Author Archive

20
Mar

A Toronto Based Meeting

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

Are there any graduate students and/or contract faculty in the Greater Toronto Area who would be interested in meeting up this summer specifically for a workshop on identifying transferable skills and converting an academic CV into a résumé? I’m currently having an email chat with a contract faculty person who’s really interested in working on this in a group context, but there are obviously some professional reasons to not go around trying to recruit colleagues to this kind of thing.

20
Mar

Creative PhD’s and Self Motivation

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

This is from an 2004 New York Times article about Google’s practice of routinely hiring Ph.D.s:

clipped from www.matr.net

Rajeev Motwani, a computer science professor at Stanford, says: “Good Ph.D. students are extreme in their creativity and self-motivation. Master’s students are equally smart but do not have the same drive to create something new.” The master’s takes you where others have been; the doctorate, where no one has gone before.

Until recently, when computer science students completed their long Ph.D. training and stepped into daylight, they were treated warily by industry employers. American business has had to overcome its longtime suspicion of intellect. “Why I Never Hire Brilliant Men,” an article published in the 1920’s in the American magazine, is a typical specimen of an earlier era. In modern times, computer scientists are hired, but a doctorate can still be viewed as the sign of a character defect, its holder best isolated in an aerie.

Xerox famously put together a dream team of computer scientists in the 1970’s, placed it on a hill in Palo Alto, Calif., and received, in short order, the modern easy-to-use personal computer and the laser printer. Unfortunately, neither the researchers nor Xerox corporate had any idea how to bring these creations to market, and the experiment was a business failure.

Steve Jobs avidly hunted and hired Ph.D.’s during his ill-begotten entrepreneurial experiment at NeXT Computer in the late 1980’s, while he was away from Apple. His NeXT computer, what he called a “scholar’s workstation,” was marketed exclusively to students for the low, low introductory price of $6,500. It failed for some inexplicable reason to sweep campuses. He has not been heard since to boast, as he did then, that 70 percent of his manufacturing employees had doctorates. (Admittedly, these were few, as the factory was highly automated.)

In 1991, Microsoft established its separate research organization, following contemporary orthodoxy, and sought Ph.D.’s to conduct research full time. Its mainstream recruiting, however, remains focused on undergraduates and master’s students.

“We’re not heavy into Ph.D. recruiting,” explains Kristen Roby, Microsoft’s director of recruiting at colleges in the United States. “We’re huge believers in hiring potential.”

Google, however, prefers those who have been trained for the maximum time setting on the university’s dial and who have experience in organizing their own research agenda. The company has not released data about its Ph.D’s for two years, but based on its history, the number is probably more than 100.

Instead of sending them to a separate, high-walled compound, the company places them among the rank and file. In the typical Google job listing, which asks for a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in computer science, is a three-word phrase rarely seen elsewhere: “Ph.D. a plus.”

Because Google is in the “quiet period” required after the filing of its public offering plans, the company will not say a word about its Ph.D.’s or anything else. But go to the top-ranked computer science departments, and you’ll feel the irresistible gravitational pull of the Googleplex. At Stanford, for instance, Google’s recruiting of computer science Ph.D.’s has been, in Professor Motwani’s diplomatic phrasing, “more successful than others,” which he attributes to the critical mass of talent the company has assembled.

Ed Lazowska, professor and former chairman of computer science at the University of Washington, says Google’s policy of reserving one day a week to do your own thing is “hugely attractive to potential employees.” Google has about as many Ph.D.’s from his university as Microsoft, but Microsoft is almost 30 times larger.

As the earlier failure of Mr. Jobs’s NeXT Big Thing shows, the prize does not necessarily go to the new kids with the highest density of Ph.D.’s on the map. Google is vulnerable to attack from anyone who devises a better search engine. And Microsoft may add search capabilities to Windows faster than Google can go on the counteroffensive and install its own plumbing in the PC.

WORKING in Google’s favor is its practice of putting new Ph.D.’s to work immediately in the exact areas where they have been trained – in systems, architecture and artificial intelligence. Google, the company, may falter, but Google, the human resources experiment, is unlikely to be the cause.

