Untitled - Jobs

54 minute read

So I got really sick and tired of seeing “How to get the perfect job” and then them only giving you 3 paragraphs and saying “buy my book or sign up to my email list to get the rest” so I’m releasing all the information I’ve learnt from these scam artists for free.

As a side note, if you have any questions you DO NOT have to sign up to my email list, follow me or pay me. I will answer all of your questions and help you, for free. Feel free to leave them down in the comments or message me on any of my social media accounts.

Why should you care?

Well, that’s a good question. This really comes down to “who am I?”.

I’m not a recruiter, but my friends and I are professionals with lots of experience. This article was written with help from Chris Jim - 17 internships secured at some of the worlds top companies in his first year at university. I like to think of myself as a professional in tech. I have a few job offers and I’ve worked in tech before. The only thing I can really add is that I’ve read a lot of those recruitment books (Cracking the Coding Interview, Why You?, Get the Job You Really Want), taken courses at university in professional skills and read pretty much every Medium article revolving around being professional and having a job.

This article features case studies and information from real humans who get real results. This isn’t one of those articles written by someone who’s never been and done it. All of the people mentioned in this article have internships at some of the UK’s top companies or are considered extremely professional.

This is a no-thrills no-handrails completely free as in free beer and free as in speech nose dive straight into stuff that is immediately useful to you.

CV

We’ll start off with the CV, one of the more crucial aspects of the job application process.

Personalise your CV

Seriously, customise your CV per job. Don’t send the same CV out to many jobs. Think about what you’ve done that’s important to the job.

Customising your CV enables you to pass the keyword test.

When you apply for a job, most jobs will read your CV to see if it contains certain keywords. If it doesn’t, no job for you. This is either done by a human, which is a little forgiving or a machine which doesn’t care about you.

Your CV will impress the person reading it if it’s customised to them. Everyone likes a customised birthday cake more than a regular Tesco own brand birthday cake.

To customise your CV analyse the job description. Read it multiple times and highlight keywords that come up. They say that they want someone with strong self-motivation? Find something you’ve done that proves this and put it on to your CV.

Read the job description, the responsibilities, the specific requirements, the location. Any words you don’t know? They’re probably keywords. Google them.

If you really don’t see any keywords, google “Job position Keywords”. Like If I wanted to find the keywords for a sales assistant I’ll type “Sales Assistant Keywords”. Some keywords come up and up again such as:

  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Microsoft Office

Let’s say a job description has this sentence in it:

Required - Advance knowledge of Microsoft Applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint).

Then instead of writing “Microsoft Office” on your CV you write:

Advance knowledge of Microsoft Software (Word, Excel, Powerpoint).

Lie about your location

Want to get a job in London? Then write “London” on your CV.

But make sure it’s not too much of a lie. Saying you live in London when you’re from Skegness or St. Ives is a blatant lie.

If in the application they call you up on this, then say you’re going to relocate and you wanted to specifically find jobs in your new area or you were planning on commuting anyway.

Where I come from there are no tech jobs, so most people just commute to London anyway.

Writing a CV

Make it 1 page. If you customise your CV per job, you should only ever need 1 page. If you have 15+ years of experience, 2 pages are okay, but 1 page is preferable.

Elon Musk’s CV is one page.

I’ve read somewhere that an recruiter will spend 7 seconds on your CV but I think this sounds a little too optimistic. Do you know when you’re at work, filling out some boring paper work or being forced to read something? If you were given the option of not reading something and it looked boring within the first 1 - 2 seconds, you wouldn’t carry on. Same with recruiters. If your CV looks boring, full of boring information, they’re not going to bother and spend those 7 seconds on your CV.

Use a CV template and fill it out.

If you know a little tiny bit about computers you can Google “LaTeX CV templates” to get some really nice templates for free. If it’s on Overleaf or ShareLaTeX than it’s easier to use. LaTeX is basically like a programming language but for writing. If you know LaTeX please don’t kill me for saying that. This article isn’t for technical people.

https://www.sharelatex.com/templates/cv-or-resume

Just Google “CV Template” and find one you like.

List your achievements at a job, not the duties you had to do.

Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes at all costs. Pay someone to read it if you have to. Message me if you need help with this. I’m not an expert at spell checking, but I can be another pair of eyes.

Don’t fill it chock full of information. Keep it short and sweet.

Use numbers. In the UK we have this English writing rule:

A FOREST. A Alliteration F Facts O Opinion R Repetition / Rhetorical questions E Emotive language S Statistics T Triples (Three, rule of)

The statistics are important here. If I was to say that I was the best Student Union officer that would make me sound big headed. If I was to change that to “changed Student Union approval rating from 30% to 90%” it would sound even more impressive and not so egotistical.

Try to make your achievements in this format:

I did X by doing Y as proved by Q

Make sure to give your CV in PDF format, unless they explicitly ask for a different format.

If they require the CV in plaintext (copy and paste) you have to format it differently. You can make sections using “—-“. Like so:

Achievements
------------
Changed Student Union approval rating from 30% to 90%

Personally speaking I’m a big fan of these companies for CV templates:

https://www.cv.me/

https://novoresume.com/

https://enhancv.com/

No References Available On Request

No one I know that gets jobs does this. Make it as easy as physically possible for the recruiter. Contacting you to ask for references is another step to them, cut out the middleman and put the contact details for your reference on the CV itself. I know that some references will write you letters, and that’s good. You should hand these in when they ask for qualifications (if they do).

If you really want to give them letters, write “letters of recommendation available on request” under the contact details for your references.

Make it as easy for your employer as possible

Really think about whom you are applying to. If you’re applying in the tech industry chances are that they reading your CV on a computer, so hyperlinks in CVs are really cool. If not, maybe don’t include them as they don’t look good when printed out.

Always send your CV as a PDF unless they absolutely specify it has to be sent in a format they require.

List your education and employment in reverse chronological so your most recent stuff is right at the top of the page.

Use a template

I cannot stress this enough. There are hundreds, if not thousands of amazing CV templates online. Just Google “CV Template” and you’ll find one.

Please just customise it for your job

If you’re applying for a job that requires programming, have a “languages” section on your CV that talks about all the languages you know.

Most people fire off blankets of CV’s to every single recruiter on their LinkedIn like North Korea launching nukes without ever customising it. Do not do this.

You’ll notice that the last 2 parts have been written about twice here, that’s because they are absolutely vital.

Have a “profile” section

This profile is a small section of your CV that includes a brief summary of your skills, experiences and goals. It is your elevator pitch.

It really is customised to you. I can’t tell you what to write. You can find examples of profiles in the example CV section.

Bullet Points in a CV

Do not write paragraphs. Have bullet points instead.

For any past work or experience, you will want to include accomplishments at this job that relate to the job you are applying to.

Try not to include your duties. It’s much more impressive to show your accomplishments.

In your bullet points use action verbs. These are words like “accomplished”, “designed”, “initiated”, “supervised”.

Here’s a good list of action verbs:

http://career.opcd.wfu.edu/files/2011/05/Action-Verbs-for-Resumes.pdf

Things to include in a CV

Let’s say you have a template and you want to change a few things, here are some things you might want to include:

  • Personal details - Telephone, professional email, location, name
  • Work experience
  • Achievements
  • Education
  • Hobbies and interests that relate to the job
  • Key skills relating to the job
  • Know any languages that relate to the job? Put them down!

What not to include:

  • A head-shot / image of you. Unless the company specifies that they require this, do not do this. Unless you are Alex Turner or Emma Watson. They do not want to see you.
  • Age and date of birth - It’s illegal for employers to ask about your age under the Equality Act of 2010.
  • Martial / Relationship status - Again under the Equality Act of 2010 they cannot ask this.
  • Every single thing you have ever done - Make it short and customise it per job.

Note: The Equality Act is a UK act. I’m not sure about the US, but you probably don’t want to include them anyway.

Depending on your work and education, you’ll need to balance these correctly. Do you have a really good education but not much work experience? Make your education 60% of your CV. Do you have lots of work experience but not much education? Make that 60% of your CV.

What if you have both? Well, just list your education shortly and have your work experience.

How do you list education shortly? Just include the modules that sound the most impressive, try to limit it to 4 maximum along with your grades and university name. Or, again, personalise it. You’re applying for a job that involves Artificial Intelligence? Include the modules you’ve done in this.

Employers find work experience more impressive than academia. Unless you’re applying for a job in academia.

