Job Search Thoughts and Interview Nightmares Part 1

by Doug 28. August 2011 18:09

 
It's very exciting to say that my job search is over.  I'll be joining the Information Systems team over at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys.  I'm really lucky that I scored a good job on the same day the headlines and stock market proclaim more gloom, doom and unemployment for the economy. Indeed I am lucky, but worked very hard at my job search to land this position.  And the road leading up to this  was not smooth.  There were hurdles, let downs and frustrations along the way.

 
A job search offers an opportunity to get closer to "that perfect job".  I was looking for three aspects: shorter commute time, an industry were my efforts can make a real difference (my preference was Healthcare) and  great chemistry with managers and co-workers. 
 
For a while, I was really uncertain if my strategy was worth sticking to.  Weeks and months rolled by as I dismissed opportunities that were too far from home or where in the wrong line of business.  Many times I was completely discouraged.  Perhaps I needed to loosen my strategy?  Maybe I should have taken a position way across town, put up with a hideous commute like the rest of LA (and millions of others lucky enough to have a job across the country)?  Really. Who am I to demand happiness and niceties in my next gig, when just having any kind of job these days is miraculous..?  Yet I hung on to my search goals.
 
Virginia deserves at least half of the credit in my victory. She encouraged me to hold out for something great as opposed to "just something".   We're a team, and I felt like my job wish list prolonged the search and was perhaps a bit selfish.  Over the dinner table, she was reassuring. We were (financially) ok and happiness in your career is worth searching for. Am I a lucky husband? Yes. Yes I am.
 
I learned a few things about the ebb and flow of opportunities and the magic of persistence.  So for all of you who are still searching or might be in the future, I share these tidbits of wisdom that I experienced. Your mileage may vary.
 

 

dilbert2

 


Job Search:

If approached correctly, a proper job search is a huge undertaking and more than occasionally a whopping pain in the butt. Get used to it and get over it.
 
Job Listings:

Read and re-read job openings very carefully. Technical positions are jam packed with acronyms, jargon and buzzwords.  And some bullshit too. Comb through them to see where your experience or skills  match up. Move on to another job listing if you've got less than 75% overlap.  Otherwise, use the matches you've determined as the theme of your cover letter.
 
Cover Letters:

Some companies simply do not want them. Couldn't care less. Some absolutely find them  crucial.  When they're required keep them compact, to the point and compelling. If done correctly, your letter will make a irrefutable case that you're a viable candidate for the position and you deserve an interview.  I've spent lots of time and toiled over each cover letter.  Some took me all day to compose.  I tried to make them resemble poetry, in that each sentence has a point.  Every paragraph compels.  Three or four paragraphs tops, excluding introduction and closing statement. Don't ramble and get it all on one page.  When concluding the letter,  your examples should make an excellent case that you are a great candidate for the position.   Most cover letters are complete CRAP.  If you do it right, your cover letter allow you to stand out from the masses of other applicants.  
 
Move On:

Once you submit a resume and your cover letter, don't hold your breath. Forget it.  You might get an automated email that confirms that your resume and letter have been received, but don't count that as anything special.  Companies move at their own pace - which is guaranteed to be much slower than your hunger for a job.  Move on to the next opportunity, the next letter.   When Nestle USA called, I had forgotten when I had applied, it had been that long.  When the California State Bar contacted me, I didn't even remember what I had written.  I consider this a testament that my application floated to the top, over (probably) hundreds of others. Don't skimp on the cover letter if it's required.
 
Read the Instructions:

Follow job application instructions carefully.  The process for the California State Bar Web Developer position was an exercise in attention combing through detailed instructions. It took me nearly 3 days to complete, including writing the cover letter, filling out their job application form (several pages), work history form, reference sheet, faxing each item, yadda yadda yadda...  Those who bumble on the process are dismissed instantly.
 
Recruiters:
Good ones are GREAT,  Bad ones are a Waste.


Once you post your resume to one of the major job websites, recruiters will be calling. And calling some more. And filling your in box.  They mean well, but in reality they don't have your best interest in mind as much as you do.  They say they do (which is true to a certain extent) but only you know what combination of job, commute, pay, benefits is right for yourself and your family for your next career move.  They can be very convincing about an opportunity that might not exactly line up with your goals.  Politely and firmly decline the interview (with specific examples of why) if you know that the opportunity isn't right. 
 
Good recruiters will usually have some valuable inside information about the position, company or hiring manager.  For example, a job opening that looked good, but had a few too many mismatches with your skills and their requirements? Many times a recruiter knows much more about where the manager is willing to be flexible. The manager may be willing to train the right person if they get along with the rest of the team. Hmm. Suddenly that position is looking more viable now ;)
 
If you connect with a recruiter that you like (and you have confidence in) stick with them.  There were some very frustrating moments when very young, inexperienced - and new to Los Angeles recruiters would try to pitch a position that was completely wrong. Obviously wrong. Blatantly wrong. My cat knew it was wrong.  This is a sign that they don't know what they're doing and they wont' be much help. Stick with the ones your like and trust.
 
Job Websites:
Monster.com  and Cybercoders.com are OUT.  Dice.com, Indeed.com and CraigsList.org are IN.
Respectable companies have discovered Craigs List, so check it every day, even on the weekends.
 
Getting Good at Interviews:
You'll probably perform only so-so during the first number of interviews until you've been through at least 10.  After that, it really becomes natural and you can pump out your routine and have a great dialog effortlessly and convincingly.  Yeah, it's a numbers game.  You have to plow through a bunch of experiences before you get the hang of it. 
 
OK now for some Humor! Check out part 2 of “Job Search Thoughts and Interview Nightmares”

Job Search Thoughts and Interview Nightmares Part 2

by Doug 28. August 2011 17:28

 

Some of my interviews went great. Some were "less than perfect". Here are some interview nightmares that are fun to share, but also have a lesson learned.

 

 

Nightmare: Sushi Friday!
People get way too excited about free food.  Why is it that the more disgusting it is, the more delighted people become? I'll never know. So when it comes to sushi, - and I'm talking about real sushi  -  can only be had at a sushi restaurant or fish market like Captian Kidd's in Redondo Beach.  Sushi from a supermarket, piled in one of those ultra - cheesy plastic platters with the fake plastic green garnish is definitely not real sushi. So, how can sushi possibly relate  to my interview?
 
I was scheduled to show up at a financial company in the mid - Wilshire area on a Friday afternoon.  I was met outside the office suite by the recruiter who informed me that the office is a bit unorganized at the moment. They were growing and expanding and had just moved into this new space. The managers office wasn't fully set up yet and there were moving boxes everywhere. Oh yes and to ramp up their staffing efforts, they scheduled all the candidates for the one position on the same afternoon. 
 
We entered the office suite. It was a nightmare.  The small lobby was packed with un-assembled furniture, and boxes of printer paper and other supplies just delivered from Office Depot.  A hastily assembled chair was already taken by another person to be interviewed.  All the other candidates were standing around - shoulder to shoulder.  I tried to keep from audibly sighing aloud, and took a 12 inch square area next to the last guy at the end.  Excited personnel scurried about. A few of the girls began clearing out the conference room. I perked up, since I thought they'd be finding us all a place to sit.  I was so wrong.  This company's way of boosting moral was to load up on a dozen of the crap sushi platters mentioned above. They called it "Sushi Friday".  Oh yay!
 
"It's sushi Friday!", I heard more one worker sing out.  The girls were clearing the table of the conference room to find a spot for all the sushi that couldn't fit in some other guys office.  With the conference room shades open, direct sunlight was beaming down on the large spread of uncovered supermarket sushi platters spanning the table. Office personnel filed through heaping little paper plates of sun warmed sushi, smothered in soy sauce from a mini packet. The whole scene was starting to gross me out. I started to get hot and a little claustrophobic.  At some point we were ushered into the conference room take seats - yet no one bothered to clean up the supermarket sushi aftermath.  Since there were so many people to be interviewed, it took a long time for me to finally get my interview - and we all had to wait in that nasty little room for most of the afternoon.  Once I was finished, I practically ran for the elevator.

 

Lesson Learned:
When you interview you have to take in consideration not just the job, but the company culture.  In hindsight, this episode gave me a candid glimpse of at least what a typical Friday might be like. Beyond sushi, there were some other things that gave me pause as well – but the sushi thing definitely nailed it.
  
 
Nightmare: My Wallet Didn't Make the Interview
There are interviews for a job opening and there are interviews with recruiting firms who are sizing you up for their clients' full time or contract openings. Some times they'll want to pre qualify you for any position that may come up.  This means lots of paperwork including proof of citizenship etc.
 