Microsoft has yet to disavow old templates for hiring. Its chief college recruiter, Ms. Roby, says that among computer science Ph.D.’s, “it’s less likely to find someone with the desire to work on projects that will ship every 24 or 36 months.”

Her intention is to convey the fast pace of product-development cycles at Microsoft. But the notion that software is released at intervals measured in years, burned on a CD-ROM, stamped with a new version number and stuffed in a box, is as relevant to Google’s continuous Web site improvements as a punch card. Nor is the notion that Ph.D.’s are unsuited for the punishing pace of the business workday empirically justified.

When the cone of silence is lifted, ask anyone at Google, starting with the chief executive: Eric Schmidt, Ph.D., computer science.

20
Mar

Women’s Academia

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

The proportion of full-time female faculty members in the U.S. almost doubled from 1984 to 2008 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008). Yet, women continue to “leak” from the academic pipeline, especially from the tenure track. Of women faculty nationally, 31% hold non-tenure-track positions, 26% are on the tenure track, and 43% have tenure (AAUP, 2010). Compare this to male faculty: Although a lower percentage of the men start out on the tenure track, a much higher percentage of them, compared to women, hold tenure, and far fewer are on the non-tenure-track.
The question is— where do the women go and why? Understanding how motherhood affects the careers of academic women is one place to look. The childbearing years coincide directly with climbing the tenure ladder, leading women to delay or forgo having children. Only 1/3 of women who start on the tenure track without a child will ever have one (Mason and Goulden, 2004). Faculty women report having fewer children than they desired, or putting off having kids until after gaining tenure. Such findings suggest that the academic career may be a difficult place to combine career and motherhood.
Why might this be the case? Timing. The average age at which women receive the doctorate is 34, the time when college-educated women are beginning families (Marcus, 2007). Add seven (or more) years to tenure and a woman is in her 40‟s.
Yet, there is a paucity of attention paid to academic women as mothers. An example of this inattention comes from a 2005 report from the Provost‟s office at Virginia Tech, that summarized exit surveys of „voluntary departures‟ among tenured and tenure-track faculty. Women averaged 40% of the „voluntary departures‟, mainly pre-tenure, while they were only 20.6% of the tenured and tenure-track faculty. Women were significantly more likely to report feeling intimidated, harassed, or discriminated against in their departments, yet nowhere in the report were work-family issues discussed.
Explanations for why the women leave: Women opt-out, or do they? The notion that professional women freely choose not to work after becoming mothers- has been pushed in the media. The data suggests otherwise, with the majority of educated women with young children in the work force. In 2007, over 70% of women with children worked outside the home (Halpern, 2008). Statistics are similar for highly educated women in their thirties where 2/3 of those with a young child work outside the home (Boushey, 2005).
Another explanation for fewer women on the tenure track is that women choose the softer, less secure, lower paying academic routes, either in anticipation of having children or once they become mothers. Again, the notion of „choice‟ has been questioned and calls for further study.  In light of women‟s increasing presence in the academy, and their higher rates of leaving, work/family issues deserve far greater attention. A 2003 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that having children can have a devastating impact on the careers of academic women but not men (Wilson, 2003).
What is clear is that women in academia face unique challenges, which require further investigation if we are to create an academic environment that is supportive of women as parents, particularly during the early years of career and parenting.
Given the many unknowns about why women leave, our qualitative study was designed to explore academic women‟s experiences combining career and parenthood. We chose mothers of young children because the toddler years are particularly challenging for parents. Broad questions guided the study- What challenges do the women face? What changes occur when they become mothers? How does it feel to meet the demands of being a mother and a faculty member?

20
Mar

Interfolio | Another Online Tool For Academic Leavers

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

I just wanted to make sure that those of you who are on the non-academic and academic job markets know about  Interfolio. Its main strengths seem to play best to those doing a high-level or academic job search, since one of its key functions is managing and shepherding along your letters of reference. If your campus career center doesn’t already do this, the service is a great way to get your letter to the correct destination.