Examples

Here are some examples of CVs. This is my CV TK https://drive.google.com/file/d/1u66tSfXWmvBBdCkc7KyUpLxn8A0U8Rar/view

And this is Chris’ CV TK https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rIBsYaRf6qSg9wND32cw4WAAbCBHG0W2/view

Let’s look at some bad CV’s now, taken from here:

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“Losing virginity”, “-0-(FUCKS)”, “I’m the best in the world at”? Jeeze. This guy.

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Why would you boast about dealing illegal drugs on your CV?

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No words needed.

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This person used a 2 page CV and they used a tiny font to try and make everything fit in. Can you read it? I can’t.

They have a really weird email address, make sure your email is professional.

They write in third person. Don’t do this. It’s creepy and it’s weird.

They talk about this one summer job they had where they scooped ice cream for some customers. Don’t include non relevant jobs.

They included their photo on the CV. Do not reccomened doing.

They included their religion, social security number and their martial status.

That font, is that comic sans?

What’s up with all the colours?

They change colours, fonts, have wacky symbols throughout their CV. Choose a font style and stick with it.

Cover Letters

A cover letter is a letter that goes with a CV that explains why you want a job. Not all job postings require cover letters.

Try to make your cover letter short. A full page at maximum.

A cover letter should have this at the start in the right hand corner

• First & Last Name • Street Address • City • Postcode • Phone Number • Email Address

Then comes your salutation. Dear Sir / Madam / Mrs / Mr / Ms / Dr.

Start with an introduction. Make the reader aware of why you’re writing this. Include the job you’re applying for.

The 2nd paragraph is your skills, what you can provide to the company.

The 3rd paragraph should be why you want to work on for the company.

The 4th paragraph is the conclusion. Mention you look forward to hearing back from them.

This follows a typical story arc. Start off with who you are, why they should care, why you care about them, summarise and end.

Again with a CV you want to use lots of statistics, talk about why you like them, show a genuine interest.

Let’s go into some more detail.

The first paragraph is where you introduce yourself. What you’re applying for. This is simply:

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Brandon Skerritt and I am applying for the position of Book seller at Waterstones, please find enclosed my CV.

In most cases they already know what your name is and what you’re applying for, so if you can don’t include this part.

If you were refereed to the job, mention that contact. Express excitement that you’ve applied. Use keywords.

I’m writing to express my interest in the Editorial Assistant position listed on Monster.com. Given my five years of editorial experience and excellent capabilities, I would appreciate your consideration for this position.

or

I have the pleasure of being acquainted with one of the Counselors on your staff, Eleanor Seville. She let me know about the open position and recommended that I contact you.

The second paragraph is where you talk about your skills and experience. Unlike a CV you do not use blunt bullet pointed language here but instead talk about your experience. You can also explain any gaps that might appear in a CV here.

Try not to regurgitate your CV in letter form. Think about what you’re writing and why you’re writing it.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been an obsessive reader. I review books on GoodReads, I’ve written some fiction novellas in my spare time. I’ve been a book seller for the last 2 years at [Bookshop name here] and have loved every second of it. As well as being a book seller I’ve trained new employees and managed the general every day running of the store.

The third paragraph is why you’re applying. What do you like about the job or company you’re applying to? Any nice anecdotes about the company?

Waterstones has always been my favourite bookstore. I’ve collected over 11 stampcards and try to go to Waterstones weekly to see what new books have been released. As well as this I regularly go to your Waterstones store. Sometimes I cannot help myself as a fellow book seller to rearrange books that have been misplaced or recommended books for your store based on the shelves. One such instance is a book titled “how to read water”; this book would of looked good next to The Cloud Collectors guide - a book on reading clouds.

Fourth paragraph is the conclusion, where you wrap this all up.

I would love to work at Waterstones, especially your store since it is my favourite amongst the many I have been to. I hope I have the opportunity to work at this fantastic store and I hope to hear from you soon.

With kind regards, Brandon Skerritt

Don’t talk about how great the position would be to you. Talk about what you can bring the company, always have the company in mind. Show what you’re capable of within a covering letter. Try to tell a story, humans are attracted more to stories than they are to paragraphs or words on a page.

Just like a CV don’t make a one-size-fits-all cover letter. Customise it per job.

As with a CV your cover letter may be keyword tested so try to include some keywords that the employer really wants to see.

Always send your cover letter as a PDF.

Back in the day the same document could be formatted differently on different machines. The reason PDF was invented was to keep this formatting. If you format it as a PDF you’ll know for sure the employer will be able to open it and they’ll be able to view it formatted to exactly how you formatted it.

Let’s analyse some bad cover letters from here

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This just cuts to the chase. No “hello, [persons name]”. You should know who your employers name is and if you don’t write “To whom it may concern”.

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This person just talks about what they’re bad at. They’re quite informal too. Only “average” at Excel? Not capable of HTML? You’re sick of applying for jobs? What??? Don’t write something like this!!

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This person is too self-obsessed and the cover letter is far too long. It’s so long in fact it had to be split up into two pictures!

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Does this person even want the job? They seem so negative.

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Too many spelling mistakes!

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This one is clearly copied and pasted. They do not mention a position or the company at all!

Email

You need a professional email address.

Make it your name, don’t use Yahoo or AOL for tech jobs. If you apply to Google with an AOL email address they’ll just laugh at you.

Make sure you think about this carefully. I have 2 email addresses, a Gmail one that has numbers on the end of it and a Proton mail one that’s just my name.

The Proton mail one is for tech companies. They might see I use Proton and subconsciously like me based on the fact that I support encryption.

The Gmail one with numbers on the end is just a semi-professional email I use.

If your email address looks like “FancyMonkey6969@tiscali.com” you need to change this.

Email Signature

If you’re sending email from a phone it’ll likely say “Sent from my iPhone” or whatever in your signature. Make sure you delete this.

You can actually customise your own email signature to look more professional.

Here’s what mine looks like:

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Make sure your signature isn’t too fully of text like this:

Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Leader, Number 1
SPECTRE – Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion
12 Rue des Méchants
75000 Paris, France
P: +33 1 12 34 56 78
F: +33 1 87 65 43 21
M: +33 1 22 33 44 55
E: number1@spectre.org
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ernieblo
Skype: meanguyspectre
www.spectre.org
www.spectrekids.net

Don’t put your email address in your signature. It’s like having your table of contents listed in your table of contents or like whenever someone calling you up you answer with “Hello my number is [NUMBER HERE]”.

It’s nice to have a photo because if you’re following up with someone they’ll remember you.

Personal Brand

Everyone has a personal brand, but it’s up to you to decide when to take control of your personal brand.

A majority of your posts on social media should be about what you love, but don’t make it too fake. Only posting tech stuff / stuff related to your industry makes you seem boring to work with. I genuinely love dogs so much, so I often post adorable dog pictures on my Twitter or pictures / things related to martial arts but I also post a lot about technology.

Create some content

Whether this is writing blog posts, tweeting super nifty tricks you’ve learnt, weighing in on a conversation on Twitter or contributing to open source software.

The more you create, the more people will care about you. No one cares about you unless you can make them smarter or do something for them.

LinkedIn

Get a LinkedIn account. Make sure it’s professional. Have a nice head-shot photograph.

Here’s a good LinkedIn inforgraphic from here.

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Your LinkedIn summary could just be your elevator pitch if you wanted it to be.

Have no typos in your LinkedIn.

Personalise your LinkedIn URL. For example my LinkedIn url is:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandonls/

But a friends who hasn’t personalised their URL is:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ciaron-howell-1244b6133/

When a person goes down your profile, they’ll see your top 3 skills and how many people have endorsed you for that skill. Make sure those skills are good skills. You can order the way skills are viewed.

Always personalise invitations to connect. It makes you stand out and if the other person doesn’t remember you it can help them to jolt their memory and remember you for longer. Also don’t add people you don’t really know. If you add too many people who say they don’t know you LinkedIn can shut down your account.

Publish content, provide content.

Find and join groups. For example, I’m in the Python Community group for people who love Python.

If you have a WordPress blog you can directly feed this into your LinkedIn:

“If you have a WordPress blog, we highly recommend feeding your blog into your LinkedIn profile (unless, of course, the content isn’t appropriate for a LinkedIn page.) To enable this setting, Select More in the main nav bar and Select Applications. From there, choose the WordPress application and enter the link to your feed. The blog will then appear in your profile and will update each time a new post is added.” 12Most

Case Studies

These case studies are people I know that inspire me every day and motivate me to do better. I’m listing them here so you can learn from them like I’ve learnt from them.