I was waiting in a small interview room at a recruiters office going through my resume, reference sheet and other stuff.  I was thinking that I may need to fill out some of that paperwork for pre qualification and realized my wallet was missing. OK, you can finger-wag me at this point in the story because I'm one of those guys that rarely has my wallet in my back pants pocket.  Never got used to that extra junk in the trunk.
 
Anyway, my concentration is suddenly thrown off guard because I'm racking my brain to its where-a bouts.  It was in my briefcase when I left for the interview - that's for sure.  In the car? Somewhere between the car and this boring little white room that I find myself?
 
The interview begins and while the guy is going on about this and that, I'm distracted by some disturbing images of my wallet.  Slumped lifeless in the middle of the lobby on the first floor.  Flopped on the sidewalk outside, with the little "Visa" logo of the credit card popped out just enough to catch the eye of unscrupulous passers by.  Or worse, sitting in a trash can with all it's contents removed... Ahhrrrgg!  
 
Luckily the interview was sort of "softball" and I was able to pump out my usual routine (and follow up questions) with at least some measure of effort.  I was so desperate to get out of there to rescue my leather compatriot!  Handshakes, parting comments, yeah yeah, see you next Tuesday, whatever!
 
I marched through the office, outer corridors, lobby scanning intently.  No brown leather friend anywhere.  I continued across the street to the parking garage - which for some odd reason was now empty except for my truck.    As I got closer, I notice a weird shadow on the garage floor directly under the rear cab.  Could it be? Seriously?!?!  YES!  Nothing missing!  I really don't know what the hell happened when I got out of the truck, but for some reason my wallet was Not going to that interview.  It sat there for 90 minutes unnoticed by anyone. Simply miraculous.

 

Lesson Learned:
Interviews are stressful enough without the extra burden of such mishaps.  But being prepared and having your routine down cold can help you come across professional and sharp, even though you borked your wallet someplace.

 

 

 

 

dilbert1

 

 


Nightmare: My Cup Spillith Over
On a super hot day I was dressed in my full suite and tie, heading over to Woodland Hills (notorious for being hotter than surrounding area's ) to interview with a media services company.

I entered the lobby, checked in and had a seat. They had the A/C cranked and it was brutally cold in there.  Seriously cold.  Not sure why it felt so chilly, but coming in from the heat probably had something to do with it.  My skin started to turn from sweaty to ultra dry while I waited.

 

It seemed they were running behind schedule for some reason and the receptionist left to find out what was going on. Meanwhile other candidates were arriving and the lobby was starting to get a little crowded.

 

When the receptionist returned she offered us some water and I accepted.  I was thinking she'd return with a plastic bottle of Arrowhead or something.  Instead she handed me a flimsy Styrofoam cup filled to the brim. You know the kind: when you grasp it, the cup deforms itself into a complete misshapen rubbery oval. Anyway, the combination of this flaky cup and my dry hands resulted in the cup popping out of my hand and landing squarely at the bottom of my canvas briefcase.

 

Copies of my resume and reference sheet where instantly soaked, ink running everywhere.  Oh joy, isn't this a pleasant surprise! I looked up, and much to my ego, no one else in the lobby had noticed.  I took a deep breath, stood, and headed to the mens room with my watery bag sloshing. I literally poured the water from the bag into the sink. Just like the cartoons.  I even used the air dryer to blow my paperwork dry (sort of dry anyway) - just like some cheesy Tim Allen movie.

 

Completely deflated, I had the urge to exit the mens room and head straight to my car and call it a day. But I returned to the lobby and continued waiting.  Turned out that the reason all the interviews were behind schedule is that the manager had been stopped for speeding on his way to the office. He still hadn't arrived yet, and an assistant manager would be filling in as the interviewer for the time being.

 

After finishing my time with the assistant, I was asked if I had time to stay and interview with the real manager who had just arrived.  I obliged and was ushered to his office. We proceeded with the introductions. He was obviously having a bad morning and a bit out of sorts and somewhat stressed.  He started began venting about his morning calamity regarding the speeding ticket, the cop and the amount of the fine. I sympathized and told him about my water catastrophe in the lobby and showed him my inky resume and made a joke about those flimsy Styrofoam cups.