Since 1999, Interfolio has been the best way to collect, manage, and showcase academic and professional credentials for applications to positions in higher education, post-graduate study, and other opportunities.  Interfolio offers individuals one central place to store their most important documents, while also providing the means to distribute these materials to any institution.  Interfolio’s services offer a revolutionary way for people to present and market themselves professionally.

The idea for Interfolio was the result of an award-winning business plan developed by Steve Goldenberg when he was a student at Georgetown University. As a worker in Georgetown’s career center, he saw an opportunity to offer students a better way to promote academic and professional achievements. His business plan for a powerful and easy-to-use online credentials service won the Philip’s Publishing Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. Steve used feedback from the 1999 Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE) annual conference to launch the first version of Interfolio later that year.

Now, over 100,000 worldwide access the Interfolio system, including individuals who use it to manage their documents, as well as letter writers who upload letters of recommendation for their students and colleagues. Interfolio continues to use the feedback of advisors, students, letter writers and receiving institutions to develop and evolve the service.

20
Mar

It Turns Out We All Worry About Being Losers

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

I was tumbling down the rabbit hole of a Google search the other day, going from one link to the next, when I landed at Tara Hunt’s HorsePigCowblog. You might be familiar with Tara if you’re at all interested in social media, social marketing, social networks and other related social hoo-ha. Basically, Tara’s great. And she wrote, “If nobody shares they are struggling, nobody will know anybody else is struggling. That results in a bunch of people feeling isolated and scared and like big fat losers.”

So many of us keep our fears and struggles to ourselves believing that revealing them could somehow brand us with loser status and eventually imperil our careers or reputations. Are we being savvy or just creating unnecessary isolation? Are there issues you wish you could share with others?

It is both liberating and energizing to have professional confidants in whom we can share our worries, concerns, and aspirations, but it can be hard to establish these kinds of relationships. One must reveal a fair degree of vulnerability in order to engender trust in another, and that can feel risky. The consequences of failing to open up can be quite high, however.

20
Mar

A Thursday morning link roundup

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

A few interesting articles I’ve found floating around on the interwebs this morning:

  • There’s this piece at Slate about Matthew Crawford, the Ph.D. who became a motorcycle mechanic and wrote a book about it (Shop Class as Soul Craft).
  • In the U.S., the Council of Graduate Schools is initiating a new study of
20
Mar

A Canada Day link roundup

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

It’s Canada Day here north of the 49th parallel. I know that when I was a grad student, every day was a work day, including civic holidays. Now that I’m out of academia, plus self-employed, plus a mom, I carve out very deliberate boundaries with my time (this has sometimes been difficult for people who would rather I conducted business outside of my M-F, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm work schedule!).

Because today is a holiday,

20
Mar

Universities, gender and cheap labor

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

Last Wednesday, there was a piece in the Chronicle with some pretty shocking (and yet not surprising) numbers about how much contingent labour is used in the American university system. Now, I am too cheap to buy a web subscription to the Chronicle, so I chose not to pay to read the full article.

19
Mar

An antidote to the “Ph.D. useless” sentiment

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

I’ve been blogging, on and off, about the process of leaving academia for three years now. At my old blog, I always found it both illuminating and sad when I would go through my site stats and discover that a lot of people discovered Leaving Academia by Googling “Ph.D. useless.” It’s self-evident why it’s sad, but it was also illuminating because there were literally hundreds of people typing this into their search engines.  The following composition, from the December 2010 issue of ‘The Economist’ eloquently covers the subject matter.

The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

ON THE evening before All Saints’ Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research—a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn’t graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What’s discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Rich pickings

For most of history even a first degree at a university was the privilege of a rich few, and many academic staff did not hold doctorates. But as higher education expanded after the second world war, so did the expectation that lecturers would hold advanced degrees. American universities geared up first: by 1970 America was producing just under a third of the world’s university students and half of its science and technology PhDs (at that time it had only 6% of the global population). Since then America’s annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000.

