This guest post was written by NU high tech MBA alumna, Charis Loveland.
Growing my career in the male-dominated high tech industry has prepared me for one of the more stressful aspects of the job lifecycle: interviewing. Although I’ve certainly suffered from my own bouts of impostor syndrome, especially since I entered the technical field from a non-traditional background of English and publishing, I have been able to overcome this and hone my interviewing persona thanks to a lot of helpful advice. I’ve also gleaned tips about confidence, posture, and presentation from role models like Sheryl Sandberg, Grace Hopper, and Duy-Loan Le (who delivered the best keynote I’ve ever seen at the Grace Hopper 2010 conference). I enjoy sharing what works for me by coaching my friends and colleagues in the hopes that it can help them in their next interview or stressful job situation. Anecdotally, these tips seem to work well for all industries, not just technology. I hope that you will find them useful, too!
- Be engaged. Let your personality and enthusiasm for the job shine through. Make sure that you take a couple of notes so that you can put an impressive detail or two in your thank you note, but don’t take so many that you are not making as much eye contact as you need.
- Prepare. To borrow a phrase from the 90s, “duh,” but hear me out. If a recruiter or potential manager calls to discuss business, and you’re in the car or otherwise engaged, ask to call back at a more convenient time. You don’t want to be responding to detailed salary or other questions without your head completely in the game, or you run the risk of making a costly mistake. Being prepared also means that you know to ask if the job title is negotiable, and that you fully understand the level at which you are entering the organization. Confusing and varying titles mean different things at different companies. If you don’t have this discussion, then you run the risk of entering an organization at a lower title and pay scale than you realize.
- Be ready to formulate articulate answers. I value the advice I received from my online moms’ forum about the right way to answer a question: Stop, listen, breathe, then speak. This has the two-fold benefit of giving yourself a chance to collect your thoughts and prepare a reply while minimizing the number of times you use “like” or “um.” This allows you to present the best, most polished version of yourself.
- Ask intelligent, relevant questions. A job interview is a two-way street, and you need to ensure that the company and role are as good a fit for you as you are for them. Transcend the hackneyed “what’s a typical day like?” and really dig deep for questions that will help you better understand the role and company culture. Feel free to ask what the interviewer likes and dislikes about the group, or what advice an outside consultant might give the company.
- Be aware of your body language. If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s touching TED Talk, do it now. Confident body posture is an outstanding way to show your potential employers that you are professional and prepared. Before an interview, I practice a power pose for about 2 minutes by raising my arms overhead, and breathing deeply. This is best done in a bathroom stall for privacy’s sake.
- Take time to visualize. My friend, who just used this tip to get her new job as a professor, calls this my Jedi mind trick. I got this tip from a couple of guys on the sales team at my publishing company. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Just before your interview, make eye contact with yourself in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk. Mine goes something like: “You deserve to be here. You are articulate, intelligent, and confident. You are going to [fill in the blank with desired outcome: get a second interview, run a successful meeting, get offered the job].” To accomplish this, I arrive at an interview at least 15 minutes early and wait for the bathroom to clear out, or do the technique in my car’s sunshade mirror. I combine this with tip #5 for maximum impact. I realize that this idea sounds so corny, but just try it. Everything in me changes after I give this little talk. I stand up straighter, act with more conviction, and feel professional and together. You can put on this “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude in almost any situation: a big meeting, a first date, or any other potentially stressful encounter.
- Close the deal. I always end my interview with this question or a variation on it. “I really want this job. If you have any concerns or questions about my candidacy, I would very much appreciate an opportunity to address them with you before you make your final decision.” This is effective in two ways: you express your willingness to accept the role given the right offer, plus you have a chance to counter any potential roadblocks to getting that offer.
- Negotiate. Once you have an offer for a job, be sure not to neglect the last, critical step. Think creatively about what is important to you: salary, benefits, vacation time, flexibility, stock options, travel and training opportunities, tuition reimbursement, anything else that has value for you. Realize that the way you prioritize these criteria in your 20s may be very different from the items that you value in your 40s. It’s normal that you would seek out travel opportunities in your 20s, for example, but might not welcome frequent travel later in your career.
Getting to Yes and Difficult Conversations are two excellent books that can help you to maximize your next job offer. For a bulletproof way to approach your next salary negotiation, check out the Get a Raise Prep School program and its sister site Work Options, which offers several templates for negotiating telecommuting, a higher salary, and other flexible options. Founder Pat Katepoo’s professional writing and solid research will enable you to effectively prepare and confidently negotiate the aspects of your job that you value the most.
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As a magna cum laude English major at Bates College, Charis Loveland never expected to find herself managing global projects at EMC. But she developed a passion for technology and its ability to transform the world while editing articles teaching SAP software. After leaving the publishing industry to work for SAP for 5 years, Charis joined EMC in 2012. She graduated with honors from Northeastern University’s high tech MBA program in 2013. Follow her blog and find Charis online at http://about.me/charisloveland, @charislove, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/charisloveland.