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Tips on Getting HIred – Part 3

Part 1 discussed ways to find opportunities, Part 2 was about how to get more interviews, and today we’ll cover some tips from the employer perspective.

  • Don’t use an AOL.com email address. Seriously. Gmail, Live, Yahoo, all are good, but AOL.com makes it seem like you’re stuck in the 90’s. Don’t use your current job email either!
  • If you’re not a perfect fit for the job make sure you show that you know that in your cover letter, and then explain why you are an interesting candidate. For example, 10 years ago you were a senior developer and you left the field, now returning – maybe you know that coming in at a junior position could be a win-win, you get to rebuild skills and you’ve got some real history to show aptitude. Or maybe the salary range is $20k below what you had in mind, take the chance and ask if you can work a 32 hour week for the published salary. Will it always work? Probably not, but you are trying to get into an interview where you would have been screened out anyway. As an employer give me a reason to spend time interviewing you.
  • Expect a phone interview first, and this works out good for you and the interviewer. Good for you because you don’t have to dress, good for them because it’s less formal. Be in a quiet place that is inside (wind noise outside is bad) and be ready to take notes for follow ups. Don’t use a speaker phone. Don’t try to search for the answers while on the call. As an employer I hope to hear confidence, calmness, solid answers to the questions you know, a candid and unapologetic “I don’t know” or “I haven’t tried that” to the ones you don’t know. Make sure you have a way to follow up before ending the call.
  • Interviewers expect you to know something about the company. Try to understand their business from the web site, what their recent accomplishments are, if they are public or private. If you’re not interested, why should they be?
  • In most companies HR is a team that no one loves. That said, their opinion often counts. Treat HR like they have the keys to the safe. Fill out their forms cheerfully, have all the documents ready that they have requested, dress well, be extra nice when they call to schedule the interview, try to remember names so you can say hello when you check in prior to the interview. As a hiring manager, it’s harder to hire someone that HR didn’t like…seriously, it is. Plus, their assessment will be part of the overall decision about who comes back for round two. From a manager perspective if you can’t take the time to be nice to these people now, how will you be after being hired?
  • Plus, my super secret bonus tip: be polite to the receptionist when you arrive, and know that the manager will be asking afterward for impressions. As a hiring manager it was always my practice to keep candidates waiting about 5 minutes in the lobby just for that purpose. You’ll be surprised how people reveal themselves – my favorite story is about a candidate who requested a cup of coffee..well, more of a demand. When it was time to interview gave the cup back to the receptionist to throw away. Hired? No! Be polite, make small talk if they are not busy, sit well, be cautious about phone calls, wait patiently – don’t read any Dummies books!

It’s important to understand that interviewing and hiring is painful for a manager. They have an obligation to try to hire well, they have budget constraints, it takes a lot of time to review resumes, do phone screens, and then first and often second interviews. Plus, if hiring from a staffing company there is usually a fee of 15-30% of your first year salary – they don’t get that back if you leave or don’t work out, just a promise that they will place someone else at no cost. On top of that, having tried any number of technical questions and interview techniques my own success rate at hiring “good” employees is about 50%. Knowing that just increases the pain and dread. Can you change that? No. But you can do all the things expected by the system and that keeps their time investment to a minimum.

As far as screening, HR often makes the first cut. Staffing companies have to walk the fine line, because they are only supposed to send qualified candidates. Sending someone who isn’t can cause them to lose that position and future ones too. Managers spend about 1 minute per resume doing their initial cut, throwing all out the ones they don’t like for whatever reason. Then a slightly longer second pass where they informally rate the remainder to reduce the pool size further and to prioritize who to interview first.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Dugi on 18 June 2009

Very funny "In most companies HR is a team that no one loves" and the last one is very nice secret tip, but it depends from company and the persons who observe you in the lobby! The phone interview happens just one time in my live most of them (companies) wants to see you live there, how you looks as person and dress details, how do you express yourself to them etc.

Andy thanks for the tips!

Posted by Steve Jones on 18 June 2009

I'd add, watch your headset on today's cell phones. Some have horrible reception or noise, be sure that you test with a friend.

When you go to the interview, turn off your phone. It's less distracting and you won't be tempted to look at it.

Posted by John Magnabosco on 19 June 2009

Thanks Andy. Your series is perfectly timed. :D

Posted by Jon Monahan on 24 June 2009

Steve - great point. I had someone actually answer their phone during an interview - without even saying excuse me for a second. I just got up and walked out - came back 20 minutes later and said that we were through. If they were going to be that rude and disrespectful of other people's time during an interview (the place where they should be on their best behavior), how would they be treating colleagues and clients later on???

Thanks for the article Andy!

Posted by Tony on 24 June 2009

The phone interview is great, I've used it well as both interviewer & candidate.  It cuts down on wasted time if it doesn't work out, and I can usually tell within a few minutes of talking if it will be worth an in-person.  As a candidate, I ask for it if the hiring company doesn't suggest it.

Big plus: If the candidate (or me) currently is employed, it's easier to go somewhere quiet with a phone than to get time out of office with secretive excuses, so it works great for the candidate.

Another plus: It gives the candidate a chance to get a feel for the interviewers, so they can prepare and adjust what's said and projected to better connect to the interviewer's communication style for the in-person.

Posted by Tony on 24 June 2009

For the email address, I put more attention in the name than the domain.  "imcute@" or "beerluvr@" screams unprofessional.  Just go with with some form of your name - first initial + last name, etc.

Even better is if the domain IS your name - firstname@lastname.com - anything to repeat your name in a non-negative light and make you stand out in some way.

Posted by DangerMouseKaBoom on 25 June 2009

HR = High Risk..no go area..

Posted by david.wright on 25 June 2009

Another angle on your point "years ago you were a senior developer and you left the field, now returning...": tailor your CV and your interview to the job you're going for. If you want a job as a DBA you need to show you can do that job, even if you could do your interviewer's job standing on your head!

Posted by tfifield on 1 July 2009

I thought the point about the receptionist particularly important.  I once interviewed for a contract at a company where the receptionist was the owner's wife.  I was very polite and friendly with the receptionist and got the contract.

Posted by kal on 20 July 2009

where are links to next articles in the series? This series is good but not well linked at all.

Posted by Andy Warren on 20 July 2009

You're right that I didn't link them forward, only back. You can see them all at www.sqlservercentral.com/.../default.aspx.

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