Other countries are catching up. Between 1998 and 2006 the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40%, compared with 22% for America. PhD production sped up most dramatically in Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Even Japan, where the number of young people is shrinking, churned out about 46% more PhDs. Part of that growth reflects the expansion of university education outside America. Richard Freeman, a labour economist at Harvard University, says that by 2006 America was enrolling just 12% of the world’s students.

But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009—higher than the average for judges and magistrates.

Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.

A short course in supply and demand

In research the story is similar. PhD students and contract staff known as “postdocs”, described by one student as “the ugly underbelly of academia”, do much of the research these days. There is a glut of postdocs too. Dr Freeman concluded from pre-2000 data that if American faculty jobs in the life sciences were increasing at 5% a year, just 20% of students would land one. In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax—the average salary of a construction worker. The rise of the postdoc has created another obstacle on the way to an academic post. In some areas five years as a postdoc is now a prerequisite for landing a secure full-time job.

These armies of low-paid PhD researchers and postdocs boost universities’, and therefore countries’, research capacity. Yet that is not always a good thing. Brilliant, well-trained minds can go to waste when fashions change. The post-Sputnik era drove the rapid growth in PhD physicists that came to an abrupt halt as the Vietnam war drained the science budget. Brian Schwartz, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, says that in the 1970s as many as 5,000 physicists had to find jobs in other areas.

In America the rise of PhD teachers’ unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later. Student teachers in public universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed unions as early as the 1960s, but the pace of unionisation has increased recently. Unions are now spreading to private universities; though Yale and Cornell, where university administrators and some faculty argue that PhD students who teach are not workers but apprentices, have resisted union drives. In 2002 New York University was the first private university to recognise a PhD teachers’ union, but stopped negotiating with it three years later.

In some countries, such as Britain and America, poor pay and job prospects are reflected in the number of foreign-born PhD students. Dr Freeman estimates that in 1966 only 23% of science and engineering PhDs in America were awarded to students born outside the country. By 2006 that proportion had increased to 48%. Foreign students tend to tolerate poorer working conditions, and the supply of cheap, brilliant, foreign labour also keeps wages down.

Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.

Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia. One OECD study shows that five years after receiving their degrees, more than 60% of PhDs in Slovakia and more than 45% in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain were still on temporary contracts. Many were postdocs. About one-third of Austria’s PhD graduates take jobs unrelated to their degrees. In Germany 13% of all PhD graduates end up in lowly occupations. In the Netherlands the proportion is 21%.

A very slim premium

PhD graduates do at least earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British men with a bachelor’s degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master’s degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree.

Dr Schwartz, the New York physicist, says the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses. Thirty years ago, he says, Wall Street firms realised that some physicists could work out differential equations and recruited them to become “quants”, analysts and traders. Today several short courses offer the advanced maths useful for finance. “A PhD physicist with one course on differential equations is not competitive,” says Dr Schwartz.

Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual.

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors’ publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn’t in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband.

Monica Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, is a rare exception. She believes that too many PhDs are being produced, and has stopped admitting them. But such unilateral academic birth control is rare. One Ivy-League president, asked recently about PhD oversupply, said that if the top universities cut back others will step in to offer them instead.

Noble pursuits

Many of the drawbacks of doing a PhD are well known. Your correspondent was aware of them over a decade ago while she slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology. As Europeans try to harmonise higher education, some institutions are pushing the more structured learning that comes with an American PhD.

The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. In Britain a four-year NewRoutePhD claims to develop just such skills in graduates.

Measurements and incentives might be changed, too. Some university departments and academics regard numbers of PhD graduates as an indicator of success and compete to produce more. For the students, a measure of how quickly those students get a permanent job, and what they earn, would be more useful. Where penalties are levied on academics who allow PhDs to overrun, the number of students who complete rises abruptly, suggesting that students were previously allowed to fester.

Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.

from the print edition | Christmas Specials
19
Mar

What Not To Say In Your Job Interview

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

Job Interview
by tedmurphy under CC BY

.

Job Interview – What You Should NEVER Do

What you should say during a job interview depends on the position you’re trying to get along with your preferences, skills as well as experience. However, some answers are better than others.

