1.04.2005

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» TIP: The first rule of Job Hunting is you do not talk about Job Hunting
» TIP: What The ancient Greeks know about interviewing
» TIP: Speed-read your interviewer
» TIP: Be yourself, Goldilocks style
» TIP: What makes a good answer in an interview?
» TIP: It's just a simple question
» TIP: How to lose a job during the interview
» TIP: Top 5 resume red flags
» TIP: 4 verbs that make you resume 'sticky'
» TIP: Answer negative questions positively

TIP: The first rule of Job Hunting is you do not talk about Job Hunting

Ok, maybe that's an overstatement (After all, we aren't trying to start a fight club ;-) But the point it's trying to make is that minimizing the competition that comes with a formal/official job hunt.
  • Myth 1: an effective job hunt = shoot around lots of resumes: think about how efficient the junk-mail business is. Worse, if you wave a massive 'compaign' on the web, don't be surprised to see your resume makes its way to Google cache someday.
  • Myth 2: an effective job hunt = contact HR: think about the possibility of having your credential reviewed by a first-year HR personal, while your competition is talking directly to the hiring manager through referrals. (Early bird catches the worm.) AlthoughHR is not a graveyard of job applicants, you can still get stucked in it.
  • Myth 3: an effective job hunt = networking: know that the first rule of Job Hunting is you do not talk about Job Hunting. Personally, if someone rings me with "Can you help me find a job on Wall Street?", I won't hang up on him - but I'll most likely put him on hold ... indefinitely. Commitment is a monkey that requires constant feeding, and we could all use one less monkey on our back. If the same person instead approachs with "I read your online post about.... What does a Quant do exactly in real life?", I'll probably be more willing to have a real conversation with him. Asking for information keeps the conversation alive, while asking for a job lead does the opposite.
    • It also helps if the question gives a way for the other person to form an initial judgment about you, like the mention of the post above. Or "After talking with John at some length about doing quantitative work, he suggested that I contact you to get a financial pespective."
    • Be explicit about time: asking for a 2-min chat makes people realize you're serious about not wasting his time.
    • If you ask for names of other contacts, remember to request permission to use the person's name as a referral.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Pre-Interview

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TIP: What The ancient Greeks know about interviewing

The ancient Greeks taught that all conversation involved three ingredients: Ethos, or the character of the speaker; Pathos, connecting with the emotions; Logos, the words used, the factual content of a message. It refers to the argument that you present on behalf of your point of view.

An good interview involves three similar ingredients: establishing rapport (ie. chemistry) with the interviewer, probing for the problems the interviewer have, and presenting the skills in stories tailored for the identified problems.

These are the ethos, the pathos and the logos of interviewing. Although we know that the facts themselves, however important, are not as powerful or as influential as the emotions are.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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TIP: Speed-read your interviewer

Interviewers obviously have varied and not always clear-cut communication styles. However, if you can 'read' the interviewer's style quickly and adjust accordingly, you can deliver the type of responses most likely to win them over, because people are more at ease around others with the same approach. Here are some cues to pick up
  • Does s/he make heavy use of senses?
    • Sound: e.g. I'm having a blast. It's a lot of work but at the same time you got to have fun with it.
    • Taste: If you have followed my career closely, you would have noticed that when I pick up a role, I sink my teeth into it completely.
    • Smell: In the fairway of life take time to smell the roses; you only get one round.
    • Sight: If someone comes up with an offer that would be financially lucrative, I may take another look at it. But obviously, the end (of my job search) is in sight.
    • Touch: I couldn't put my finger on it, but those tiny bells that ring in my head when something isn't right - my instincts - were chiming like crazy.
    • Motion: It made me feel successful, like I hit the nail on the head.
  • Does s/he see Business as war?
    • Linux continues to gain ground as a mainstream alternative to Windows.
    • Don't give up without a fight.
    • Reinforce your leading position.
    • The Rolling Stones Join Forces with ABC
    • New security threats are bombarding instant messaging clients
    • They were a casualty of the last recession.
    • The project was a minefield of difficult decisions
  • Is s/he a sports fan?
    • Plans moved forward, but even in the home stretch, there were issues
    • From there it's up to me. I have to step up to the plate and either I'm going to hit a home run or strike out.
    • Everybody knows what we have to do to win and everybody has to play together. We're just going to go out there and play ball and do what we do best.".
    • The other team has two strikes against it after they fumbled last week.
    • There is still a fair bit of review to go and if it is not up to scratch then it will not go ahead
    • Everyone has ideas for what to do, but it often seems as though no one wants to take the ball and run with it.
    • Technologists no longer call the shots. It used to be technologists providing the mobile phone for designers to wrap some design around it.
    • Other popular terms include slam dunk, ballpark figures, the pitch.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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TIP: Be yourself, Goldilocks style

