5 Lessons I learned from job interviews

After a long service at the MOD, it was finally my time to get my shit together and start looking for a new job. I have a diverse experience of both UX and programming, but I focused on UX because that’s where my heart is. After a couple of months of on and off job searches and interviews, I finally found my next job as a UX designer. Here’re the lessons I’ve learned during this time period:

1. Interviews are business dates

Dates are stressful, so comparing interviews to dates isn’t the most comforting comparison, but it’s really the best one. You meet someone that you haven’t really met before, you need to show your best features and you also learn details about the other person. Be yourself is the best dating advice cliché, but it’s actually a good advice, and I think the hardest part of being yourself is letting go of the stress of impressing the other side. You don’t want to brand yourself as something you’re not, because you’ll be quickly exposed. My tip for being yourself is — force yourself to be calm, notice your body language, be honest (even if it’s saying that you’re excited). One thing that really helped my feel good at a job interview was watching this Ted talk:

2. Know your path — What are you looking for?

My first interview in the job searching journey was for a front-end developer position for a design product (I can code and I love design — great recipe!). I had a 3 hours long interview + test, which I prepared a lot for — I took a JS crash course to improve my abilities, refreshed my knowledge on data structures and ran so many scenarios in my head to be 100% ready. Eventually I failed. Why? Because I’m not a developer. I want to be a UX designer, and I invest a lot of effort on being good at it. Programming is just not my thing right now. While I was waiting for the results of the interview, I asked myself this: “How much money does it take for you to work in a position you’re not 100% in love with”, and the answer, eventually was “There is no amount of money that will make me work at something I’m not 100% in love with”. I mean, yeah, I would take 1 million dollars per month at programming, but if we’re talking about real salaries, I prefer working in something I’m in love with for less money, than vice versa. So my point is this — Know what you really want to do, and be specific.

3. Don’t be scared by tests

You’ll be tested in your interviews (or in addition to them). These tests’ purpose is mostly to understand the way you think. You can make mistakes or think in a different way than expected, and it’s all good as long as you think out loud and explain what made you make these decisions. Think out loud, make a real conversation about what you’re doing or what you’ve done. This conversation will also make you more comfortable and make the communication between you and the interviewers better. Also, if you talk about your mistakes you can correct yourself and show that you’re understanding and improving your work.

4. Nobody’s forcing you

In a continuation to the previews paragraph, you’re not the only one being tested in the interview, so make sure you ask questions and understand what your interviewing for — what does the company do? Who are its clients? Who are the employees? What will you do there? After you understand what exactly you’re interviewing for, you’ll have the legitimation to decide whether you want to work there or not. It’s eventually 50% your choice.

5. Know your worth

Talking about money isn’t pleasant for anyone. You want to get the highest salary, your employer wants to pay the lowest, and then you find a common ground that pleases the both of you. I hate talking about money. It makes me feel awful and after it I usually feel depressed for the remaining day. The thing is this — the company you interview for needs you at least as much as you need it, and you have a price. If the offer doesn’t suit you, you can and need to say it. Worst case scenario — you missed the opportunity to work there with your condition. Best case scenario — you’ll get your conditions. You need to remember you’re in charge of the consequences of this process, at least as much as your potential employer.

Bonus round: Manners

It seems obvious for me, but sadly I’ve been to some interviews where I felt I’m not being treated with respect during the whole process. So this is a tip from me to both sides of interviews — Be polite. Respect the person you’re talking to. The world will not end if you’d put your phone down for an hour. I really hope this tip is obvious and unnecessary.

To sum it up

There are a lot of tips for job interviews. I wanted to bring the general things I learned from my job searching journey. I think the main, most important thing to know before a job interview is that you need to show the real you in the interview, and you need to know that the real you is the awesome you. That’s essentially it.

Do you have any more interview tips or any personal experience from a job interview you want to share? Tell me about it in the comments!

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