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01/19/2007: "this time I'm telling you after the fact"

A while back I mentioned about a phone interview I was granted for a Sustainable Building Specialist position in Toronto. That phone call went extremely well, and was very pleasantly devoid of the standard slightly-off-kilter behavioural questions - a nice change. I can say it went well because they confirmed a face-to-face interview with me shortly afterwards.

That face-to-face interview happened this morning at 9am. I met with both the HR person I talked to previously, and the head of the Sustainable Building department that has the open position. Dare I say that it went well? Why not - I think it did.

The interview was, again, very non-behavioral, and more like a natural conversation. I would very much like to have more interviews like that. It was enjoyable. The first half was meeting with my HR contact, the same one I had the phone interview with. It was a good conversation, and I believe I provided a good explanation of my motives behind wanting to get into sustainable development.

Thankfully, it was he that brought up the question of salary. I don't feel comfortable bringing that up unless I'm at a second interview stage (which I don't consider this to be - I consider the second in-person interview to be the real turning point). Thankfully, it sounds like this won't be an issue, and there are more benefits with this position than I would have thought - like profit sharing. Woo!

The second person I met with is the head of the department I would be working in. I was extremely glad to find out that he had investigated cohousing for himself some 10 or 15 years ago, although it never got anywhere for him unfortunately. It was a great way to connect with him, and know that he at least in part understands what it is I'm trying to do with cohousing, and what its attraction is. From there the interview got a little... unsteady? He asked what I could bring to this position, and in all honesty I could only tell him that I'd bring enthusiasm, a love of learning, and a desire to share what I've learned with the world. No matter how fancy I dress my resume up, there is no getting around the fact that I have done nothing but product design engineering for the past 9 years, and exactly zero sustainable building consulting - save for what I'm doing with my cohousing group, of course.

When he asked if I had any questions, I decided to go for the jugular - I asked, "Do I stand a chance?" No point beating around the bush - I have no direct experience in their industry, and what knowledge I have is at a "dedicated hobbyist" level more than anything. Sure, I shaved my head this morning so I have my good looks going for me, but I can't rely on that all the time. His answer was "yes", which he followed up by mentioning that he started with the company with little more than that himself. So, I have a chance, but it's going to come down to how I presented and conducted myself for once, instead of what I actually know, which is what I'm used to having interviews hinge on. It's somewhat disconcerting... but at least I have a chance.

I should hear something from them by next week. What that will be, I don't know. I wasn't asked about availability, but that may not mean anything... there could yet be a 3rd round to go through before any offer is passed my way. We shall see how it goes.

And for those wondering about the commute: it was pretty awful. Leaving here at 6:30am, I got there at exactly 8:30am. Yuck. I am holding out hope that leaving earlier would shave a significant amount off of that. Then again, there are extremely good reasons to consider using Greyhound and the TTC in concert for all my commuting needs. But that's just getting to far ahead of myself, so I'm going to stop there and just try to calmly ride out the next few days.

Replies: 2 Comments

on Saturday, January 20th, roberthahn said

hey dude

When someone asks "what I could bring to this position," here's' how I suggest you answer the question. You obviously can't bring related experience to the table, so bring your skills instead. A lot of the skills you developed as a product engineer can be transferred here. You can say that you have a proven record of finishing and 'shipping' your work; you can talk about how you handle change requests and corrections; you can talk about how you manage multiple projects under deadlines, etc. You can even show them how you improve yourself over time (so you don't make the same mistakes over and over again). Or maybe you can relate how you learned about X in record time in order to make a deadline most people didn't think would happen.

You got those skills from doing product engineering, yes, (and i'm sure you can think of more), but those skills can be transferred to *any* job. If you need help brainstorming up a proper reply to this, give me a call.

on Saturday, January 20th, mr.ska said

What I need is to enable myself to actually prepare for interview questions such as those. You're entirely right - I bring soft skills to the position, and luckily he (the second interviewer) sees that. My resume is organized in that way as well, so it can answer for me in some way. Unfortunately, I went in to this knowing full well that I have zero experience in their industry, and that's causing me trouble (obviously).

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