In the children's story, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," Goldilocks always makes the "middle" of three choices. Like, in beds, "'this one's too hard; this one's too soft; this one's just right,' so she slept in it." (Same for hot/cold porridge, and other things she found in the bears' house.)

Similar trade-off occurs in job interviews as well: should an interview be a great act, a completely candid and spontaneous exchange, or something in between? With too little acting, one may nail all the answers, but still fail to click with the interviewer.

With too much acting, one can easily act himself out of a job. In an effort to put their best foot forward, some try to put on a good performance by memorizing canned answers and stories from books and articles (eg. "My greatest weakness is I work too hard.") Some try suggested strategy games and cute attention-getting tricks. Others subsribe to the idea that "If you don't have a great story to tell, borrow others or make one up." The problem is that more often than that, these same people are not even good actors.

Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot, or Goldilocks Solution, for which performance is maximized and you are still yourself.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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TIP: What makes a good answer in an interview?

  • Authenticity: The best way to get your interviewers to be empathetic toward your skillset is to tell an interesting related project experience, rather than about how great you are.
    • Another effective tactic is to quote people you work with. ie. My manager always said, "You are always the first to try a new idea."
  • Focus: Read your interviewers and figure out what types of projects are on their mind. Anyone can tell an interesting porject, but the best ones are narratives with a theme. Focus on the dominant theme you want to convey, whether it is performance, data quality, or responsibility.
    • Flexibility: Be flexible on the non-essential parts of the project. This gives your interviewers a chance to participate and create their own 'picture'. For example, if you need to mention database, you don't need to say Oracle or Sybase. Your interviewers will choose his favorite database to envision.
    • Simplicity: A good answer is short and to the point and communicates only one specific point. So keep it simple.
  • Movement: A good answer should advance your interviewers toward the hiring decision. If they do not create forward movement, leave them out. For example, instead of saying "Can I come in for an interview?" Say, "When can I come in for an interview?"
  • Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm from the candicate creates an enthusiastic response from the interviewer.
    • Emotion: Emotion plays a key part in the hiring decision. If you can build the right emotion with a good answer, the decision will be that much easier.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

Your Turn!

 

TIP: It's just a simple question

In the interview, most people ask questions to keep the conversation flowing, or simply for feedback. e.g. "Is that the kind of example you were looking for?," or "I'm not sure what kind of information you'd like me to provide here. Can you be more specific?" But these seemingly innocent questions can do much more for you.
  • Playing Sherlock Holmes
    • Divergent/Open-ended questions: what, when, where, who, how, and why? Opens up the conversation and best for fishing for information - explore every aspect of the situation as you try to indentify the challenges the interviews are facing.
    • Convergent/Close-ended questions: are, will, is, have, did, aren't, didn't, won't? Gradually brings conversation to a single point of decision. ie. Does this make sense to you?
  • Triggering commitment with the right verb.
    • Feel: how do you feel about the situation? Very easy to answer with a complete emotional response.
    • Think: Do you think this would be better than what you currently have? People are a bit more hesitant to answer a think question, but they are much firmer in defending their position afterwords.
    • In your opinion: In your opinion, is this the best solution? You are fishing for a definite stand.
  • Disguising your pitch: Ask well-worded questions that immediately grabs the attention (startle or shock)and arouses the interest of even the most skeptical coworker . e.g. "What is your guess as to the amount of money you're losing every year for failing to execute trades in time? Is it $1 million, $3 million, or $5 million?". One of the best known questions from the insurance industry is "May I ask you one question? Will you widow be able to dress as well as your wife?"

