Tech Stories: Stay Focused in Your Interviews

After graduating college, I was idealistic with big hopes and dreams. The problem when you’re a big dreamer with high hopes from life is that you easily can get all of that crushed by the harsh reality of moving out of the academic environment that has been so neatly organized for you into the more dynamic trenches of  a regular job where college most likely hasn’t prepared you. So this story is a short one of what not to do in an interview right after college if you are like my former hopelessly romantic self.

I can’t recall the first company I applied to right after college but I do recall it being a software company. Having almost no experience and no pure technical degree back in the day pre-internet explosion meant that companies were far more discerning. Still, I had no inkling what a resume looked like nor what to do at a job interview and worse yet almost no clue where to look for that type of information.

My resume was a five page mess that mostly talked about my academic background in the desperate hope of bypassing the fact that I had no relevant experience to my name, focusing on my school work and possible references from professors who were nice enough to sign their name away. Ironically, the 1-2 page (max) style resumes are what people look for so my verbosity certainly did me little to no favors at the time.

Despite this horrible first impression, the company did take a chance for an interview where my poor father was forced to accompany me all the way out to the company in Irvine as I had no means of transportation at that point (not to mention he was out of a job). Of course, I was determined to make the most out of the situation with what little experience I had.

I do think I manage to put on a suit and even a tie, a formality that has changed quite a bit with the more informal work place settings these days in tech. However, I think my father showing up along side me probably gave a really bad impression out the door as it would become painfully obvious that I had no car.

Anyway, I met with the interviewer and sat down to go over my background. Seeing that I had no experience, he started off vague by asking me what I wanted to do. Here’s where everything just went downhill immediately.

Being extremely ignorant of interview processes back in the day, I blurted out that I wanted to travel to Japan, become involved in Japanese women’s pro-wrestling, do writing, etc. In short, everything that was irrelevant to the job position (which by the way was to be a technical document writer). Immediately, the interviewer grew impatient and mentioned that I was all over the place and lacked focus. I can’t remember how much longer I was questioned but it was clear that I needed to work on my interview skills.

Luckily, these days we have an incredibly useful and cheap tool called the Internet. I wasn’t so fortunate as the internet only began to burgeon around that period. Sure, there were sites popping up by the hundreds every day but not enough content was relevant to what I needed.

I can’t honestly remember what I did to remedy my poor interview skills and awful resume. I think I might’ve borrowed or purchased a book on resume writing and asked for some pointers from friends. But the experience was so devastating to me that I don’t think I did another interview for quite a while and instead opted to go back to school for a semester.

But I do realize in retrospect that what would’ve helped back in the day would have been attending seminars or on campus activities that helped students like myself with the whole process. Also, if I realized that interviewing was not about the specific company nor myself and just a combination of luck, talent, sheer persistence, etc. it would’ve made my career a little easier in the beginning.

However, the key to me was just learning what a good resume looked like on top of keeping the topic relevant to the position I was interviewing for. You can expose your personal interest on the side once the main interview concludes but when people start talking about your career goals, you really need to connect your current ambition with the job at hand. Make it relevant for both parties and demonstrate how hiring you, even if you lack the core experience, can be mutually beneficial.

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