No good will come from talking bad about your past companies. You stand the chance of appearing as an employee that could be considered a “management issue”.   Requesting special treatment in the interview can make you appear as someone who will have constant requests once you are comfortably employed.  Also avoid personal problems, by complaining or whining you show that you could allow home issues to effect your duties in the work place.  Make sure to avoid statements that could  be perceived as argumentative.  Your goal should be to prove you will be liked within the company and fit into it identity.  Expletives and derogatory remarks should be avoided, but don’t be dishonest.  The truth will come out at some point, and misleading information will come back to haunt you.

Informing an interviewer tasks you are above can also be an alarm. Be sure you apply for positions which are right for you, and realize that people continually must complete tasks which are less than enjoyable. Take time to learn about the organization before you decide to interview.  You should know why you are attracted to the specific company, as well as how you fit in and how it helps to further your own personal goals.  Allow the potential company to initiate salary conversations. It can be a red flag if the interviewee is the one to initiate the topic of money.  Asking about holidays, sick days or vacation is often a potential turnoff since you will seem more interested in time off as opposed to working hard on job by itself.  The hardworking, devoted employee is more dedicated to completing the tasks and being productive.

The topic of strengths and weakness can be a dicey topic.  When discussing strengths you should give three or four examples of your good qualities, and relate them to how they will help you be an asset in this role for their company.  Weakness can be harder to answer.  Many will answer that they are a ‘workaholic’ or that they can be hyper focused on doing a good job.  This can sound dishonest or not believable.  The better idea is to be truthful by admitting a  minor personal shortcoming, and explaining the steps you are taking or have taken to overcome this attribute.

  • Please…I beg of you…don’t come to an interview if you haven’t bathed or brushed your teeth! If anyone thinks I’m kidding, I’m not. While this may seem absolutely obvious to almost everyone, I assure you, there are some folks who may not realize this matters. And if you are one of them…it absolutely does! You don’t have to come dressed like a fashion plate – in fact probably a good idea not to unless it’s some snazzy high-fashion job – and even then, less may be more. Tasteful, well-groomed, bathed…I think this pretty much says it.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer! Even if you think you get where they’re going and have the most brilliant answer ever to their interview question, this is one of the most annoying things you can do. Give them a chance to finish. And at least do your best to maintain eye contact and show you are listening intently – and are very interested in and respectful of the person speaking.
  • Don’t take off on your own and answer a question that wasn’t asked. Following up on the previous “don’t”, you may think you know where they’re going, but they may throw you a curve ball. Or, in your nervousness or desire to make all your practiced points, you may in fact miss the point. I’ve seen people going off on tangents that may be interesting enough, but it  showed me they weren’t really listening. Listen carefully and be right there in the moment – and not racing ahead to your answer or thinking of next questions. It’s probably the best thing you can do for yourself in an interview. (Other than bathing.) Of course, if there is a related key strength you want to tell them about, there may be a way to fit that into your answer, as long as you don’t go on and on. But first…answer the question.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne. I hope I don’t need to explain this, but if I do…first, some people find perfumes or colognes offensive – worse yet, some people may be allergic.  They don’t belong in an interview…except maybe (once again tastefully done) if you are interviewing at the company that makes the product, I guess. Once again, bathing / showering will pretty much do the trick here.
  • Don’t go heavy on the make-up. (To be gender neutral, this goes for men or women.) The closer to natural you look, the more the real you can shine through.  To be candid, I have to admit now I haven’t used make-up for years, but if you do use it, artfully applied it can be a real asset. But too much and too bold…well, some employers will see it as a sign that you are more about looks and surface things than business. This general “don’t” can be adapted to how you dress, of course.
  • No gum, no candy – nothing in your mouth except teeth (hopefully) and other nature-given stuff.  You’re there to speak and listen – without anything else going on in there. Once again, you want to show you are about the business and not your own comfort or habits. I recently read that maybe you should even think twice about bringing your own coffee. (I’m not sure about that one – unless your choice of coffee sends the wrong message.   If anyone read that article, I’d love the link.) Of course, if you’re offered coffee, tea or water, by all means feel free to accept. I myself do bring a bottle of water with me and I believe it has never hurt, but I’m open to hearing otherwise if someone wants to chime in here.  Oh…and while you probably shouldn’t bring much of anything in with you (other than anything the employer requested), one thing you SHOULD remember to bring is a few copies of your resume, just in case. (I read some people even bring their relatives with them…ewww. Again I would love the link.)
  • Don’t listen to your iPod, play video games, make cell phone calls, etc. while waiting to be interviewed. Take care of all that before you come in the door of the building.  Or, if you really need to make IMPORTANT calls while you wait, ask if you may use a private area to do so. Just like with dating, impressions form quickly. Watching someone dial a bunch of friends or play video games while waiting, leaves the impression the person will be doing that during their workday too. Since you are there to present yourself as a capable, serious candidate, start your presentation from the moment you walk in.  Impressions you leave can last well beyond the day of the interview. And you never know whom you run into on the elevator or even as you enter the building.  After the interview, maintain your best interview attitude until you are away from the building.

