I work in a Fortune 500 company. I’m not a manager, but have been writing the job descriptions of my group’s entry-level/intern positions and later on involved in the hiring process. My company has a bureaucratic hiring system, below are my observations regarding the interview process for my company.
1. Applying early may have some advantage; it depends. Our position has a two-week application window; the system will close the position after that. We can extend the window for longer time if we do not have enough or qualified applicants in the first run.
2. We acknowledge if the candidate is local or not, and/or, if the candidate is referred internally or has some networking/relationship with us. Networking and referral do have advantages in enhancing the candidate’s chance – we’d be more careful should we decide to skip him/her, however, the decisive matrix is the skill set match.
3. We asked about career plan and similar questions about career path. I think this is mainly because we are a big company and would like to invest on the new hire who would likely stay with us longer and make sure that we can provide him/her a growth path. I don’t think the job security question makes a lot of sense, because the employment is at will, and for a big company one can move from one job to another job. In case of hiring an intern, we would tell the candidate upfront whether the internship would lead to a full-time position in the company.
4. We’d like to know more about the candidate, but would more welcome the candidate ask questions. Questions that could demonstrate your interest and passion in our industry and that you researched about us would impress the interviewers. We had a candidate who asked me a question about my paper and it impressed all the interviewers (two managers plus me).
5. You can find a lot of information by surfing the company’s web. Certainly, you can call an internal for more information. I think this is a place many Chinese students can do better. This year we phone-interviewed three candidates (two Chinese and one American, out of 200+ applications). I contacted one Chinese and the American candidates beforehand to set up the interview. The Chinese candidate called back, however, always asked about questions that hinted the questions in interview. This was not wise. I’d be very happy to answer his questions about the intern job, the working environment, my job, anything but just not the questions in interview.
6. Name should not reduce the opportunity, but sometimes it might add some unnecessary obstacle in building up the chemistry beforehand. One of the two above Chinese candidates has a name like Xxxx Zxxx, my boss really liked his resume, I watched him stare at the resume trying hard to pronounce it correctly and finally he asked me. The two managers were much relieved when they found out that he has an English name. (I have an English name and it works very well in school and work.)
7. Length of resume. Human resource printed out the resumes and brought them to us. None of the resume I read was of one page, because for the print out of our system, the first page primarily contained contact info, summary and education. We looked carefully at details of the working/intern experience (if you have) and/or course, projects and researches you’ve worked on. The details attracted our attention and helped us to establish if there’s a potential good match between the candidate’s skill set and the job. All the candidates that we finally interviewed had the resumes that provided good details of their work/study.
8. Some cultural difference may work against Chinese in interview. We Chinese might smile courtesy too often, especially when not sure or not feeling comfortable. My boss contacted one Chinese candidate before the phone interview and told me that he wondered why she giggled throughout the call. She did it again in the phone interview. Although her answers indicated that her skill set were not as strong as that we projected from her resume, the giggles gave us a weird feeling and no one at the other end of the line understood what she giggled about.
9. Communication is the key. Listen the question carefully and make sure that you understand it completely before answering. The other Chinese who has the best match missed one question completely. We asked about his team work experience, he spent a long time elaborating how he carried out his project technically. As the ability of team work is as important as the concrete skill set, we asked the same question again in another way; however, he still could not understand and missed it again. Should he get a pass on this question, he would stand a really high chance of being hired (we even thought about creating a second intern position but finally gave up because we could not secure a full-time position if he does well in intern).
10. Back to the career plan question, this really depends, just to offer my observation for your reference. The two Chinese candidates were first-year MBA students (the job is in marketing) and the American candidate is not. Regarding the near-term and long-term career goals, both Chinese answered in a general management way (my boss’s comments) that they want to take some management responsibility in the long run. The American answered that his near-term goal was to get graduated and a job he likes and the long-term goal was to gain experiences and go on to an MBA program after 2-3 years.
Though the general answers did not give negative marks for each candidate, we all liked his answers simply because they’re practical. Indeed, as soon as he started his intern, we arranged as many opportunities as possible to expose him to different business units and show him around, as he asked.