This book is the International job seekers best friend, pt. 2

Incredible book but….

I’d mentioned in my previous blog what a brilliant feast of tips, strategies and suggestions the recent book Ace the Data Science Interview is for data scientists looking to hone their job interview chops to a sharp and shiny edge.

I also went a bit gaga over what a great resource this text is for job seekers in general thanks to the wealth of great advice it contains.

Here’s that blog It focuses primarily on how to land the interview in the first place.

The advice – to use cold emailing – might strike some people as counter-intuitive in this day of overstuffed email inboxes, but the authors make a great case for it. And they provide detailed practical tips on how to do it like a pro.

Anyway, as amazing as it is, this formidable volume has one minor downside – if you’re not a data scientist, you may miss out on the first 4 chapters!

The problem

Ace the Data Science Interview contains a treasure trove of tips and techniques for all job seekers. But they’re found in the first 34 pages of the book, followed by a daunting 260-something pages of guidelines and strategies specifically (and perhaps exclusively) designed for data scientists.

Considering that ratio, many job hunters who aren’t data scientists may decide not to buy the book.

Therefore, I wanted to summarize the great advice contained in the chapter on behavioral interviews for anyone who may never get around to reading it.

What you need to know

1.Take the Behavioral interview seriously. As the authors Huo and Singh point out, the behavioral interview is not “fluffy b.s.”

Everyone knows you have to have the technical skills, but many students new to an industry simply don’t take the behavioral and the ‘soft skills’ aspect of their interview strategy seriously enough.

However, employers want to know what you’ll be like to work with. They want to feel that you’re compatible with the team and the company mission. They want to see aspects of your personality and demeanor that go beyond the resume. This is more important than many students realize.

Use your behavioral answers to show what a great fit you are in areas that go beyond mere technical skills.

2.The entire interview is behavioral; even the ice-breaker classic, “tell me about yourself” is behavioral. The authors therefore recommend weaving hints and details about your compatibility or “fit” throughout the entire interview not just into those questions which are clearly “behavioral.”

And while this might sound difficult, start practicing by going through job descriptions and company About pages. Imagine how you might align your past work or school experience with the tasks and values you find there.

Over the long run, this approach will give you confidence and make it easier to convince hiring managers that you’re their “ideal.”

3.Doing well in the behavioral interview gives you an edge on the competition. Huo and Singh point out that your technical answers might not be world-class in the early part of your career.

Moreover, there will be internal candidates with more experience than you. On top of this, many of your peer competitors will the same technical skills you have.

So how do you beat them?

Use the behavioral interview to show your “coachability, enthusiasm, and eagerness to learn” (as the authors put it), and you’ll have an edge over your competitors.

As I’ve heard through the years from hiring managers and recruiters alike: passion, enthusiasm, desire to learn, and overall potential are the magic qualities for new hires. They’re assets that go beyond what’s on the resume, and highlighting them can help you shine brighter than you might think.

4.Soft skills, position fit, culture fit matter a LOT: And these are three areas that behavioral questions reveal.

How well do you communicate? How’s your problem solving? Are you passionate about what the team is seeking to achieve? Do the company’s values and mission resonate with you beyond the standard generic “gaining experience and moving your career forward” motivations?

Look at the company website, blogs, interviews with leaders and decision makers on Youtube, AND the job description for insights on which qualities are being sought in the role.  Use these as clues and possible keywords to weave into your behavioral answers (using the STAR format of course!). Think of these keywords or characteristics as the flavoring you want to add to the overall dish.

If your technical skills are spectacular, but you don’t show enthusiasm for trouble-shooting and it’s one of the main responsibilities listed in the job description, you may lose out to someone who did.


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