If you think banking upon your professionally prepared CV and academic qualifications can help you bag your dream job, think again. While am impressive CV has fetched you an interview call, but it is how you perform in the interview that will decide your fate.

While it is important to prepare well for the job interview by doing research about the company, its profile, your expected role, one must know what not to say in a job interview.

  1. How much will I be paid: Never ask a company about your salary in the first round of interview as it does not make a good impression on employers. If money is discussed, it is up to the interviewer from the company to broach that subject. If they ask you how much money you want, have a range of pay packages to give them and not a specific amount. But it is better to research how much the job you want really pays in your town or state and then come up with a range of a yearly salary to request.
  2. What does your company make (or do)? A job candidate must research the company for which they want to work before going into a job interview with them. If you appear blank when asked about the company’s profile, your prospective employer will not have a good impression of you. Search about the company on the Internet and read as much as you can about it and take notes.
  3. Don’t use slangs or phrases in your job interview: Avoid using words like jerk, and, cool, wanna. Interview is not a casual conversation with friends in a lounge. It is a formal conversation which requires good English and communication skills. Using slang in the interview would make you look non-serious and unprofessional.
  4. Never bad-mouthing your employer or boss: If you say things like my previous boss was a jerk or there was lot of office politics, you may be perceived as immature, unable to handle work pressure or be discreet. Saying derogatory things about him/her will reflect on you.
  5. Don’t talk too much: When asked about yourself, don’t tell your life story as it will lead your employers to perceive you as immature. You should just stick to your academic qualifications, previous work experience and any other added skills or achievements. Do not go into details or tell your personal problems.
  6. In five years, I see myself on a boat in Hawaii. When a company is asking “Where do you see yourself in five years, they want to judge your long time goals. If you give answers like vacationing in Hawaii or cruising around the globe, it will have your employers questioning your sincerity. When interviewers ask you about long-term goals, they want an answer that relates to the company or commitment towards it.
  7. Sorry, I don’t know how to do that: Rather than admitting that you don’t have a specific skill or knowledge about a particular software, stress that you’re a fast learner and are excited about the possibility of acquiring new skills. Most companies would rather hire an enthusiastic, smart person who needs to be trained than someone who already has the required skills but isn’t as eager to learn.
  8. I have no weakness: When prospective employers ask you about your weakness, they expect you to be honest or at least have some kind of answer. If you say you don’t have any, the interviewer will believe that you are lying or that you are not thinking or being biased. You can say that you don’t like to waste time on small talk.
  9. Avoid saying unnecessary lies and stop exaggerating: Don’t lie! You’ll be found out, and you’ll regret it. Lies like I was offered a job with so and so company with 3 times this amount or I have done the highest number of sales in my current company, such things can always be found out. Hence, you must never exaggerate.
  10. What benefits does your company offer: This is a definite no, no as no one likes to hire selfish people. They want to know why they should hire you. Stress the contributions you can make. Tell them about how your efforts helped previous employers. Don’t start asking about raises, bonuses, and promotions right away. They hate it when you ask them “What can you do for me?”