How to stand out when Interviewing – Part 2: Gathering Data about Yourself

In the previous post, I wrote about some questions you can use to help identify which direction to take your career. This post will go over how to gather data about yourself to provide evidence and narrative to get your career going in the direction you want to go. The types of metrics I list below (and more that you’ll come up with) are the ones you want to look for because they are very powerful when provided on a resume or in person because they show that you took the time to measure and improve a portion of something you worked on to benefit the business more. 90+% of the resumes I’ve read don’t have these types of numbers to back them up but they should and would make the individual stand out much more. Also, metrics are great when interviewing because it gives the interviewer a piece of information to probe about, such as “How exactly did you raise customer satisfaction rates by 17%?”

Gathering Data? I’m not a scientist…

You can’t improve yourself if you don’t know what you need to improve, so you need begin to keep track and gather data about yourself. I advocate at least a weekly log of the work that you do, which is what I use. Some people advocate a daily log, but this introduces a little too much friction for me, however I won’t be offended if you use it as long as it works best for you. All you need to do is simply write down what you did that week, which will be done periodically throughout the week. Anytime you complete a piece of a project, write it down. Don’t get into the minutiae such as when you got coffee, but anytime you complete something that works towards your themes or goals, write that down.

What types of data should I gather?

Each week, I also try to post up one metric that I worked on to improve that week. One week, it might be cutting down the amount of time it takes to compile our code. The next week, it might be eliminating duplication or extra steps in the build process. Sometimes, I don’t have a metric to post that week because I’m in the development phase of an idea, but when I’m about to implement or replace something, I do my best to keep track of that in some fashion, such as time saved for a process to run or amount of build definitions reduced.

For instance, I was hired to improve the build process at a company, among other things. When I timed the execution of a build the way the company had been doing it originally, I found it took about 3 hours and had a number of manual steps that hadn’t been written down and were very error-prone. After I had incorporated my improvements and automated the process so that it was a one-click build process, it took about 45 minutes to execute, which came out to a 75% reduction in execution time in addition to the elimination of human input that could cause errors.

If you were a manager and attempting to gather metrics, you might take monthly surveys on how the team feels about their job, using something like “On a scale of Very Satisfied/Likely to Very Dissatisfied/Unlikely: Are you happy with your job? Would you recommend this company to other people? Are you satisfied with your opportunities to learn?” You could also ask for suggestions on things that need improving. Try to identify the root cause of the problem, and the answers you turn up might be very surprising. This helps greatly when members on your team feel like leaving the company because they aren’t being listened to as long as you act on it.

Another metric that you could track is the number of complaints or issues your group deals with and how processes or improvements you put in place reduced those complaints or issues. If that number doesn’t change the number of complaints or issues, see if the number of satisfied customers increases instead.

As an example to try to quantify metrics you may measure, we’ll use the example of a project that has a tight schedule and is stressing people on your team out. Let’s say that you adjusted the workloads by pushing completion dates back, and you found that by simply removing the pressure of getting things done one X date, your team was capable of actually getting the work done ahead of the original schedule because they felt like they had more time to go back through and do the work the right way.

If you take on new responsibilities or receive a promotion, mark that as well and show how you improved things in the new position. This proves you’ve got a track record of making dramatic changes that affect the bottom-line in a positive way as you move up the ladder. I’ve included some questions below that should help you begin to identify metrics that you can track:

  • Is there a task I do repeatedly that I can automate? How much time is saved by automating this process? How many people do this process by hand? How many mistakes are made in a given day/week when performing this task?
  • When is the best time to perform this task? Can this task be done at a better time? – Echoing something that Tim Ferriss did here where he cut down the amount of time he spent trying to sell a product over the phone. This is for something like sales with C-level executives and repeatedly getting their assistants instead of the person that can really make the decision.
  • Are people satisfied with the work that I do, or do I get a lot of complaints or bug reports? Is there something I can do to cut down the number of complaints/bug reports (such as talking to customers more to get to the bottom of why they are complaining)?
  • Are we currently tracking customer satisfaction and time to resolve their issues? If so, what can I do to cut response times down and increase satisfaction?
  • How many sales am I getting each month and what is my single biggest obstacle when closing sales? What can I do to get me 80% of the way past that obstacle and close more sales?
  • How many people are completing each step of this process? When someone doesn’t complete the process, are we asking them why they didn’t complete it? – This can help by identifying what items you can include when running A/B tests.
  • What is my current ranking for search term “X” when people use Google to search? How many blog posts do we have that talk about “X” and things that might use “X”? – Echoing Gary Vaynerchuk talking about wine. Gary ran a video blog about wine for 1,000 episodes and cemented himself as an influential catalyst in the wine world.
  • How much does it cost us to do “X”? What can we do to cut that down without sacrificing quality and user experience?

If you found value in this content, I encourage you to read the rest of the posts in this series about how to stand out when interviewing:

  1. Picking a new PositionOne of the biggest problems people encounter when they are looking for a new job is, “What do I look for now? Should I get the same job somewhere else? Should I try to move up? What if I’m not qualified?!” In this post, we discuss a couple of methods you can use to help you get clarity in which direction you should head with your career.
  2. (You are here) Gather Data about Yourself – This post discusses some ways you can use to get concrete insight on information you can use to prove your skills and experience throughout your job search.
  3. Craft your Theme - Once you’ve gathered the data, you should either see or develop some sort of trend in your work. You should also try to craft this theme to fit into your overall career goals. Your theme should provide a narrative behind where your career has been and where you are proactively directing it.
  4. Writing your Base Resume – I recommend you write a base resume to help you get a solid grasp of the direction you want to head with your career. This post discusses an approach I take to doing this.
  5. Build your Portfolio - By providing a portfolio of your work, you not only tell the person or company you are interviewing with that you are awesome, but you give them examples of your work so that they can investigate it for themselves.
  6. Practicing Interviewing – With this post, we talk about some methods you can use to practice interviewing.
  7. Picking the Companies to interview - In this post, we’ll talk about picking the right companies to interview with so that you know how to tailor your resume.
  8. How to prepare for an interview – While you are waiting for companies to respond back asking for interviews, you should be breaking apart the job descriptions even further and writing down examples of work you’ve done previously to satisfy each requirement that they are listing. You should be also boning up on the basics of your potential job and the theory behind it.
  9. Common Interview Questions and Answers – You’ve made it this far and you’re starting to interview with companies. During each interview, you want to ask 3 specific questions which I’ll cover later in this article.
  10. Accepting a Job Offer - At the end of the interview process with each company, one of two (obvious) things will happen: rejection or acceptance. I’ll discuss how to deal with each one of them and where to go from there.
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  1. [...] Gather Data about Yourself – You need to know as much as you can about the quality of work that you do. You need to be able to define what value you have provided and currently provide to a customer of some sort, whether that be a business, everyday person, open source community, etc. One of the big things you want to capture is metrics, such as how much time or money you save the company by optimization or increasing customer satisfaction. Also, you should be going back through your previous reviews to capture praise and other positive feedback, as well as negative feedback that you’ve addressed and plan to address. [...]

  2. […] Gather Data about Yourself – You need to know as much as you can about the quality of work that you do. You need to be able to define what value you have provided and currently provide to a customer of some sort, whether that be a business, everyday person, open source community, etc. One of the big things you want to capture is metrics, such as how much time or money you save the company by optimization or increasing customer satisfaction. Also, you should be going back through your previous reviews to capture praise and other positive feedback, as well as negative feedback that you’ve addressed and plan to address. […]

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