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The More You Know: Job Searching & Interviewing

In the midst of global change and virtual hiring, the landscape of job searching has changed. We sat down (via WebEx) with recruiting leaders, accessibility experts and career changers at Cisco Secure and Duo Security to find out the top 10 ways to make the virtual job search, application and interview process as easeful as possible. Stay tuned for future topics in this series including advice for career changers and environmental aspects to consider for long-term fulfillment at work.

1. Keep up with career pages and other career posting sites.

Cisco Secure Talent Acquisition Lead Jeff Edwards says, “Check the Cisco.com careers page consistently, because new roles are opening up daily. Cisco’s always hiring and looking for strong talent. We fill the roles quickly, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t considered for the first role you apply to.”

Dice, Indeed, Hired, LinkedIn, Built In, and The Muse are other go-to sources for jobs at Cisco Secure and Duo. “Follow companies on LinkedIn, and look at the jobs they’ve posted. You may learn more details about the kind of work they’re doing and what they’re striving for,” shares Duo Security Lead Recruiter Shannon Curran.

2. Consider a company’s evolution.

Articles, interviews with company leaders, and acquisition history offer “a good snapshot of how a company’s evolved over time and what it’s trying to accomplish going forward. For example when Cisco got started, it was highly focused on hardware. Now we’re wanting to be the top security company in the world,” reports Edwards.

3. Understand what the company is looking for.

By reviewing multiple job posts, you can get a better understanding of the skills and qualities the company values most in candidates. Kelly Davenport, manager of the Global Knowledge and Communities team, “look(s) for folks who are curious, love to learn, like to ask questions, and understand our customer-centered mission where we’re accountable to the people who we provide this service to and we want to do right by them.”

Conversely, in security and engineering, Edwards explains, “We want strategic thinkers who can work independently and collaboratively. We’re looking for candidates who have a passion for the next generation of cutting-edge products for our customers. We’re focusing on many different skill sets, from DevOps to site reliability engineers, product managers, program managers, software developers, UI and UX developers, and engineers with skill sets like Java, AWS, Golang, Python, etc.”

Curran adds, “A candidate may not have all of the check marks of experience and skills, but if they worked on some of the areas that we are looking for and are kinder than necessary when we talk to them, we share that with our hiring managers.”

4. Update your resume and showcase your relevant skills.

To develop an impactful resume, Edwards suggests: “Highlight your skills and experience as they relate to the role you’re interviewing for. So if you’re interviewing for a back end or front end Java developer role, call out all the different programs that you’re working on or the things you’re doing, or the level of development that you’re involved with from a project standpoint. That allows a hiring manager to really focus in on, ‘Well, you’re doing this and we definitely work on that program quite a bit. Can you give me your level of expertise, your comfort level, how hands-on you are with that specific program?’”

When reviewing a resume, Curran considers, “Do they have other relevant skills that can be applied to other roles that we’re recruiting for? As a recruiter, you may be working to fill 10 to 12 roles, and they may not all be the same. So we keep in mind if they’re not a match for this role, where else might they be a match. If we don’t have a role, could we share their profile with other recruiters on the team to see if they have a match?”

5. Connect with recruiters on LinkedIn.

When reaching out to recruiters on LinkedIn, Curran advises to say something along the lines of, “Hey, I’d like to connect. I’m a software engineer. I’ve worked in these technologies and would like to see if there’s anything you have that may be relevant with my background,” or, “Hey, I’ve looked at the job site. I thought this job was interesting, and I’ve applied to it. Is there any way that you would be open to speaking with me or can share more details about the role, or connect me with somebody that may be able to help?”

Edwards shares, “I love proactive candidates who know what they want. The key is, send your resume or your LinkedIn profile with that initial message, because that allows us as recruiters to immediately provide feedback. Like, ‘Hey, thanks so much, I don’t think this is the right role for you, but let me forward you to a couple of my colleagues who have roles that I think you’d be a great fit for.’ It allows us to collaborate faster and shows that you’ve done your research and know what you want and you’re interested in this company, this role, and working on these types of products.”

6. Learn about accessibility resources during and beyond the interview process.

Julie Kramer, a Marketing Specialist focused on employee experience and accessibility, states, “Review the company’s site to see if they have a statement about accommodations, disability, and what they include for the environment. Find a place that meets your interest, education, and experience. Review the company policies when it comes to inclusion and demand the best fit for yourself. Cisco has been accommodating, providing whatever we’ve needed including closed captioning and sign language interpreters.”

In terms of accessibility while interviewing, discuss any accommodations requests with your recruiter or point of contact. In terms of accessibility while interviewing, Kramer says, “Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for the accommodations that you need, including during the interviewing process. Just let them know that you do need accommodations and what your specific needs are. Human Resources have to provide that because in the United States we have the Americans with Disabilities Act. In other countries, candidates need to make sure that they provide what their language needs are as far as an interpreter, for example.”