Meet Pauline - A Case Study

Pauline is a powerhouse and the queen of personal branding. She’s an amazing example at how to build a personal brand.

Twitter

https://twitter.com/paulienuh

Pauline is VERY active on Twitter. She regularly posts professionally about her life, and only ever positive things, or in her words, “pawsitive”.

She uses her own hashtags such as “#Pawgainz”.

Pauline has a professional twitter username, a nice cover photo explaining exactly what she does and what she’s all about and a nice profile picture.

Her bio neatly sums up all of her jobs and the things she likes. Her location displays where she’s from and where she lives.

She regularly tweets about things she is passionate about and makes sure to tag and hashtag appropriately.

With Twitter it’s important to hashtag correctly. Try to meld your hashtags into your text so it’s readable. Don’t just dump them all at the end of a tweet to try and gain peoples attention. Take for example, Pauline’s tweet here:

Notice how when she talks about a company, she tags them in it and when she talks about a community or something she hashtags it in. Notice how it reads so cleanly. Now look at this:

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Sorry if you’re PitchCrunch but the way this hashtagging is done makes it look like a bunch of 50 year olds sat around a table in an office at a Social Media Strategy and Marketing meeting to discuss the exact hashtags they’ll use to “maximise” their outreach without ever using social media properly.

PS: It took me 2 seconds to find this tweet. Steps to reproduce:

  1. Type a tech buzzword into Twitter as a hashtag, like #AI or #Python
  2. Go to “recent tweets”
  3. Click first tweet and there is a 85% chance it will look exactly like this

Pauline’s Blog

Pauline has a blog.

https://pawlean.com/

Her blog is 10 years old this year (2018). But don’t worry, you don’t need to have been writing that long. Pauline writes about pretty much everything from love to how her months go to events she goes to.

Here’s how she describes it:

“[PAWLEAN]…is a personal blog where I share and reflect on my life in the UK, my interests and experiences. I’ve run a blog since the days I used to wear my hair up in high bunches (like Boo from Monsters Inc) and during the time in my life when my purple Game Boy Advance completed me. “

Not everyone needs to have a blog. But it’s important to create some kind of content. As a developer, you can work in open source by either directly changing code, opening issues or by writing blog posts.

Chris answers Quora questions as a way to create content.

Some other friends make software.

Honestly, as long as you’re providing value they will come.

Instagram

Pauline also has a pretty professional instagram, with a professional username too.

Her bio says:

⚡️ .🐾💪🏻{ 📌🇬🇧 · 🏠🇵🇭🇪🇸; 👩🏻‍🔬 BMS @ TUoS; 👩🏻‍💻 Dev · PaulineNarvas.com; 🎬 YouTube.com/PaulineNarvas; 🚀 #explaw🐾 · #pawgainz · #A47DA4; 💭🧘🏻‍♀️✏️🏋️🏻‍♂️🗺🌠; }

If you read GB and PHES, that’s because your browser (most browsers) render flags as the names of those flags.

So Pauline opens up with “.🐾💪🏻{“. In CSS (she is a web developer) this is how you would open up and design a class. So she already has a cool little web dev thing in her bio. Her bio goes on to list her YouTube and her other website (we’ll get to that in a second) before listing the hashtags she uses. She has a colour, noted as “#A47DA4” which I am to assume is her favourite colour.

Pauline always posts professional photographs of her, doing work, having done work, enjoying life, or just being a human like so:

Last year, I was inspired by @ttszen's vision w/ #HackMed17 and had to come back to contribute. Soo... #HackMed18 happened and was a HUGE success!! 👏🏻 I was very impressed by the quality of work produced in just 24 hours with people especially from non-tech, non-compsci, non-coding backgrounds. You all inspire me SO MUCH. 🙌🏻 - So much to take in from this weekend but for now, I just wanted to say thank you to my @medtechsheffield family, sponsors, mentors, university (especially diamond staff who helped us out all weekend) and of course, all 51 hackers✨ I had an amazing weekend, such a positive experience and made such great friends (especially when I played Disney - it attracts friendships 💖😆) - 📸: Also thank you to my brother @clarknarvas for helping me document the whole event. NOT A SECOND MISSED 😂 What can I say? It's in the genes. Geddit?! Cuz this is hack med. Ha ha ha ha ha heh heh I need sleep Pls 8 hrs Pls - #mlh #hackers #hackathon #medicine #healthcare #biomedicalsciences #bms #mlhlocalhost #tech #yoga #meditation

A post shared by Pauline P. Narvas ⚡️ (@paw.lean) on

What’s important to note here is that her instagram isn’t entirely work, it’s also fun human stuff too. You have to be authentic. You can’t pretend to enjoy being in an office 24 / 7.

Personal Website

As well as having a blog, Pauline has a personal website. Most of the successful people I know have personal websites. They’re there as an online CV.

Look at Pauline’s website http://paulinenarvas.com/

Some other notable websites that are impressive and act as online CVs are:

Chris’ http://iamchrisjim.com/ Matt Burrman’s - https://mattburman.com/ Simon Fish’s - http://simon.fish/

All of these are computer scientists / coders, but you don’t need to know how to code to have an online website.

This is my friend Shannen, who’s an amazing photographer and has no coding experience:

https://shannenlong.pixieset.com/

Tim Ferris - who is everything but a coder - has a website too. Sure, he got people to code his website for him but back in the day (2002) he probably did it himself for his company at the time, brainQUICKEN.

“But Brandon, doesn’t having a website cost money?”

You can use GitHub to host your website for free

https://pages.github.com/

And if you have no coding experience you can use something like Jekyll (google it)to create an easy website. Here’s a GitHub repository that you can fork and change to have your own website:

https://github.com/jabranham/github-pages-academic-starter-kit

If you want to pay a little, Squarespace looks pretty nifty. Or you can pay one of the many developers I’ve listed (myself included) to make your website for you. Or any other developer you may know.

One of the advantages of having your own domain name is that you get an email for your domain name. How cool is it to email someone with an email address that ends in their name?

Meet Chris - A Case Study

Chris, where do I start?

He got 16 internships in his first semester of his first year at university.

He is the epitome of professionalism.

Linkedin

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Chris’ LinkedIn is extremely professional. He has 2 of his internship offers in his header plus his ambassador roles. He has a cover photo of him giving a talk, a professional headshot and a nice small bio.

LinkedIn is weird because there’s no big button that you can press to make you professional, it’s all the little things you do such as a nice headshot photo or a nice cover photo that make you professional.

if I was to list all of Chris’ experience, this article would be 20 minutes longer.

Previously Chris had a cover photo he had created. It was just his name with a few of his roles / jobs. Extremely impressive to have your own cover photo but relatively easy to create.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-jim-77b090128/

Website

Chris has an amazing personal website. One of the cool things to look at here is his programming portfolio:

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Each “card” contains links to his source code and a button that says “show details”. When clicked this happens:

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Each image of his portfolio is also a gif demonstrating how each of the programs he has created works.

His website also lists in a timeline some of the positions he has held, nothing special there.

Chris has a nice little portfolio about himself, like most of the websites mentioned in this article. Here is Chris’ profile:

I fell in love with programming when I was 17 and have been self-learning ever since.

I am a Campus Ambassador of SEO London and Bright Network and a member of Rare Recruitment. These are organizations that train and connect exceptional people to prestigious companies.

Won the first hackathon (TADHack London) I joined with a team of 5.

Chris has also listed his programming languages, frameworks & libraries, platforms, tools and databases he knows how to use.

There isn’t really much to his website but it contains everything you need to know to make an informed decision. Simplicity is best.

http://iamchrisjim.com/

You’ll notice that Chris has a lot of experience with Free Code Camp too. If you’re going for a job in tech, showing extra curricular love to programming or data science or whatever you like is always good.

Blog

Chris also has a blog!

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Blogs are really cool because they let you get your voice out there, for companies to see what you’re all about. You don’t need a website or a blog to be considered professional but if you enjoy writing or designing things it couldn’t hurt.

Check out his blog here!

https://chrisexperiencelondon.wordpress.com/

Answering interview questions

Always answer using the STAR method - Situation, task, action, result - if appropriate.

Describe a situation you had, the task you had to solve, what action you took to solve it and the result. Not all interview questions can be answered with the STAR method but it is recommended.

Know yourself

Questions will come up about you, about what you’ve done, about your CV.

Fully understand everything there is to know about yourself.

They will ask questions about your CV. People regularly forget what they have put on their CV. Make sure you understand the projects and work you’ve put on there.

15 Interview Questions

According to Reed, there are really only 15 interview questions. All other interview questions stem from them.

