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Old 07-29-2016, 12:08 PM
Westley Westley is offline
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Default Westley talks about interviewing

Been planning for a while to consolidate and add to my oeuvre of interviewing advice.

There's lots of good general advice out there for interviewing, and you can just pick up any book you want to and get some pretty good advice. While this thread won't be restrictive, I will be focusing more on EL and first few years post-college. Also, will be focusing on actuarial, of course. So, advice that applies to anybody (should I wear a suit to an interview?) in any field, I'm not saying I'll ignore that, but I'm trying to focus on things that actuaries need to know or seem to screw up.

Questions and comments, in this thread or by PM*, are welcome. I plan to add to this thread over time, not intending it to be a one-time thing. People posting their own experience and disagreements with my comments and advice are always welcome. I will also be borrowing over time from other threads that have interviewing info.

*I reserve the right to post PMs with my response in this thread. I will, IMO and at my discretion, appropriately "genericize", falsify, or redact identifying information that you provide me in PM. If you specifically request that I do not post your PM even in redacted form, then I will honor that request as well.
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Old 07-29-2016, 01:50 PM
Westley Westley is offline
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First bit, just got this from a podcast that I listen to (and recommend to people in general, as well as specifically to job seekers). For actuaries, this can be summarized with something that's been written many times on this board: A resume gets you an interview, then your interview skills - which are completely different - land you the job. Below is my transcription from the "Art of Charm" podcast "Fan Mail Friday #73 | Why don't I want to hire you", starting at 26:55.
http://theartofcharm.com/podcast-epi...t-to-hire-you/



When he talks about an engineering job, pretend he said actuarial.

Quote:
Jason (reading from a letter)Hey Jordan and Jason, something odd happened to me the other day, and I was hoping for some advice on preventing it in the future. Over the last year, I've been trying to become a better person, thanks in no small part to your show, and part of that includes improving my career.

At an interview with a company that I'm genuinely excited to work with, one of the interviewers said something that I didn't have a good answer for. To paraphrase "Why don't I want to hire you? On paper you're perfect, but after meeting with you I have concerns. You have all these skills and experience, but you're not traditionally employed." While I have a lot of skills and experience, the majority is from various freelance gigs and failed entrepreneurial endeavors. I admit that my career suffered a lot from a bout of post-grad lack of direction, but even at my worst-slacker, I still focused on learning new skills. How do I frame my experience and my recent personal growth in a way that will prevent this from happening again? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me. "Confused Candidate"

Jordan: Jason did you have coffee this morning?

Jason: I had several, why?

Jordan: Cause your "Hey!!!" in the beginning of this question just redlined all my meters.

Jason: I was trying to be exciting, and ready to go

Jordan: I appreciate it, sounded great, leave it in. But with this guy, this question, I think we're being - we need a term for this - not red herring - he's kinda guiding us, we're seeing a smoke signal here that's not quite what I think is accurate. He says "Why don't I want to hire you, on paper you're perfect but after meeting with you I have concerns." Let's put a hard break between there and then read the next line, which is "You have all these skills and experience but you're not traditionally employed". Those two things in my mind have nothing to do with one another. If they called you in there, they don't care that you're not traditionally employed. Or they did and they expected you to defuse that in some way and you didn't. But what it sounds like is they went "Hey this guy's not traditionally employed but it's probably fine look at all these skills he has on paper" then you showed up and something that you did or did not do during the interview made them not wanna hire you. It has nothing to do with your skills or your past. If it did, they would've just not called you back. Right?

Jason: Yeah, I think that's absolutely something we need to talk about because it's sorta in between the lines of his email. First of all, let's take a moment to thank this interviewer for asking you THE QUESTION you need to ask yourself right now, which is "Why aren't I hireable?" Right, you called this an odd interview was your word, but this could have been the interview that changes your life if you listen to it and figure out what you need to change.

