This article is a follow up to: What skills make you the most employable? Coding isn’t one of them.
You’re looking for a new job. You’re about to interviews in many places. What do you think are the most important skills that will get you hired?
How do you think candidates will be selected when there are multiple competitors doing well enough?
1) Be Cheap
Did you know that 100% of companies only hire the employees that they can afford, as limited by their budget and cash constraints. Also, 100% of companies only hired the employees that they decided to spend money on, as decided by their culture and HR department.
Employees are insanely expensive, but companies have limited cash and budgets. It is particularly challenging to small and medium companies.
What happens when you do well at the interview but you request more than the company can OR want to pay? You don’t get the job.
What happens when there are multiple people doing well? The ones who requested a higher salary are rejected first.
Being cheap is a strength. In fact, that’s usually the only quality you have for yourself when you are young and you first start out.
As you grow up, you will become more expensive and despise cheapness. Your rent and food ain’t going to pay themselves. Your cost will be the single biggest obstacle to your employability, for your entire life.
One can ALWAYS get another job for 10% less money and 10% worse conditions (and if it’s not enough, lower it again until you get the job!). Eventually, the cycle ends when the minimum legal wage is reached, there are entire industries that exclusively hire for minimum wage.
The world is driven by costs. Everyone is looking for the unicorn employee that will do the same work for half the price.
2) Have Industry Experience
Relevant Industry experience will get you the job, 90% of the time.
That’s doing the same thing at the same place, for example:
- A CEO at General Electric interviewing to be CEO at Uber.
- A commodity trader at Goldman Sachs interviewing with JP Morgan to be a trader.
- A site reliability engineer at Google interviewing with Facebook.
- A defense contractor interviewing with a government organization for a contract position that cannot be disclosed.
- A waitress at a restaurant interviewing at another restaurant, a few blocks away.
What do all these people have in common? They will jump through the interview pipeline like a piece of cake. It begins with the resume screening phase, when the hiring manager sees they already do the job they are applying to, and he immediately forwards them to the next guy in the hiring pipeline (possibly on top of the pile if they have a good pedigree). It ends with the interview stage, when they talk about their past experience and the interviewers realize that it’s basically the same work and environment as here. Looks like he’s more than ready to start tomorrow.
People move vertically: From a smaller to a bigger company (Startup => Google), and vice versa. Or across companies in the same league (Google/Facebook/Microsoft/Apple), and back.
Samples of vertical markets: web companies, finance companies, defense/government contracting… (Should I write an article about where to work as a developer?)
People move horizontally: Selling a highly specific skillset, broadly. (Quant in Finance => Data Scientist in a web company).
This sort of move is more risky as an employee. The environment and the job expectations may be very different (despite hinting at a common base in heavy math/statistics).
It’s a small world. Employers known each other, they do have a clue on their respective brands and hiring standards (It’s not an accident that Google carries power on your resume and it’s justified). In the extreme cases, it can go as far as knowing exactly what team to hire from -or not hire from- at their respective competitors, plus what’s the equivalent team here.
3) Be Likable and Well Rounded
Work on your presentation and oral skills. You really need to be able to introduce yourself and your work history.
Behave yourself and be helpful. You are both stuck together in the interview for one hour. That’s a preview of you working with your coworkers and clients during the day, EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT YEAR. You are not expected to become best friend or drinking buddy, just to be workable with.
Being nice won’t give you the job, but being not nice will automatically take it away from you!
Work on your presentation and oral skills. You really need to be able to introduce yourself and your work history. Smoothly, no stuttering, no hesitation.
By the way, an interview is not the time to point out that you intend to replace your manager (unless that’s the job), that HR has old fashioned questions (where do you see yourself in 5 years?), or that Google stopped asking puzzle 10 years ago because it’s a useless indicator of job performance (How many ping pong balls can you fit in a plane?  ). Just answer the trivia questions. They are not trick, they are simply conversation starters to learn more about you.
To conclude, what do you think is the greatest fear of a HR person when she interviews a candidate? It’s to be faced with a dud who can’t talk. The massive awkward blanks and the replies never longer than a single word “Yes… No… Yes…”.
 Had jobs in aerospace and ping pong written as a hobby. Can’t tell if the interviewer is being relevant or repeating a dumb script.
Tell me about yourself?
Can you describe your last job?
An adult talks about his work history, shake hands and gets a job. All the points above apply.
A youngster with no work history is mostly judged on his willingness to work. The cheapness compensates for the lack of experience. All the points above apply.
There are a couple of companies that give technical tests. Like Google that gives programmers a programming challenge, or a car garage that gives mechanics a change-a-wheel challenge. For these companies, you have to pass the bar of the technical test on top of all the points mentioned above. They are the exception, not the norm.