  1. Tell me about yourself

They don’t care about your personal life. They want to hear your professional story. Tell a story, not some bullet points.

This question is a combination of a candidate’s self confidence and how well they have prepared. You need to answer this, right now. And memorise it. You know how businesses have elevator pitches? YOU need one.

Don’t make it sound like you’ve never been asked this question before. Don’t “uhm” or “ehh” before answering. Look them in the eye, smile, and rehearse it like you’ve always known this.

Make sure it has a definite end. Don’t just end it willy-nilly and expect the interviewer to know it’s ended. Always end with something like “And that to answer your question, is a little about me. If you want to know any more feel free to ask me.”

Here’s my own example:

I’m a computer science student at the university of liverpool aiming to get a first class degree, previously studying computing at a local college.

While at college I became the student union’s higher education vice president. During this role I ran the collective college partnership’s Student Union consisting of 5 colleges. Towards the end of my role the annual student survey was completed and every section for the student union, most noticeably the student union satisfaction and representation area went up from 30% to around ~85%. The skills I learnt were to be an effective team player, to communicate complicated ideas to board members in meetings, interviewing skills and how to deal with deadlines which i believe will help me in this position during work. If there is anything else you would like to know, feel free to ask me.

Most candidates fail this question because they don’t know what to talk about.

This question is asked in pretty much every interviewer. It allows the interviewer to get a rough idea of your background and experience and it also allows you to calm down.

Here’s some good YouTube videos on this exact question:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kayOhGRcNt4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW-yxxPMtro

  1. Why are you applying?

So this question is really “What can you do that we need you to do?”. They want to know what problems you can solve.

Make sure to reflect the job specification in this.

In the Reed book “why you” they say that this can be expressed in one sentence:

I’m applying because my skills, experience, and motivation are the best fit for the job.

This has to be customised per job interview, so no blanket answers here.

Don’t say you:

  • Need money
  • You want to get out of the house
  • A short commute is better than a long one

Act and believe that you want this job because you love it!

  1. What are your greatest strengths?

Customise this question again. Reflect the job description within this question.

This is not the time to be humble, but do try to not sound arrogant.

An example of this answer could be something like:

“I’m an extremely hard worker. I often don’t pick up many projects but when I do I go all in. Recently I’ve picked up blogging, managing to amass more than 8000 monthly readers in less than 5 months.”

Do use statistics. This is really important. Statistics lets you talk big about yourself without sounding too egoistical.

There’s a difference between saying “God, if everyone who read my articles was their own country it would be a small country. I must be an amazing writer” and saying “I have 8000 monthly reads in 5 months”.

But only say what’s relevant. If I was applying to a job at a students union or anything to do with students I would say “I increased student satisfaction and approval ratings from 30% to ~90%”.

You don’t have to be given a statistic to use it. You can work it out yourself. You know all these maths classes you took? Now is a good time to use them. Do you deal with customers a lot and do always say you’re doing well? Put that into a statistic.

Make sure your strengths match the job description. If the employer asks for good knowledge of Python (or German) talk about that.

You see this?

img

Do you remember this game? The idea is to get the shapes in the right holes.

Now, you could have the best blocks. The best blocks in the USA, the best blocks in the world. No one could ever have better blocks than you. But as long as you’re trying to fit this amazing diamond cube into a triangular hole, it’ll never ever work.

Well, unless you’re a mathematician:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvFNCNOyZeE

The same can be said for job interviews. Often it’s better to present something that you’re only 60 - 80% good at that matches the job description rather than talking about something you are absolutely amazing at that doesn’t match the job description.

The recruiter wants to find the right person for the job. They want to find the right shape for the right hole. Make sure you mould yourself into the shape they want.

  1. What are your greatest weaknesses?

DO NOT USE weaknesses such as:

  • I’m a hard worker
  • I overwork so much
  • I obsess with team work

Yeah sure this may have worked 30 - 40 years ago but employers can see the lies from miles away. Use an actual weakness but don’t say something like:

Sometimes I get really vivid thoughts of murdering people that interview me :)

Use something that was a problem and talk about how you’ve overcome this. If you’re still overcoming it say so. My example would be:

“I used to be terrified of phone calls. The idea of phoning someone was a no go for me. Having worked in a students union and at multiple events it was inevitable for me to phone people so I’ve gotten use to it. I’m still overcoming this but I’m not as bad as I was a year or two ago.”

But don’t make the weakness a part of the job description. If the job description says “you ne ed to be really good at talking to people” never say “I’m really bad at talking to someone”.

Make sure you say how you overcame your weakness and turn it into something positive. Make it into a mini story.

Make sure this won’t be a problem at your current company. Say something like “I believe this won’t be a problem in this company” and then say why. Mine would be:

“I used to be terrified of phone calls. The idea of phoning someone was a no go for me. Having worked in a students union and at multiple events it was inevitable for me to phone people so I’ve gotten use to it. I’m still overcoming this but I’m not as bad as I was a year or two ago. I believe this won’t be a problem at this company because I’m passionate for the cause of this company which would allow me to talk more on the phone to people revolving around this company. That’s one of the reasons I want to join this company, because I get to do what I love and I get to push my boundaries and get out of my comfort zone, to grow both personally and professionally.”

Make it very clear that this question is as normal as giving your name and address, do not act like they are forcing information out of you like you’re some sort of foreign intelligence agent.

Whatever you do, under all circumstances, NEVER ever EVER reply with any of these:

  • I’m a perfectionist! (If you do this, honestly, you don’t deserve the job.)
  • I work too hard
  • I don’t have any!
  • Chocolate / food
  1. What will your skills and ideas bring to this company?

This question is basically:

Why should we care about you? What can you do that others can’t?

And this question, is one of the best questions possible.

What can you do that others can’t?

They are literally asking you to mow down your competition. Do not show mercy, destroy them.

If you’ve worked on a preproject (mentioned in this article) this is the time to say so. Something like:

I saw your company used this Python package on GitHub but that Python package is deprecated. I’ve actually made a Python package that works the same but uses all the conventions that Python requires now. It’s also a little bit faster.

You have to really customise this one per company. Play your A-game here.

Do not talk badly about other people, just focus on your strengths.

Normally you will want to focus on what you’re good at here. Talk about that.

If you haven’t done a preproject, talk about what you’ve done in the past. Specific measurable achievements and make it sound like you can do this to this company.

“I turned a failing product from 30 sales a month to 10,000 a week, I want to sell as many of Product X as possible”.

Or take this answer from The Balence

I will bring my unique vision to your company. I am experienced in the many areas related to this company’s current goals, including expanding international sales. For example, I helped improve international sales at a previous company by over 25%. My sales background, along with my ability to plan ahead, will help facilitate that growth.

  1. What’s your preferred management style?

This question is just the interviewer wanting to know if you are going to get along together.

There’s 3 main steps to this question.

  1. Define what good management is

They obviously care about good management, so it’s important that you and the interviewer get on the same page about what good management is. Here’s an answer from The Muse

Management style is so hard to put your finger on, but I think in general a good manager gives clear directions and actually stays pretty hands-off, but is ready and available to jump in to offer guidance, expertise, and help when needed. I try my best to make that my management style.

  1. Add your on take

Now say something that makes you unique. You want to stand out, not appear to be another sheep in the candiate pool. Here’s a good response for the second part from Forbes

“In terms of what makes me unique, I also go out of my way to make sure I know when my team needs help. I don’t hang around and wait to be called upon by my direct reports—I go to them. That means plenty of informal check-ins, both on the work they’re doing and on their general job satisfaction and mental well-being.”

  1. Add an example

Examples always work in interview answers. Back up what you’ve said. Here’s an answer to this part, again from The Muse

I remember one project in particular at my most recent position where I supervised seven staff that involved everyone working on a separate aspect of the product. This meant a lot of independent work for my team, but rather than bog everyone down with repetitive meetings to update me and everyone else on progress made, I created a project wiki that allowed us to communicate new information when necessary without disrupting another team member’s work. I then made it my job to make sure no one was ever stuck on a problem too long without a sounding board.

  1. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

This question is the employer wanting to know if you plan to work there for a long time. Every employer wants to know you’ll work there for a long time, even if it’s just a waitering job. TK waitering

Say something along the lines of:

I don’t know your company well enough, but I would like to think I would still be working here. In 5 years time I would have liked to learnt enough to be able to train people in future roles.

Here’s a sample answer video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZBNDlZSxJs

I actually prefer Linda Raynier’s video on this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt4TF1wqz9U

She has many good examples of interview questions and how to answer them.