I think there are two parts of it, Jordan you nailed it with the personality element of a good interview. Before that comes into play though, it sounds like he's really asking, how do I tell my story. I have an unusual story, so how do I explain it to people and make them feel like I'm an attractive candidate. I think this guy's job right now is to work on that short clear, concise story that explains who he is and why he's going to bring value to the company. That's the glue that will hold your resume together. And it will communicate who you are, not just what you know and what you can do, which is what you touch on in the email. The good news is it sounds like he has all the pieces of that in place, he just needs to make them fit together, so knowing that he has a non-traditional background, I would say take some time to craft a story that weaves together all those skills and experiences and perspectives, but gets out in front of those objections he knows are coming, like "Well you've never had a traditional job", "You have some gaps in your resume". He needs to start to address those and make them make sense.

He doesn't need to be a traditional candidate to get the job, he just has to be the right candidate. And that gets into your other point which is, is this guy the sort of person people want to hire, and I think that's a much harder question, don't you think?

Jordan: I do, because the story along might not be... it's definitely not the whole equation here. I know plenty of people at start-ups - and this is kind of a Silicon Valley thing so throw this out if you think it doesn't apply - I know a lot of people that get hired for positions where what the founders really liked (or the hiring managers or HR) - what they really liked was the level of enthusiasm and likeability. And sure, some of these positions were like HR, CSR, and Sales, but unless it's an engineering job - actually, especially if it's an engineering job - if they called you back, you have the qualifications. They would not bother wasting their time otherwise. So, something in the interview did or did not happen that was ADDITIONALLY not made up for in likeability, rapport, enthusiasm, etc.

Jason: And no interviewer is going to stop and say "You know, I would have hired you, but you're just kinda a d---". Nobody's going to tell you that to your face.

Jordan: "You failed to build sufficient rapport with me" - no, they just go "Meh, I'm not feeling this guy".

Jason: The interesting thing about this though, is that he said "I want to hire you but I can't because of something that doesn't feel right". Most people would just say "Sorry you're not a fit" and move on, so that's kinda the weird bit about this. That the interviewer actually came out and said "This is kind of a problem with how I perceive you, and perceive what you've told me". So maybe he didn't actually believe him. So I think that comes back to telling the story properly.

Jordan: Or he wanted the guy to go "Look I'm really nervous so I'm being a little weird". Not like "Nope, this is me, this is what you're gonna get". "Bzzt, pass"

?Gabriel?: I think you guys are both nailing it, like the story is not enough. He also has to be inviting and trustworthy and personable, which might be where he's struggling a little bit. And ultimately there are two parts to the equation when it comes to getting an offer. One is, do I think you're gonna add value to my company, that one's pretty straightforward I think. But the much harder and softer - harder and softer meaning it's harder to nail and also tougher to pin down - is, do I like you and do I trust you. Right? And at this stage of his career, given his freelance jobs and his spotty resume, he needs someone to invest in him and take a chance. So, he needs to be the kind of person that's worth investing in, who inspires that chance. So, in terms of nuts and bolts, wouldn't you say, probably I would start by going back and listening to the AoC toolbox episodes about all of those subjects - trust, rapport, connection - and I would even check out the social capital program because you guys cover all of that stuff in insane detail. And I think if he works on that side of the equation, he might even get some results in future interviews.

Jordan: Agreed. Thank you.

I'll come back and talk about this some more later.
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Last edited by Westley; 07-29-2016 at 04:35 PM..
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Old 07-29-2016, 02:02 PM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is offline
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Totally agree.
The link between résumé and interview is important as well.
The résumé is all they know about you, so you'll have to wow them, or at least keep them interested, when they ask about something found on your résumé. Be it a professional situation or "competitive eater."
One point I've made is that you don't want to tell the whole story on your résumé . Leave something for them to ask about. And when they do, tell an awesome story.

Also, work on those annoying behavioral questions by tying them to your résumé as well. "Well, this one time in band camp -- I worked as a counselor at a band camp,..."
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DTNF's Résumé Advice: Have a good and interesting answer to every item on it for the interviews.
DTNF's Law of Job Offers: You not only have to qualify for the position, but you also have to be the best candidate available for the offer.
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Old 07-29-2016, 02:11 PM
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Vorian Atreides Vorian Atreides is offline
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On your resume, you can say just about anything.

And even if you honestly believe that you're an "expert" in something, others might have a differing opinion.

The point here? Companies use "behavioral" questions as a means to assess to what degree are the claims on your resume substantiated. This isn't to say that every company asking behavioral questions will be asking good questions; but this is the (real) goal behind such statements.