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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TIP: How to lose a job during the interview

  • Being boring: If you're bogged down in irrelevant detail, your interviewers are going to fade out. A few well-chosen stories far outweigh a lot of fluff.
    • Bragging needlessly: Sharing anecdotes that demonstrate your skillsets is a must, but keep the focus on meeting your interviewer's needs, not on your personal accomplishments.
  • Talking too long: it's like performing Hamlet's monologue. Practice getting your key points across in 30 seconds or less. Brevity gives interviewers an opportunity to ask questions, which engages them in the conversation.
    • Speaking too slowly: The fast food generation don't want a long, drawn-out commercial.
  • Telling, not showing: It is not enough to say, "I'm a very result-oriented person." You have to show it with specifics/stories. e.g, "In fact, I regularly update a list of deliverables with specific time frames. And I've successfully reached or surpassed over 95% of these goals."
    • Telling stories without clear intentions: If you don't know why you're telling the tale, don't tell it. Know what you want to accomplish before you start.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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TIP: Top 5 resume red flags

  • Too many disconnected dots
    • Big gaps between Jobs
    • Series of unrelated Jobs/projects: web site design, dba, coding. Does s/he know what s/he wants to do for a career?
  • Extensive keyword/jargon coverage without real stories/projects
  • Lack of progression in responsibilities/salary/skillsets: can s/he handle greater responsibilities over time?
  • Plenty of short-term jobs: commitment problem? lack of motivation?
  • A long laundry list of activities irrelevant to the opening

Above all, do you sense a real person behind the resume?

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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TIP: 4 verbs that make you resume 'sticky'

  • Deliver: We deliver all sorts of results, even when it doesn't involve a truck or even a bicycle. We deliver on great ideas. We deliver through a wide range of skillsets. More specifically,
    • Values: we propose, create, unleash, or capture (opportunity).
    • Solutions: scalable, repeatble, unparalleled, track record, proven, just to name a couple.
  • Drive: we do a lot of driving at work, without wheels. We drive growth. Growth in users, data and transactions. We also drive change.
  • Leverage: we get more mileage out of existing solutions.
  • Unleash/unlock: we are the king Midas who turns good things into great ones. We set the solution free of restrains.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want

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TIP: Answer negative questions positively

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I would say if I was asked in an interview to describe a time when I lost my temper.

I told her that I wouldn't lie about it, but I wouldn't be totally honest either. Let's face it - this is an interview, not a causual chat. As an applicant, it's only natural to try to turn every answer into a pitch. If you don't do it, other applicants certainly will - and that just may be enough to tip the scale decisively in their favor.

When faced with negative questions, the first rule of thumb is not to provide information that will hurt your prospects. Sometimes all it takes is rephrasing the question. When asked to describe a time when you lost you temper, you could say, "If you are asking if I ever get frustrated, yes. I like to get things done and done quickly, and if politics keeps getting in the way, I can see myself get frustrated."

It also helps to be on the lookout for a positive spin. When asked about the layoff, one can say "The company's going through some difficult time... I'm looking at this as a fresh opportunity to start a career with a great company."

Another tactic is to use a bait - employ another related fault to overshadow your honest answer. For example, "My weakness was getting frustrated when leadership fails to lead."

If all fail, stall. Ask calmly if you can come back to the question later. Or simply "Do you mind if I take a minute to collect my thoughts?" You may lose a few thinking-on-your-feet points, but you'll gain points for handling a difficult question with poise and for your thoughtfulness.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want

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