Learning is a multi step process, you can’t just read something and expect to be an expert in it. You have to practice for yourself and see what works for you and customise it per job.

  1. How would you approach this job?

This question is a bit weird.. It’s kind of a trap. Because you will never completely know how a company works without working at that company, don’t answer like you’re an expert on this but you do need to answer like you have a relatively good idea of what you’re doing.

An answer like this could work:

Well, the best way to do this job won’t come clear to me until I start this job. But I’ll start by getting to know my colleauges and team, listening, taking notes, building relationships, and helping people out where I can. After all that, I’ll have a good idea of how to do this job in the best way possible. At my last job I did…

Notice the example again. Talk about how you best undertook your last job but don’t go on and on forever.

  1. What have you achieved in other roles?

This is the question which gives you permission to not be humbled. Talk about what ever you’re proudest of. Mine would be:

My role as Higher Education Vice President started off on a bad turn. There were supposed to be 5 student union officers, but only I wanted to do the job. Effectively leaving me in charge of the work of 5 people, all whilst the student union staff who work with us had left to go to another job.

Luckily this was perfect for me, as I stepped up when no one else would. I travelled to every campus as much as possible to make sure all students were listened to. When a group of students came to me telling me that their course isn’t being properly funded I demanded a meeting with the principle of East Kent College to fix this.

As well as this I repeatedly represented the students in a democratic way at both a local (Kent) way and in a national way. I was chosen to attend the National Union of Student’s National Conference, where I elected the next NUS officer team and chose to represent my college on a national scale.

By the end of the year the students were asked to fill out a survey about their time at college. Student union approval ratings were previously laying around 30%, with about 5 questions about the student’s union. By the time I finished, it laid around 90% with comments from students saying about how amazing it was for their problems to be fixed so easily.

On top of this, I received a letter from the Chief Executive President of Student Welfare saying that I was the best Student Union’s Officer ever and rewarding me with a £50 Amazon voucher.

Notice how I’m tooting my own horn here, this question allows you to do that.

  1. What did you like and dislike about your last job?

On one hand, you don’t want to sound like a moaner who hated your last job but you also want to appear authentic.

The interviewer is inviting you to say something negative about your last job, because everyone doesn’t like something about their job.

Since it’s easy to talk about what you like most of your last job, this part will focus on mainly how to talk about the negatives.

Don’t discuss people, discuss circumstances or tasks.

Here’s a good answer from here

I must say that I loved many things about my previous job: amazing people and an environment where I was challenged at every turn. However- there was one thing I didn’t like: expectations sometimes were unclear. I would be assigned a project with loose guidelines and turn it in on time to specifications. I’d then be told I did the project wrong. I’ve since learned to communicate better- to ask my supervisor if I have questions- and I’ve learned to never assume. Two people can look at project guidelines and draw vastly different interpretations of what is to be done. I’ll always be thankful for that learning experience and for the great folks at the company.

  1. Tell me about a time you worked in a team

You’re very likely going to work in a team, so the interviewer wants to know how good you are at team work.

Talk about an experience you’ve had within a team, what you did, how well your team did. Use the STAR method here.

This is really personal and customised to you, so no examples from me here. You should really form your own answers.

This is a really good video on this question:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xk9zZwP-XLY

  1. What do your coworkers say about you?

Bring along testimonials. Reference letters. Show them when this question is asked. Show LinkedIn testimonials, on your personal website, testimonials on paper. Never just pull out your phone or any items without asking if it’s okay by them to take out your testimonials.

Here’s a good answer that doesn’t refer to a testimonial from The Balence

My colleagues have told me that I am extremely organized and excellent at time management. During one project, my team members praised me for developing and sticking to a timeline for all the phases of the project. (Give a brief summary of what the project was.) We ended up successfully completing it ahead of time, and it was a hit!

  1. How do you deal with stress and failure?

Don’t pretend like you’ve never experienced stress. Talk about how you deal with stress and failure. This is highly personal so again customise this to you. My answer would be:

I once was rejected by 5 universties. I had no idea what I would be doing come September. This was a highly stressful time for me because I expected to get into at least one university. I went running, I took a few days off work and I decided on my options. I could either of been sad, moany and upset for the rest of that month or I could of manned up, accecpted what had happened and decided on my next step. I chose the latter.

  1. How much money do you want?

Quincy Larson has a good article on this here:

https://medium.freecodecamp.org/salary-negotiation-how-not-to-set-a-bunch-of-money-on-fire-605aabbaf84b

If the salary is given in the job description, don’t try to negoiate it.

Questions on salary are difficult. Once you give a number, you lose. They know that’s your maximum, so don’t try and be the first one to give a number. The interviewer might ask:

“What’s your current salary?”

Which is just a trick to find out how much money you’re okay with.

You should avoid these questions, don’t give them any numbers. If they ask one of these simply say:

I’m not comfortable sharing that information at this point

Here’s a good quote relating to this subject:

At some point in the process you achieve something which I describe as “Yes, if…” rather than “No, but…”. “Yes, we want to work with you, if we can come to a mutually satisfactory offer,” which is distinguished from, “No, we don’t want to work with you, but we might work with you if it turns out that you’re disgustingly cheap.” After you have agreement in principle that, “We want you to work here. What’ll it take to make that happen?” — then and only then do you start talking about money. — Patrick McKenzie

Quincy suggests that switching this salary neogiation over to email is good. You have time to think about what’s being said and time to reply. You also have concrete proof of a salary in the emails.

Once the employer asks something like “but we have to negoiate salary at some point” just say “can you email me at all?”.

It never hurts to negoiate, statistics show that 87% of companies won’t pull a job offer if a candiate neogiates their salary (Why You? - James Reed).

You need to prepare for this question. You need to research what other employees are earning at this company, what people with the same job title but at different companies are earning. You can use Google, Glassdoor, Payscale to find this information. The location of the job matters too and will effect salary.

Have 3 numbers in your head. The perfect amount which is the highest amount possible for this job. The lowest amount, at which point you may as well walk away from the job offer and the medium amount, which is the middle of the 2.

If the company offers you stock options, don’t play around with that. Nothing beats cold hard salary. It’s very unlikely the company you work at is going to be the next Facebook. In some cases stock options are worth more than cash but normally this is not true.

When you get to the point of emailing the employer, ask “what do you think I’m wroth?” or “How much were you thinking?”. The first person to give a solid number loses. You know how in Pawn Stars they always haggle down? That’s because the seller always gives the price first. They know that’s their maximum, so they try to save themselves money.

Once you give a number the employer will do exactly the same. They’ll haggle down.

If your maximum salary number is £100k, and they offer you £100k I wouldn’t try to bargain. Unless you’re absolutely amazing, some kind of super human who’s absolutely worth more than the maximum salary in the industry I wouldn’t do it. But then again, 87% of companies won’t pull a job offer because of negoiation so you can try anyway.

However in the real world this probably isn’t going to happen. They’ll likely offer you £50k or half of your highest maximum salary number. This is where you can haggle up. They’re allowed to haggle you down, so why don’t you haggle up?

Here’s a story of a guy who negoiated and got a compenstation package worth £250k.

https://haseebq.com/farewell-app-academy-hello-airbnb-part-i/

In busines school you learn to pit sellers against each other.

“Yes, I really love this car but this store down the road is offering it to me 10% cheaper. I really like this store, is there anyway you can offer it to me cheaper?”

Here’s a good discussion on Hacker News about salary negoiation

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11314803

And here’s a very good video from Ramit Sethi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twJbXSpTVFA

  1. Show me your creativity

This question can come out in many forms, but they all reference creativity.

Almost all employers look for creativity.

Creativity does not have to be you painting a picture or creating a sculpture.

You might decide to create a Google Sheets document so everyone on your course knows all the deadline dates for course work.

As with all interview questions it’s important to provide examples here and I can’t tell you what examples to include as I don’t know you.

Here’s a good answer from here:

While working at SalesCompany, I developed a lead generalization email that generated an unheard of 37% response rate – well above the previous record of 12%, using a friendly tone that made the email prepare casual and personally written, despite being a template.

Change “uhhhh” to “ “

Instead of saying “uhhhh” and “ehhhhhh” just pause. Smile.

Ask for a pause

In Karate we have something called a Kata, which is like a dance of all the moves you’re supposed to know at your level. It’s perfectly okay that between moves you take a short pause, a little break to think about what your next move is but when you perform the next move you do it strongly and fast.