So . . . to go along with what DTNF said, you might be better off slightly understating your abilities on the resume and then wow-ing the interviewer in person than trying to overstate yourself and end up disappointing the power(s) deciding whether or not to offer you a position.
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Old 07-29-2016, 02:35 PM
Westley Westley is offline
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Following up on DTNF's comments about behavioral (and prepping for questions in general), I've been asked for help with interviewing a number of times, and this has always worked. People do this, then get hired, it's really that simple IMO.


Step 1: Be awesome. A little tongue-in-cheek here, but basically if you suck, have bad grades, no exams, etc - I can't help. Not saying there's no help, just that I can't.
Step 2: Get your resume in order. I can actually help with that, but I'm not going to do so, in this thread. Look elsewhere - on the AO and off - and get your resume in order.

Here's the part that deals with interviewing:
Step 3: Make a list of all the questions you think an interviewer is likely to ask. This should be 50+, and at a minimum should include
10 behavioral questions "Tell me about a time when..."
10 generic questions "Where did you go to school..."
1 question from every item on your resume: an item from every bullet, an item from every exam, every class - anything on your resume should have - minimum - one question.
5 questions - ideally more but at least 5 - that you hope the interviewer doesn't ask. Anybody that thinks it's tough to come up with a question you don't want the interviewer to ask, let me know.
10 questions (can overlap with above) on your qualifications (GPA, exams, work experience, etc)
10 questions about what you are, like, want to do "Where do you see yourself in five years?".

Step 4: Write down your answer to these questions. Each and every one, write out your whole answer to the question*.

*Like, actually write it down. That's not a euphemism for "Think about it and pretend you wrote something down" or "Scribble a few notes as if you have an outline". Told a guy to do this once before and when I did a practice interview with him, I said "Tell me about how you approach exams" his response was "Usually I answer with something like..." and I cut him off. "No, read your written answer to me. Read it. Or go write it and then we can come back and do a practice interview when you've done it. The point is, write it down. Actually write it down."

Step 5: Practice interview solo. Sit in front of a mirror and pretend somebody just asked you the first question on your list. Read the answer back to yourself in the mirror.

Step 6: More practice interviews - do Step 5 again, until you're comfortable with it. Then do it with a friend. Then do a practice interview with a professional, such as an actuary or somebody with your college career services office. If they ask you a question that's not on your list, you're still going to answer with information from your list. This is a bit tricky, but if they ask you to tell them about a time that you were on a team and it didn't perform as planned, just go ahead and use the answer that you were going to use for "Tell me about I time you had a difficult cow-orker". In politics, this is called "I don't know what questions they're going to ask, but I know what the answers are."
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Old 07-29-2016, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westley View Post
Been planning for a while to consolidate and add to my oeuvre of interviewing advice.
Ugh, another thread where Westley talks...

I do think these become a good hub for people to ask all their questions though, rather than a new thread every time someone has an interview.

-Riley
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Old 07-29-2016, 03:00 PM
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Jared Ogle Jared Ogle is offline
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added to 2016 XMas wish list: "Westley talks about data science"
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Old 07-29-2016, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Jared Ogle View Post
added to 2016 XMas wish list: "Westley talks about data science"
Gonna have to stock up on my popcorn for that one:



-Riley
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Old 07-29-2016, 04:03 PM
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1. There are questions we expect you to be prepared for.



Be prepared for them.


2. There are questions we don't expect you to be prepared for.

Don't bullshit an answer. If you don't have a good reply or just blank out, that's okay. You can say "I'm sorry, I'll have to get back to you about that."

Write down the question, and answer it later via email or phone.

Gives you a good excuse to do followup contact anyway.

3. But you will not look good if you don't have an answer ready for questions you should have anticipated.
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Old 07-29-2016, 04:03 PM
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Relevant thread: http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actu...d.php?t=299536 .

My posts:

Quote:
Originally Posted by clarinetist View Post
This is what my gf once told me of one of her interviews:

"How old are you?"
"I'm X."
"Oh. You don't look X."
Quote:
Originally Posted by clarinetist View Post
My worst interview question was "How do you communicate?"
Westley has a response here:

http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actu....php?p=8229468
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