6 Tips to Consider Before Any Job Interview

I met a young engineer today who reminded me pretty much of my 22-year-old version of myself: fresh graduate, ambitious, sharp, skinny (both physically and financially), clueless about what to do in life, but most importantly: under-estimating himself and his potential.

I am not in a position to lecture young professionals and give “life” or “career” advice, as I understand how many of us old folks can get very preachy and boring… However, I feel it is my duty to highlight all the things that I wished somebody told me when I was finishing college and transitioning into this new chapter of my life:

1- Know Your Worth in the Market

Many times candidates tend to undersell themselves to recruiters and hiring managers simply due to lack of knowledge on how much the market pays for their skills. While websites such as indeed.com or glassdoor.com do offer such data, one can argue that there is no third party that is verifying this crowd-sourced data (you can simply create an account and claim that you work for apple and get paid $500K and no one can verify that, at least up to my knowledge).

Instead, you can refer to a more credible data such as the NACE salary calculator. This is a reliable data source that is used by many recruiters and companies.

 When your self-worth goes up, your net worth goes up with it. 
Mark Victor Hansen

2- Change your Attitude

You are doing the company a favor by working for them, NOT the other way around!
This is not meant to boost one’s ego or challenge any company by showing them as “needy” or “desperate”, but to be honest, there is some truth to this statement. Tech companies are always on the lookout for talented engineers, creative programmers, and acute researchers. The GOOGLEs and APPLEs of each field (automotive, biomedical, big data, software, communication, …) understand that the biggest resource they can acquire is people like yourself!
Yes you may not offer any immediate benefit after you join, but  even experience professionals go through a steep learning curve when they join in order to learn the internal processes, company acronyms, unwritten rules and regulations, etc…

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) once said: “The upper hand is better than the lower hand”; this statement was mentioned in the context of being the hand that GIVES charity, not the one that accepts it. However this statement is painting a whole picture and a complete lifestyle: a successful person is not the one who begs for a job, for money, or for status but on the other hand strives to give more than take, and to contribute instead of being a burden. This all should be reflected in the way you write your resume and how you carry yourself in an interview.

The upper hand is better than the lower hand, the upper hand is the one which gives and the lower hand is the begging one.”
Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him
“‏اليد العليا خير من اليد السفلى‏.‏ واليد العليا هي المنفقة، والسفلى هي السائلة‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏‏.

3- Try to Get More than One Offer

Fresh graduates always have the disadvantage of starting from scratch, and hence being desperate to accept the first opportunity that presents itself.
While this issue is seemingly out of your control, you can still do something about it: Get as many offers as you can! Even if some of them do not fit into your criteria of an ideal job (different city or state, smaller company, more work, contract job or shorter duration). What you need at this point is to show that you are IN DEMAND. You want to negotiate your salary (point #4) from a stronger position.

4- Negotiate! Negotiate! ​Negotiate!

This commercial summarizes a lot of opportunities that are missed by many because simply “THEY DID NOT ASK”!

What holds true for insurance companies is definitely true in the corporate environment. You NEED TO ASK!

I know this may make you seem greedy, money-hungry, and demanding, and it may be super-awkward to negotiate when you are desperate to find a job to begin with. But PLEASE take my word for it:

Negotiate! You can be reasonable and firm at the same time; be upfront and honest and modest, it is not either or! And guess what? HR personnel and recruiters ALREADY assume that you will negotiate!
At least, PLEASE do not accept the first offer presented to you! use the above points and be prepared with data and with other arguments to defend your points.

Negotiation does not only include base salary negotiation, as there are always other perks you can ask for (which IMHO can be mentioned after you finish all the base salary stuff): benefits, vacation days, pension, retirement plan, annual merit or performance increase, signing bonus, relocation fees, …).

5- Get your Technical Jargon in Place 

If you’ve never been to a corporate environment, probably you have never been exposed to the technical jargon used by industry professionals. But guess what: most likely, you already know that stuff, but you don’t know what it’s called!

In my case, I didn’t realize that I used FMEA (Failure-Mode & Effect Analysis), DVP (Design Verification Plan), MBD (Model-Based Design), and MIL/HIL/SIL (Model-in-the-loop, Hardware-in-the-loop, and Software-in-the-loop). I was lucky enough to be mentored by professionals who connected the dots for me and showed me that what I have is way above what is required in the job description.

6- The Power of Prayer 

Prophet Moses was commissioned to speak to the Pharaoh of Egypt and call him to two things:

  1. Social Justice and stop the oppression of the Israelite’s.
  2. Stop Claiming that he is God, submit to the One God of Moses, and accept him as a messenger.

With very little help from the people, and a very hesitant voice, Moses used the following prayer (which was narrated in the Quran) to boost his morale and strengthen his heart:

Moses said, “Lord, lift up my heart
and ease my task for me.
Untie my tongue…
so that they may understand my words
and give me a helper from my family,
my brother Aaron–
augment my strength through him.
Let him share my task
so that we can glorify You much
and remember You often:
You are always watching over us”.
​God said, ‘Moses, your request is granted.
[Taha – 20:25-36]

I found this prayer very powerful in every uncomfortable situation I’ve been through… I strongly believe that these words – which carry universal concepts shared by all people not only Muslims – can give you that spiritual and moral support you need, in addition of course to proper preparation and mindset…
I appreciate reading your thoughts, tips, questions, and comments below; In addition, I really appreciate you sharing this advice if you found it helpful.. 

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Blog Comments

Salaam Dr Hakeem,
Please write on being more productive in an academic environment. How-to, etc.

you mean in a research setting? like for graduate students ?

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