The same can be said for interviews. It’s perfectly okay to say

Sorry, I’m feeling a little nervous. Do you mind if I have a few seconds to myself so I can calm down?

The interviewer knows your nervous. The difference here is that you’ve recognised this and you’ve done something to try to mitigate it. Most people who are interviewed are nervous and they never stop being nervous. They just talk and talk and talk and rush through everything.

In Karate if you rushed through your Kata it would be extremely ugly and convoluted. The same holds for interviews. Do not rush through questions. Don’t even worry about a time limit. If you’re calm and careful the interviewer will keep track of time.

Interview Formats

These interview formats can be mix and matched or may just be on their own. It depends entirely on how the employer wants to do things.

Face to Face

The normal interview format. You’ll be interviewed by 1 or 2 people at most. They’ll ask you questions relating to the job.

Online Video Interview

You will be given a set of questions and you will have to record yourself for 15 - 30 minutes answering the questions. The interviewer loves this format because if you bore them after the first 15 seconds they can just stop watching. They can’t just walk out in a face to face interview.

Some companies (such as Barclays) use Artifical Inatelligence to read your face and use that to determine whether or not you go onto the next stage. If you know an AI is going to face read you please have a good interview connection and camera quality.

Skype Interview

The employer will skype you and will ask you questions as if it is face to face. Whatever you do, make sure you’re in a quiet environment with good internet.

This is probably the easiest interview type to ask for help from friends with. All your friends need to do is read out a list of questions, they could be in bed whilest doing this. You, on the other hand, have to look and act professional though. If you want to get better at something, practice being better.

Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes permanent perfection.

Some tips for Skype and Online Video interviews:

  • Make sure to look the part
  • Prepare the environment. Look behhind you, that’s what they’ll see. Make sure it’s nice a mess. Try to interview with a white background behind you.
  • Practice it, skype a friend and ask them to help out.
  • Smile, a lot.
  • Stay present. Don’t go googling stuff mid interview.
  • You can have notes in front of you. Take this to your advantage. Place your CV, company info, quesitons you want to ask infront of you so but make it so your interviewer can’t see them.
  • DO NOT wear a headset or headphones. It looks unprofessional.

Here’s an example of a Skype interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1CT5wr0I1c

Here’s a very famous example of a bad Skype interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuZV9kkzscg

Phone Interview

Normally used to determine if you’re worth coming into the company for an interview. Almost always one employer interviewing you.

Some tips for phone interviews:

  • You can have your stuff in front of you. Have your CV, questions for the company, whatever you want. Just don’t play around with paper too loudly.
  • Make sure it’s a high quality phone call
  • You can Google things (quietly). But never google the answer to a question.
  • Disable phone notifcations when on the phone
  • Do not have your pets / children / family disrupt you.
  • Answer your phone with “Hello, YOUR NAME here.”
  • Smile, even if they can’t see you. It’ll come through on the phone.
  • Watch your body language. Don’t fidget too much.

Online Tests

Quite often an employer will require you to take an online test to pass onto the real interview. These can include numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, and problem solving. These will all be talked about shortly.

Assessment Centres

You will go to an assessment centre where you will be interviewed and tested, usually on your problem solving skills and your abillity to work in a team. Here are some typical assessment centre activities, taken from here.

Assessment What’s Involved What they’re looking for
Social Events Meeting other candiates Interpersonal skills
Group activities like discussing a topic, or making an object Team work, time management, creativity, problem solving Teamwork, patience, time managment
Presentations Giving an oral presentation to an individual or group which you may or may not have prepared Candiates who can organise their matieral and speak fluently
Interviews In depth discussions Competence to do job, enthusiasm, interpersonal skills
Personality questionaires Asess what you are like as a person and how you might react in different situations Candiates who fit their company culture
Psychometric tests Timed tests, verbal tests, numeric tests Ability / apitude for the job
Information sessions Presentation on opportunties available Active listening - cues you are paying attention.

In group exercises you have to be inclusive, you have to include everyone in solving a problem.

Most of the time you will be asked to give a presentation, practice this a lot. Do as many presentations as you can before the assessment.

Very commonly you’ll be asked to retake the tests you’ve done online such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning. Sometimes people get their friends to do these online, so this is a test to make sure you know what you’re doing.

Social events

Any part of the assessment centre that is said to be “informal”. This can and will still effect your outcome. Use the time to ask lots of questions, make notes that may be useful in any future interviews with the company. This can either be a small networking event, having lunch or having dinner.

Group Activities

So this is probably some problem solving topic that you have to solve in a group.

Normally you’ll encounter one of these problems:

Business scenarios - Often linked to the business. This can include coming up with new ideas for the company, setting a budget, planning a holiday, how to make a new product, case studies of charities.

Ranking exercises - This can be anything from your top 10 favourite songs to being given a 4 page list of 40 different people and being told that only 10 of them can survive on an island, the rest will have to die.

Physical tasks - Building things etc.

Role plays - Customers facing problems, sales positions (having to sell an item to someone), management roles.

Normally one or two instructors will watch you.

Don’t dominate the discussion, let everyone speak and if someones quiet ask them for their input. Try to present your idea as it’ll make you stand out from the group. Don’t worry if one person is being seen as too dominating as it likely won’t impress the recruiter.

Presentations

You will likely be asked to give a presentation about something, often you will not know the topic and will be given 20 - 30 minutes to present. See the Presentations section for more information on this.

Tests

See the tests section for more information on this. These can come up at assessment centres.

Panel Interview

You will be interviewed by a panel of people, as oppose to just 1 or 2 people.

Group Interview

You will be interviewed as a group. As in multiple candiates will be interviewed by one interviewer (or panel).

Employers do this type of interview becaues it is extremely efficient.

In this style you want to stand out. You can do this by:

  • Being confident and respectful. Understand that group interviews are efficient and no, the employers do not hate you for doing it.
  • Be a leader. If you are working on a team project, find an opportunity to lead.
  • Be yourself and be authentic.
  • Follow up - Send a thank you email after the interview.

Following up after an interview

After the interview, email the interviewer to say thank you. Try to mention something specific so the interview will remember you.

It doesn’t even have to be an email. It can even be on a social network as long as it’s professional.

Here’s a direct message I sent to someone after going to one of their talks:

Dear Cain, I was at your Natwest talk at the University of Liverpool. I really enjoyed it and I noticed you talked about API’s and Cryptocurrencies. Being a computer scientist this really intrigued me! Do you happen to have any upcoming talks about fintech, cryptocurrencies, apps or maybe even personal brand development at Natwest?

Here’s a message my friend Kunal sent to someone as a follow up:

Hello, I was at the technology showcase event in Manchester today and found your input in the panel very intereting. I have already secured a place on the spring week in Radbroke and look forward to potentially working with you.

Many thanks, Kunal Agarwala

Styles of Interview

There can be many different styles of interviews that match the formats of interviews.

Competency Interview

These types of interviews require applicants to give specific encounters of times they have solved problems. They want to see you are compotent. This is where the pre-project comes into play as well. What better way to prove you’re good at something if you’ve actually done it?

Competency based interviews will usually have the interviewer read questions off of a bit of paper or their laptop, and they will probably take notes.

The type of questions that come up here will be very strictly formatted. The questions proposed above are mainly compotency based interview questions.

Strength Based Interviews

A strength based interview focuses on what you enjoy doing, rather than what you can do like in a competency based interview. Strength based interviews come from “positive” psychology. The theory states that by matching you with what you enjoy doing you’ll be happier in your role, will perform better and stay with the company for longer.

The interviewer will likely not have any questions written done for this, or not many. They may ask something like “tell me about your favourite day out” and they will ask questions based on your answers, to really gage you as a person. These types of interviews will normally feel like a formal chat with a friend rather than a one on one interview.

More and more companies are switching to strength based interviews, with these companies publicly saying they use them:

  • Aviva
  • BAE Systems
  • Barclays
  • Cisco
  • EY
  • Nestle
  • Royal Mail

Strength based questions don’t have a binary “right or wrong” answer. However, do be a decent human being. Don’t talk badly about other people, don’t lie, just be nice.

Just like every other type of interview you’ll need to incldude examples to back up your responses.#

Here are some examples of strength based interview quesitons, taken from here.

  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What energises you?
  • How would your close friends describe you?
  • Do you most like starting tasks or finishing them?
  • Do you prefer the big picture or the small details?
  • Describe a successful day. What made it successful?
  • What are you good at?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What did you enjoy studying at school or university?
  • When did you achieve something you’re really proud of?
  • What do you enjoy doing the least?
  • Do you find there are enough hours in the day to complete your to-do list?
  • What tasks are always left on your to-do list?
  • How do you stay motivated?
  • How do you feel about deadlines?
  • Have you ever done something differently the second time around?
  • Do you think this role will play to your strengths?

