Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Resume and Interview Tips

I read these three articles this morning on resume and interview tips. Yes, ok, so I was bored. I'm writing a post on them because I wanted to comment and dang-it, there was no place to comment on any of the articles. Well, ok, I really only want to comment on the last one, but I thought I'd include all three.

First, let me say that I don't dispute that the advice in them is helpful and may help you land a job. Even the last one, the one I take issue with, I don't dispute that the advice is useful.

But then I saw something (which I don't doubt is true) that I just had to say something about. In the third article it says that "Some hiring managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job within 30 seconds or less [based in part on how you look and in part on body language.]" No, I'm not going to comment on how attractiveness leads to job offers. I already talked about that in another post, though admittedly that was not the main thrust of the post.

No, I want to comment on interviewers who claim they can "spot someone in 30 seconds" based on ANY criteria. I speak from some experience in this area, and not just as someone who does horrible in job interviews. I also have been the interviewer and have made hiring decisions (in a former life, before I was a lawyer). So I can attest that it is all true, if you have good body language and are personable in the interview, people will want to hire you. Unfortunately, I can also attest to the fact that interview skills, at least for the job I was interviewer for, have NOTHING to do with how good a job someone will do. The best interviewee from one particular batch of interviews was a VERY good people person. But it turned out he really wasn't all that great at his job nor, in some cases, at even showing up on time.

Another, much more mediocre interviewee, who was probably hired more because of the need for warm bodies than anyone's love of her resume or interview, was one of the better, more dedicated workers we had.

Now, I imagine it can be even worse with an HR person doing the interview as opposed to someone who has some familiarity with the work and what is involved.

My point is that you really can have NO IDEA how well a worker someone will be based on their resume or the interview. None at all. Tiny things are blown out of proportion. If they are late to the interview, for instance, you might assume they'll be late to work every day. It turned out that someone late to one of my interviews was actually always early. And someone else who was on time was always late. You just can't generalize behavior from only one data point in a person's life. Of course, that's what interviewers are forced to do. You have to decide to hire someone. Really, though, I think it is a total crapshoot.

Some use shortcuts, like eliminating people based on what school they went to (which I think is particularly stupid). It makes some sense to look at achievement things like GPA, but again, doing well in school doesn't necessarily translate to doing well at a particular job, and vice-versa. There can even be an inverse relationship. Someone who is super smart might be terribly bored by a particular job. Someone who isn't as smart, but is easily self-amused, might be a maestro at that same job.

So really, in the end, the whole resume and interview routine is mostly bullshit. Sure, there are a few useful bits of information one can get. GPA, years of experience in a particular field (though even that is useless to some degree - some people spend ten years getting ten years of experience, others just get one year of experience ten times). I'm sure others simply lie on their resumes, though I never understood that - it seems like that will always bite you in the end, even if you do a good job.

The one exception is sales. If you are hiring a sales position, then the ability of the applicant to walk in and sell you on hiring them IS indicative of how good a job you can expect out of the applicant as a salesperson. But not all jobs are sales. Most are not. The jobs I've worked definitely were not. Which means it makes little sense to basically screen a non-sales job using sales criteria, which is what the normal interview process usually is, particularly with large organizations.

Ok, rant over. I feel better now.


beansa said...

Ha! So true. I am awesome at interviews and am chronically tardy. And I call in sick a lot, because I get sick a lot and I just don't understand that whole "work even when you're sick" attitude.

On the other hand, at almost every job I've ever held I did twice as much work as anyone else (in a similar position anyway) and did it in half the time. So I guess it all balances out. Eh.

Thanks for coming over to my dusty ol blog. I may post something again there someday. I'll let ya know.

bpabbott said...

Ever try tossing in some aptitude testing during the interview. MSFT might overdue this, but is it more objective than most interview criteria.

DBB said...

Some places do add aptitude testing, though some do it oddly. Microsoft does go rather crazy with it, but then it is a rather unique place to work. (Someone I used to work with went out and works for them now in Seattle).

chickpea said...

I've found hope again, thanks DBB!

Now only if the people looking at my resume would realize that I'm perfect for the job!

Because I really am...

DBB said...

You're welcome, Chickpea!

Maybe you won't need a resume after law school, though. You can just hang a shingle! ;)

Any luck with a job search? I worked all the way through law school but I had a prior career. So I really did nothing in law work-wise until basically graduation (with the exception of an externship my last term, which is what led to my job now).

In a year or two I'll be hitting the streets for my own next job. Or maybe I will be forced to hang a shingle...