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Javva The Hutt April 2007

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Back to newsletter 077 contents | All Javva's articles

The new job campaign continues

Day 23. Having found one job opening that looks particularly attractive, it's time to make sure I get it. You might think that it's a matter of applying for the job with your best foot forward and then hoping for the best. You might think that, but I know something you don't. Or rather someone. I know JobShark.

I met JobShark a few years ago. He was a resourcing agent (popularly known as recruitment agent, often referred to amongst contractors as "pimps"), until he got fed up putting people into jobs which always seemed to be paying significantly more than he earned. So he decided to place himself. He boned up on I.T., spent some time doing some development at home, then placed himself. Not applied for a job. He quite definitely placed himself. And he described the technique to me one day over a few drinks.

"You know those lists of really dumb things people do or say at interviews? They're all true." JobShark told me. "My favorite is 'What is it that you people do at this company?', it's not the stupidest, but it really captures candidates attitudes". I didn't follow what he was saying, but he was continuing.

"Those dumb things aren't peculiar from the point of view of a resourcing specialist. It's the norm. Oh, admittedly most people don't do the laugh out loud stupid things you can read about on the web. But from my point of view, I get these candidates - and the cleverest highest achievers are the worst - who send in their application and then expect to hear back they have an interview. Then they trundle along to the interview for a chat, and expect to hear that they got the job - or they just missed because of this or that. NO PREPARATION. The way I see it, these guys are just as bad as the dork who actually said 'What is it that you people do at this company?'".

"You see, assuming you have even half the skills advertised, you can almost certainly get any job you go for. It's all in the preparation. Think about it the other way round. Suppose you are looking to hire someone for a role. Suppose you get someone along who knows exactly what your problems are, how to solve them, knows about your setup including how things run at your workplace. They might even say 'sorry, I'm a bit rusty, please take that into account' when it comes to testing them on various things. Well the thing is, you give them the leeway because you are so convinced they can do the job with minimal ramp-up time. They have blown you away before you can even get to finding any negative points. THAT's how to prepare for job interview."

That wasn't the end of JobShark's ramblings, but you get the idea. He told me what to do, how to do it, and a bunch of stories about candidates who were unprepared in different ways (my favorite being the one who, not quite having thought through his day, turned up at the interview in his jogging kit, having just finished running 10km). The next day I wrote down all that I could remember. Some things you just know will come in handy one day.

Day 24. Time to start the two pronged attack. First is interview techniques. These are all standard now (apart from the nutters who do graphology - if you are interviewing for one of those companies, you have to brush up on astrology and palm reading, then do some witchcraft). There are companies that will prepare you - for a sum. Or you can spend lots and lots of time searching the web for the pages with info, take down notes, memorize things, practice responses, and make sure you have tried lots of variety. I started with the latter. And I'm intending to do the companies too if I don't feel 100% prepared for any of the "soft skills" questions - you know "tell me about a time you handled conflict between colleagues", "how would your co-workers describe you", blah blah blah. You should have an answer to everything, including the ones like "what are your weaknesses". Yes, I know, stupid boring drivel - but that's one of JobShark's points. The well prepared candidate prepared for the stupid boring drivel. The unprepared candidate didn't bother because it was stupid boring drivel "and they don't want to work for a company where that would make the difference". I mean, duh, people, why are you applying in the first place?

The second prong of the attack is the role-specific knowledge. Of course the job role specification is a useful starting place, but the real trick is to find out the dirt. The ideal is to find someone who has recently left the project, and buy them a few drinks. They will tell you every problem in the project in the utmost detail, no holds barred. But even wthout that, you can find out most of what you need to know by finding people close enough to the project. It takes a bit of gumption - you have to be willing to talk to strangers. But as it costs them nothing but a bit of time - and often they get a free drink or lunch out if it, it's honestly not difficult to work your way in to lots of useful clear knowledge. There is nothing as seductive to an interviewer as a candidate who tells you how, in a previous job, they solved exactly the problems you are having. Of course you do need to be a bit inventive - but one problem at a time. Get the job first, then worry about doing it.

Javva The Hutt.


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