Stress Based Interviews

A stress based interview is designed to make you stressed, to put you under pressure to see how well you do.

The logic is that the way you respond under stress during the interview is indicative of the way you’ll handle similar situations on the job.

Creating an emotionally chaotic setting puts candidates under psychological stress to see if they will crack, remain calm, or even thrive under pressure.

Stress interviews can be controversial because they create a sensitive and emotionally charged relationship between the applicant and the hiring manager, and thereby the company. Sometimes, even the most successful applicants will turn down an offer on account of the nature of the interview alone.

Here’s some stress based interview questions, taken from here.

  • How do you feel this interview is going?
  • How would you handle undeserved criticism from a superior?
  • How many other jobs are you applying for?
  • What would you do if you saw a colleague stealing supplies or equipment?
  • What did you do when you had a boss you didn’t get along with?
  • What would you do if a colleague took credit for your idea, and got a promotion?
  • Was the stress of your previous job too much for you?
  • What would you do if a colleague admitted to lying on their resume to get the job?
  • What would you do if a customer verbally insulted you in front of co-workers?
  • What would you change about the design of a baseball hat?
  • Why were you fired from your previous job?
  • How successful do you think you’ve been so far?

Technical Interviews

A technical interview is used heavily in the computer science industry. It usually involves coding.

Honestly there is so much out there about technical interviews ranging from 800 page books to entire video guides on how to pass technical interviews. If you’re offered a technical interview I’m going to guess you’re technical enough to google this. I highly reccomend Cracking the Coding Interview.

https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-ace-your-technical-interview

Something that’ll probably come up in a programming interview is FizzBuzz. Here’s the problem:

Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print “FizzBuzz”.

Aparrently not many people can actually code this, despite it sounding easy. This article is a nice read on this problem:

https://blog.codinghorror.com/why-cant-programmers-program/

Here’s a good example of how to solve Fizz Buzz in Python.

for num in xrange(1,101):
    msg = ''
    if num % 3 == 0:
        msg += 'Fizz'
    if num % 5 == 0:       # no more elif
        msg += 'Buzz'
    if not msg:      # check if msg is an empty string
        msg += str(num)
    print msg

Structured Interview

A structured interview is just another describing word for an interview. A structured interview will usually follow a structure, where the questions are asked in a standard pace and are normally read off of a sheet of paper.

Unstructured Interview

Like above, an unstructured interview is just another describing word. These usually have perhaps 1 or 2 questions to start you off but all questions will mainly come from the interviewer curious as to your life.

The Lunch interview

One of the more informal types of interviews. The interviewer will buy you lunch and will interview you over lunch.

Do some research on the restaurent you are going to. Try to decide what you will order in advance, before reaching the restaurent. Although a restaurent might feel more informal than an interview, make sure to dress the part.

If you’re applying for a company like Google, where everyone wears jeans and hoodies then wear jeans and a hoodie. Make sure you know what the company expects. Most businesses will require suits.

Try to arrive 15 minutes before the time of the reservation and meet the employer outside the restaurent.

best thing you can do is take the lead from your interviewers. When you sit down, casually ask if they’ve been to the restaurant before and what they think are good options—hopefully their recommendations will give you a sense of an appropriate price range. If not, when the wait staff arrives, try to have your interviewer order first and choose something at that price point (or less).

Also, be sure to pick an option that will be easy to eat while you’re talking. (Hint: Forkfuls of Caesar salad are easier to maneuver than a massive, messy sandwich.)

Finally, no matter how casual your employer may be, you want to put forward your very, very best self. This means: Stay away from ordering alcohol, even if the interviewers do. If you get the job, you will have plenty of opportunities to share a drink with them—the interview is not the time or place to start.

Interview Red Flags

Here are some red flags of interviews:

  • Your interviewer is very late A little late is okay, but very late? They obviously do not care about you.

  • Your interviwer disrespects members of staff in front of you If they disrespect other members of staff, they are likely going to disrespect you.

  • They haven’t read your CV

  • They speak negatively about past employees Again, if they disrespect past employees they’ll likely disrespect you.

  • They swear and cuss Not professional. At all.

  • The company has high turnover, they repeatedly lose employees There’s a reason they lose a lot of emplyoees.

  • The companies online reviews are bad

If any of these appear in the interivew, you should think twice about working there.

Psychometric Tests

All of these tests are strictly timed, usually giving you 30 minutes for 30 questions. Some companies do not care if you don’t complete the entire test in time. One recruiter even told me that they make them harder to put people under stress.

If you’re currently a university student your employabillity team may have access to online psychometric tests for you to take.

Otherwise the below website has some good free tests you can take:

https://www.practiceaptitudetests.com

Numeracy tests

A numeracy test is a test designed to gauge how well your daily maths skills are and how well they can be applied to a companies situation.

There isn’t really any tricks to this other than to practice.

You should take your own calculator (or have your own).

You should know your calculator. Watch some Youtube videos on it to learn all the cool tricks.

Use any rough paper for calculations.

The more you practice the better you can do these tests.

Check units, don’t mix different units unless you know how to convert.

This is a good resource for free numeracy tests:

https://www.practiceaptitudetests.com/numerical-reasoning-tests/

And here’s a good video on someone solving numerical tests:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM6zkJ-_RRU

Verbal Reasoning

Normally involves reading a bit of paper and answering questions about it.

Take every word literally. You are being asked a question and the answer is in some text they gave you. Practice, practice, practice. Read questions carefully. Don’t use general knowledge, everything you need to know is in the passage of the text.

Here’s a very good video on verbal reasoning tests:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4z0FGt0Nss

And here’s some practice tests:

https://www.practiceaptitudetests.com/verbal-reasoning-tests/

Personality Test

A test to find out your personallity.

Usually indicates:

  • How you relate to other people
  • How you work with other people
  • How you work
  • Your motivation
  • Your preferences and attitudes

There is no right or wrong answer here, although some tips can be provided:

Find out what your employer wants and answer accordingly. Get to know some of the questions they might ask. Practice!

And here’s some free personallity tests:

https://www.psychometricinstitute.com.au/Free-Personality-Test.asp

Presentations

Have lots of pictures on your presentation. Steve Jobs didn’t have much writing on his presentations and he’s really good, so follow that. But do try to write a little bit if it helps. Don’t read off the script or the slides. Make sure they engage with you. Don’t speak monotone. Act excited.

Make sure your presentation follows a linear story, human beings are more prone to paying attention to stories.

When presenting, don’t stand in front of the screen.

Try to talk a lot, use a lot of body motion to convey messages.

Use the rule of 3. A list of 3 things is more interesting than a list of 2 things.

Make sure to use high quality images and graphics. If the presentation is scaled up to a large resolution the images may become distorted.

Use templates to build a powerful and beautful presentation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwpi1Lm6dFo

Honestly presentations are just practice and practice. No one likes public speaking but we all have to do it at one point or another. In my city, Liverpool, there’s a presentation practice group that let’s people practice presentations on other people who are practicing presentations. You can find these groups through Meetup.com or the likes.

You can alternatively ask friends or your family to help you practice your presentation skills.

The more you publicly speak, the better at it you’ll become.

Use images to convey messages. An image is worth a thousand words. Use graphs or charts to convey information.

Following a linear story is really important. The way the story normally goes is:

Introduction > Problem happens > Things get really bad > problem is neutralised > everyone is happy.

Try to make every slide follow through from the slide before it.

Know your audience. Don’t create a very technical in-depth presentation for people who don’t know anything about technology. The same presentation likely won’t work on multiple audiences.

If information is important, repeat it. Repition repitiion repition. I’ve repeated some parts of this article just to get into your head how important it is.

Your number one goal as a speaker is to take an idea that means a lot to you and convey this idea to people listening.

Make it a story (seriously). Stories make people emotional. Emotion makes your listeners interested in you.

Any good story needs a character the audience can sympathise with.

Use humour in your presentation. Make the audience laugh, it’ll make them more interested in your presentation.

Preprojects

This is a project you take prior to working at the company. It’s something that benefits them before you work for them.

Take for example this website: Nina4AirBnB.