 

We had a good laugh and the rest of the interview was actually quite pleasant and relaxed.  At the end of our chat, he gave me his business card and told me to use the email address to send him a copy of my resume and references.

 

Lesson Learned:
Sometimes your misfortunes and mishaps on interview day can be an ice-breaker to get more comfortable with a stressed manager.  You never know. 

 

 
Nightmare: And You Are?
OK, this interview story won't amount to much. That's because the interview never took place.

 

Although I was told by the recruiter  to be at a certain office at a certain address at a certain time to meet with this certain manager. I waited for an HOUR before he came down and explained that there was some misunderstanding between he and the recruiter (that was working with me), and that there would be no interviews today.  If you've not read my opinion on recruiters then you'll understand the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

Lesson Learned:
Recruiters are not always your knight in shining armor.

 

 

Nightmare: Ph ne Int rview F om H ll
So the title of this story is not misspelled.  Nor is it a secret message, although that's what it looks like. And that's what it sounds like too.  Many times the first interview will be by phone. It's an easy way for employers to quickly eliminate candidates who are not a match.

 

I was on the phone with two managers discussing some of my past projects and how they relate to the needs of their department.  Suddenly the phone went dead. Hello? Hello???  Arrrggg!  The interview was going great til that point.   I quickly found the number they used to call me, and tried to call them back.  Before I could dial the first digit, the phone burped out an error that I've never heard: "Device not registered".  Huh?   I tried to dial again. Yep, same frustrating message. 

Just then, my cell phone rang.  Although my cell connection is spotty at best, they had called me back using my cell number. The connection seemed to worsen with lots of stuttering and dropouts.

 

I frantically moved about my house then outside to find a sweet spot while trying to sound all professional and interesting.  I found myself finishing the call teetering on a pile of scrap lumber wedged between our trash bins.  Hey man, whatever works.  And it must have worked, because before the call was over, I was invited to an on site interview the following week. Whew! 

Later that day I finally figured out what happened. Since our phone service is IP based (Residential VoIP), if the internet has an outage, so will your phone call if you're on the line when it happens. So I was lucky enough to have an internet outage in the midst of a phone interview.  Thank YOU, overlords of the internet!

 

But that's not the end of the story.  Our VoIP company offers a service to enter a backup number, so that incoming calls can be routed to a non-internet phone (like a cell phone) if your experiencing an outage.  Our backup number is set to my wife's cell phone.  When the managers tried to call me back (at my home number which was off line) the calls (they tried twice) got routed to Virginia at her office.  Over dinner that night while we were discussing yet another one of my crazy interviews she mentioned "it was really weird, at work today I was getting all these calls from Valley Presbyterian Hospital"... 

 

Lesson Learned:
Even though technology can fail during an interview, reasonable managers will not count that against you if you've come across as someone they like for the job.  Luckily these guys didn't let failed technology get in the way of a good job candidate.

 

 

 

.

UPDATED: Deploying SQL CE 4.0 in a Hosted Environment

by Doug 26. August 2011 12:54

 

sqlserverlogo

        COMPACT EDITION

 

As promised, Mark Wisecarver has finished his webcast regarding SQL CE 4.0. Check it out over here: http://www.dasptv.com/avc-view.aspx?videoid=39

 

Mark provides a very nice overview of this latest version, including some excellent blogs and other online resources that can will help you decide if it’s the right version of SQL for your project (remember kids, it’s not a replacement for SQL Server), and has a tutorial on creating a new app with Visual Studio using CE 4.0.

 

If you’re among those who have DiscountASP.Net as your web hosting provider, don’t forget to come back here, since I’ve outlined the steps to deploy your ASP.Net web app using SQL CE to DiscountASP.Net web hosting:

http://www.mooremediaone.com/blog/post/2011/07/11/Deploying-SQL-CE-40-in-a-Hosted-Environment.aspx

About >

Hey, Doug here,  thanks for visiting.  

 

Here's a little about me:

 

  • Web developer
  • Cyclist of mountains, bike paths and bike lanes
  • Hiker, backpacker, car camper
  • DIY guy - home improvement, software & home movies
  • Reviewer of novels and technical books
  • Married with cats and horses

 

My wife and I live in the shadow of Mt Lukens on the edge of the Angeles National Forest:

Tujunga,CA

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