way, but in a “Keep the firm the fuck out of trouble” way.