This website lists all the things AirBnB are doing badly and talks about how they can improve. This even made it into National Newspapers:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/airbnb-ceo-san-francisco-middle-east-travel-and-tourism-cv-linkedin-employment-a8158311.html

Because of this pre-project, she got an interview straight away:

img

I know it takes time, research and dedication to do this but once you’ve done it you’re almost guranteed an interview. What better way to show a company that you’re hard working, dedicated to their cause and the company, and are a good researcher than to actually do a project like this?

Sure, you could say you are these things. But to go out of your way to do something for a company way before you even have an interview? That’s something they’ll love.

At YCombinator’s Startup school they talk about how all employees must be passionate and dedicated to the business. It is rumoured that at Airbnb they ask the question “If you only have 1 year to live, would you still work here?” to see how passionate someone is about their cause.

Preprojects don’t just work for tech, they can work for basically any business that has projects and all businesses have projects.

Let’s say you want to work at an amusement park, like Dreamland or Thorpe Park. You can research and perhaps suggest an event for them or something along those lines. Like, hey, there’s alot of this population in Margate (where Dreamland is) that don’t fall into the demographic “White - British”. These people also celebrate this holiday on this day, maybe you should make an event out of it at Dreamland?

If you really want a job at a company you can use this to get your foot in the door.

Something important to note here is that someone has to see your project for it to matter. This is where your amazing LinkedIn skills come into play.

Do a LinkedIn search for the company you want to work for. Click on “connections” in the tab and select “first and second connections”. Find friends that work at the company or find friends who know someone that works at the company. Then go through peoples job titles and look for “recruiter”. If you can’t find a recruiter look for someone that may be in the same department you are applying to.

Message that person with LinkedIn or their email (if they have it on their profile). Explain who you are, what you’ve done and tell them to pass it on to the right person if needed.

Something like this:

Dear Chris, I’ve seen that Bank of America’s website isn’t accessible by everyone.. I’ve redesigned it and written about it here [link here]. I would be grateful if you or someone you know could have a read and improve Bank of America’s website. Kind regards, Brandon

Don’t ask for a job position. In How to Win Friends and Influence People Carniege talks about never directly asking someone for something but making them think about it first. The idea here is to get them to talk to you, to make friends with them.

Then you start to work with them, help them do whatever. In this case, help them make the website accessible. Eventually you can just slip in “Oh, I applied for a job here too. I hope I can work with you” and if they like you they’ll see to it that you get the job.

Questions to ask your interviewer

After an interview you want to make sure to ask questions to seem intrigued. Normally you’ll generate questions when talking to the interviewer but if you can’t think of any here are some useful questions to ask:

  1. What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate?

This question makes the interviewer say out loud what they are looking for.

  1. How would you describe a typical day and week in this position?

This question is just making sure that you are a good match for the position.

  1. When can I expect to hear from you?

This question is handy to prevent your nerves from getting the better of you.

  1. Describe the culture of the company.

This makes sure you are comfortable with the culture of the company.

  1. What do you like most about working for this company?

This let’s you connect with the interviewer on a personal level.

  1. Do you have an email address so If I have any questions I can follow up with you?

This question lets you send a thank you email after every interview.

Some small hints

Avoid questions that are about you like the salary, vacation time, work hours etc.

Avoid questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”.

Like most things in job hunting you’ll want to customise these questions per company. The ones above are general but a good specific question about something the interviewer said will show you are listening.

Career Fairs

Career Fairs are really popular in universities, sixth forms, and colleges so this section will all be about career fairs.

Preperation

Some people have business cards, but outside of Asia they’re not really much of a thing. They still exist, and you can have them, but they’re not used so much.

Research the companies that will be attending. Make a priority list of all the companies that you want to see.

Make sure your CV is up to scratch and good looking, as you’ll be handing this out a lot. Also make sure you print lots of copies of it.

Have an elevator pitch ready for yourself. An elevator pitch is a 30 second pitch designed to let someone roughly know what you’re about. It should feature your current positions, any important past positions and your general goals and life motto. Mine is:

Hi, I’m Brandon. Obsessive Learner and Problem Solver. Future world changer. Currently a computer science student at the University of Liverpool and a journalist for Hacker Noon. Previously Higher Education Vice President of the East Kent Group.

Your elevator pitch needs to be persusive, it should make the listener interested in you. It should detail some skills you know and what your future goals are.

Avoid rambling when giving an elevator pitch, don’t frown or speak monotonely and don’t restrict yourself to just one elevator pitch. You can haved more than 1 depending on who you talk to.

What to wear

Dress smart. Imagine it’s like a job interview.

Best Questions to Ask at a Careers Fair

The questions to ask can either be generic or tailored to the industry (which usually impresses recruiters but requires prior commercial awareness).

Some common generic questions to ask are:

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? This forces the recruiter to talk about themselves and people love talking about themselves.

  • What are some of the interesting projectrs you are working on right now?

  • What are the challenges facing the company?

General Tips

At the very end of every converstation always ask “can I contact you with further questions, do you have a business card?” and if they don’t write down their name, add their LinkedIn and add a customised message to the add so they know who you are.

Make sure to have lots of copies of your CV!

Turning Internships into Jobs

This advice comes from Andrew Osayemi.

“So, you are fortunate to have a spring or summer internship & are looking for 1 piece of unconventional advice, to help increase your chances of being offered a full-time graduate job?

Well the advice is very simple – Ask everyone on your team if they would like a tea or coffee every 2-3 hours each day”

Do it with a warm smile.

If they say no – still smile & politely say “no problem, please let me know if you need anything!”

And if they say yes, write down their order carefully so you don’t mess it up including any special requests (soya milk, 10 sugars etcs)

When you return with their beverage of choice, again make sure you give it to them with a warm smile!

Now the next 10 seconds is crucial

You have an opening to ask how their day is going, if they have any work for you to do, if you can book a convenient time to work shadow them, did they watch the latest reality show etc.

Very soon your likeability factor will be increased which greatly impacts your chances of being offered a full-time graduate offer!

I’ve given this advice to countless students whom I have coached via Rare Recruitment & the feedback is “ It works”!

Please share it with anyone who is doing a spring or summer internship”

Networking

Networking is the art of meeting like minded people and befriending them in order to advance yourself in your career or make new friends. Networking can happen anywhere, anytime - but it is normally undertaken at a networking event. You can find networking events by using Meetup or using LinkedIn.

When at a networking event do try to look and act professional. Depending on the event you may not need to wear attire suitable for an interview. If it’s a casual breakfast / lunch event normal work clothes will be fine.

Everyone is nervous at a networking event. Go up to random people and say “Hi I’m [your name here]”.

Do you remember that feeling when that one person talked to you once in a coffee shop or at a party? How that one person picked you out of everyone else to talk to? This is what you’re doing to other people when you approach them first and talk to them.

Try to make friends instead of people who can elevate your status in life.

Always be nice to everyone you meet. Whether this is in a job interview or whether you’re at a networking event. Here’s a nice reddit post:

https://www.reddit.com/r/jobs/comments/5nhmp3/finally_have_a_new_job_and_its_all_because_i_was/

Always make sure to ask the other person if they have a LinkedIn / business card so you can follow up afterwards. And do follow up!

Follow up messages can be simple. Here’s a nice example of a follow up template you can use for free:

Hello [Their name here]. I met you at [place here / networking event name here]. I really liked your [thing you really liked]. Mind if we connect on LinkedIn?

Make sure you tell them something you liked. Like if they told you a story about something, mention that story. It’s really important to try and connect with them on a personal level. If you just said:

Hello Brandon, I met you at TechCrunch Disrupt. Mind if we connect?

That doesn’t really have much of an effect. If I received that, I would accecpt it and not think twice about the person I’m connecting with. But if they said:

Hello Brandon. I met you at TechCrunch Disrupt. I really liked your story of turning your life around. I did something similar not too long ago. Mind if we connect?

I would actually think about that message, process it, check them out. This person will stay in my mind longer than the first person.

Keep an open posture. Don’t cross your arms.

Make a list of any important people going that you may want to connect with.

Never ever ditch a converstation partner for someone more “important”.

Always listen to the other person. Try not to talk too much.

Make sure to take notes at the event.

Always shake peoples hands.

Smile.

Use your elevator pitch.

Reccomended reading

This video by Ramit Sethi is amazing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eOKwU0LLTE

My favourite book of all time is How to Win Friends and Influence People, I highly reccomend it!

This is a good read on Reddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/jobs/comments/7y8k6p/im_an_exrecruiter_for_some_of_the_top_companies/

Sources: https://medium.com/personal-growth/7-best-pieces-of-career-advice-for-people-in-their-20s-23e7b130957 Cracking the coding interview

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