7. Know what to expect in the interview process.

Curran describes a potential interview on the Duo side of things: “As a recruiter, we prep candidates on what to expect for an interview. For example, they may speak with a recruiter and then we’ll communicate with the hiring manager, and if they’re interested, the candidate will have a phone interview with the hiring manager. If it’s on the engineering side and that goes well, then they’ll have a technical interview. They would be given a programming language of their choice. There’s no right or wrong answer, we just like to see the solution that they come up with.”

In terms of the Product team, “First, they’ll have a phone interview with the hiring manager. Then if there’s interest, there’s a case study which they would review and then discuss as part of the next interview steps. We do our best to explain the interview process so that candidates know what to expect in terms of how long the interviews might last and who they may be speaking with.”

Edwards describes the process at Cisco: “We’ve gotten pretty good at operating a virtual interviewing process. It doesn’t hurt that we own all these collaborative tools like WebEx Teams. Depending on the role, the interview process and the number of interviews can vary. Typically there’s a recruiter screen first, then a conversation with the hiring manager for what we would call a first-round interview. If the hiring manager wants to move the candidate forward, a second round usually consists of two to four interviews, and a couple of those could be technical interviews where there could be a panel.”

With some of the technical roles, Edwards shares, “There can be live coding challenges using virtual whiteboards where we can bounce stuff back and forth and really gauge the knowledge. The rest of the two to four interviews might be more behaviorally based. Typically, on the average, it would be three to five interviews total plus a recruiter screen in the beginning. We try to stay in constant communication with the candidates throughout the interview process, whether through email, calls or texts. Candidates are interviewing us just as much as we’re interviewing them to see if this is the right place.”

Edwards explains further, “We’re striving for interview standardization as it brings out objectivity and equality to our process. We have a certified interviewer training that all of our interviewers go through before they can interview candidates.”

8. Be Prepared, Especially Virtually.

To ensure a smooth virtual interview, Edwards advises, “Make sure to download WebEx or other tools way ahead of time so when it comes time for your interview, it’s an easy, quick login. Test the systems beforehand and make sure your mics are working so that you can be heard clearly. If your computer speakers are bad, call in.”

Many in-person interview guidelines apply for virtual interviews. Edwards says, “Be there early. Promptness is important in interviews.” In terms of dress, for Cisco interviews Edwards recommends business casual: “You don’t need to wear a suit, but don’t show up in a T-shirt either. It’s a California company, we’re pretty laid-back, you don’t need to get dressed to the nines, just look presentable. Bring a list of questions for the interviewer, as well as examples of projects or experiences in your current or past roles that highlight the impact that you’ve made.”

9. Don’t be afraid to own your accomplishments or interview for multiple roles.

Edwards elaborates, “You can say, ‘Well, we did this and we did that,’ but that’s not what the hiring manager’s looking for in an interview. A hiring manager wants to know what you did. This is the time where you get a pass to brag on yourself. Talk about the ‘I.’ ‘What did I do?’ ‘I did this, I was involved in that, I managed that project.’ If you keep saying ‘we,’ the hiring manager can’t discern how involved you were.”

While it may not be the case at other companies, Edwards shares that “Cisco is very supportive of candidates interviewing for multiple roles at the same time. Just let your recruiters know so we can coordinate behind the scenes. We’re all one big team. We all want to bring great talent into Cisco and I don’t care if the recruiter over there gets the offer, or if I get the offer, we’re not measured that way. We don’t get paid commissions. We do this because we love the job, we love helping people advance their careers and change their lives. Keep us in the loop, it’s encouraged here at Cisco to interview for more than one role, apply to more than one role and stay in touch with those recruiters if they don’t work out, because most likely they’re going to have those roles open back up again.”

10. When approaching behavioral and technical Interviews, it’s all about S-A-R.

If behavioral interviews are part of the interview process, to prepare, Edwards suggests, “Start thinking about different projects and experiences you’ve had and look at it from the angle of S-A-R: Situation, Action steps and Results. And once again, focus on the ‘I.’” — what you specifically did, or how you specifically made an impact.

A question could be, “‘Tell me about a time when you had a project or deadline and a difficult obstacle to overcome to meet that deadline.’ You want to describe the situation, then describe the action steps that you took to overcome that obstacle to meet that deadline. And then, what was the end result? If you can remember S-A-R and think through that with different projects as you’re preparing for your interview, even in technical interviews, sometimes those examples of the projects and that S-A-R method can still be beneficial as you’re describing a project before you’re diving into the actual technical side of things. So it can be very, very beneficial across the board from an interviewing standpoint.”

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At Cisco Secure and Duo, we protect our customers so they can pursue their passions. We’re looking for enthusiastic, proactive people who are driven to help others, make the world a better place through technology, and cultivate their career path along the way. If you get a kick out of collaborating with inspiring teammates, creating and supporting products that really make a difference, we want you.


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