Since I became the web team manager at Seattle Children’s Hospital, I’ve been involved in the process of hiring people for my team for the first time.
It’s certainly been interesting to be involved in the interview process from the hiring perspective. However, as I read through resumes and met with candidates, I was often surprised at how poorly they presented themselves, both on paper and in person.
So, I thought it might be useful to highlight a few pointers that might help people who are looking for a job in the web industry to (1) get to the interview stage, and (2) get hired.
Please bear in mind that while I think that these tips are fairly generally applicable, they are not guaranteed to work with every interviewer. As you can imagine, different people have different styles and preferences. Always use your own best judgement!
The thing to bear in mind about most web team managers is that they hate the process of hiring people. That’s why we don’t work in the HR department.
I would much rather be working on something to do with our web sites than wading through a sea of resumes.
I’m also really busy. It’s a sad fact, but you probably have about 30-60 seconds for me to review your resume, before I make a snap decision as to whether to put you in the shortlist category or the discard pile.
That’s the reality of the situation. As an applicant you’re dealing with someone who’s doing something that they really don’t want to be doing and doesn’t have the time to do it either.
So you have to make sure that your application stands out.
1. Be Focused
Don’t tell me everything you did since you started working – I’m sure your life’s story is interesting to someone, just not me; especially with a pile of resumes to plough through on top of my regular work load.
Focus on jobs that are relevant to the position (preferably leave out ones that are not web-related). And within those jobs, focus on the activities that are relevant – make sure they’re not hidden among projects and work about which I am not interested because it doesn’t relate to the position.
Don’t worry about accounting for every working moment since you left college – I really don’t care about that. I just care about what you’ve done that is relevant to the position.
2. Use Lists
As I mentioned, I receive a lot of resumes for positions I post and so I tend to skim over them initially to get a sense of whether the applicant has the general skills and experience.
Lists help me to easily scan through your resume and pick out the highlights.
3. Sell Yourself!
Make it obvious why you’re right for the position. If the position is for a web producer, tell me about projects you managed, the tasks you were responsible for and how everything ran like a well-oiled machine.
If you’re a developer, tell me about your expertise in whatever programming language and the amazing applications you’ve built.
4. Be Human
Stay away from business speak and talk to me like a real person. Try to inject a little personality into your resume in order to differentiate it from all the others. Too much business jargon just makes my eyes glaze over.
5. Be Concise
Remember, it’s quality not quantity. It’s hard for me to see the important stuff if it’s hidden in a forest of words.
Feel free to use appropriate abbreviations and acronymns (e.g. IA rather than information architecture – if I don’t know what IA means, do you really want to be working for me?)
6. Provide URLs
If you want to work in the web industry you are going to need to provide examples of work you’ve done or sites you’ve managed.
Unless you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer, providing me with screenshots, no matter how pretty, isn’t going to cut it – I need to be able to look at real sites that you’ve worked on.
Provide links to your sites so that I can look behind the scenes at the code, check out the IA and see how usable they are. Don’t forget to point out the highlights within those sites so that I see the things you are most proud of.
If you haven’t got URLs to provide me, then frankly, you haven’t got much of a hope.
Congratulations, you made it through to the big day. Here’s how to win me over in person.
1. Dress Appropriately
Once I’ve hired you, I really don’t care what you wear as long as you do great work. However, if I don’t know you, part of the impression I form about you will be determined by your appearance.
You don’t have to wear a suit – business casual is fine. Do stay away from jeans and trainers. Just look smart, okay – it shows you care. If you’re not sure what to wear, remember that as a rule of thumb that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
2. Sell Yourself!
Are you detecting a theme here? For goodness sake, sell yourself. This is probably the most important tip once you get through to this stage, and the area in which most candidates fell down. In a couple of interviews it became a real struggle for me to stay interested in the conversation.
Make sure that you tell me why it is that I should hire you. If I don’t ask you about a particular piece of experience, make sure you tell me about it. Believe me, I want to know – however, I may not ask the right questions to bring it out without you helping me.
3. Ask Questions
The interview is a two-way conversation. I want to see if you will be a good fit for my team and my organization, but you should also want to see if the job and the company will be a good fit for you.
Don’t appear as if you’ll take the job without properly understanding what it entails and what the organization is like. So ask questions, both about the job and the immediate team/department and the organization in general.
4. Do Some Research
Research the company. Research the web site. Come up with some ideas about improvements you might make or areas you might look into, in case you’re asked (but, see #5, below, first).
See if you can find anything about the members of the web team – perhaps they have personal blogs or have developed other web sites (Google is your friend here).
Don’t forget to show me that you’ve done some research – drop it into the conversation somehow. It shows me that you’re interested enough in the position to go the extra mile. Also, show me that you have a strong interest / passion for the web.
5. Don’t Criticize My Site
Come up with ideas about improvements you might make to the site, but don’t critique my web site unless you’re asked. Don’t start telling me what’s wrong with my web site or what you would change unless I ask you for some ideas.
You don’t know what process we have gone through to develop the site, what issues we’ve faced, who our audiences are, or the goals of our site.
Developing any large web site is an exercise in organizational politics and compromise, and to critique it without knowing the history of why things were done as they were will only succeed in getting my back up. Believe me, this one is important.
6. Bring Stuff to Show
Bring a portfolio of your work and be prepared to leave some examples with me. Depending on the position, you could bring screenshots of sites you’ve designed, code samples, process flowcharts, IA diagrams, functional specs, creative briefs, writing samples, and so on.
Make sure they look nice (color, nice paper, in a plastic folder or something similar). Don’t bring too much, just enough examples to provide more evidence of the quality of your work and to show that you are prepared and organized.
Just whatever you do, don’t turn up empty handed.
7. Follow Up Afterwards
Send me an email saying how you enjoyed meeting me, how keen you are and reemphasize how your skills fit the position.
It’s probably not going to make a great deal of difference if I didn’t like you that much, but it might help swing the balance if I am weighing you against another candidate.
Further Reading About Job Interviewing
- Conducting the Web Designer Job Interview: IT Manager Guide with Web Design Interview Questions
- How to Make Friends and Influence Art Directors (Mike Davidson)
- Tips for applying to a job from Craigslist
- How to Interview Potential Employers
- The 25 most difficult questions you’ll be asked on a job interview
- The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews