Saturday, July 28, 2012

how to answer the most difficult interview question

I dread the interview question; " Tell us about yourself". I think we all do. We feel strange talking about ourselves. We don't know exactly what the interviewer is looking for, we want to sound professional, calm and thoughtful. That completely goes against what it's really like for most people's career path. 


Many of us interviewing regularly have an ambiguous route. We're trying to get a job, any job the first few career steps. Wandering in the early stages of our career helps to shape a satisfying work life later. This is normal and healthy, but it sounds lame. Solution; transform your wanderings into adventure and highlight all the great experience you acquired on the way. Extra bonus points if you can relate experiences to your perspective on the industry you're in now. 


Practice telling your story as an evolving development to your present passions and focus.
life is a highway? More like a meandering goat trail!


Here's my short biography



I started home brewing with friends at Washington State University. We all studied science together and loved brewing after class and applying our chemistry class to fun pursuits (it was cheap too!). After graduating with my bachelors in microbiology, I did cellar at Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River Oregon. Here I learned about production, yeast handling and the needs of large production breweries. Next I studied hops at S.S. Steiner in their R&D lab. I loved learning the science behind hop extraction and cultivation. I worked with their team to analyze data, care for our greenhouse and create tools to help breeders identify hops with development potential. I pursued a masters in genetics until I realized research was a terrible career path for me. I love interacting with people and the thrill of industry and business too much to stay in a lab.

Back in Washington, I worked at Saddlerock Pub and Brewery in downtown Wenatchee and Icicle Brewing Company in Leavenworth simultaneously. That's a lot of bar tending! Still a big nerd, I kept studying brewing science. The pub downtown showed me the business of running a taproom (dealing with distributors, liquor control board, throwing events) and the art of customer service.

At Icicle my responsibilities kept growing. I began offering brewery tours, putting together food and beer pairings, teaching staff about beer styles and production and hosting charity outreach nights. I spent time with our salesman and learned to value our relationship to commercial customers. Icicle's distribution grew and I began to see more brewing industry folks coming through. I made sure they got the special treatment our owners expected. We put together a customer outreach position to ensure our retail guests had great service in our tasting room. By spring of 2012 I felt ready to apply to brewing school. I was accepted to the master brewing program at University of California, Davis. This program has a lengthy waiting list so I'm using my time to continue gaining industry experience.

By summer 2012, I had made great connections to several breweries in Washington and Oregon. John Roberston, walked through our door one fine day. He promptly took the best seat in the house and a kolsch. We talked about beer styles, brewing as a business and customer service. Tony Powell and Scott Hansen (of Fish Tale and Leavenworth Biers) joined him and we toured the brewhouse. We discussed craft beer in Washington and Oregon over several pints. John asked the one question bothering me: Why are you not brewing? I loved Icicle and my job in customer service, but my dream of brewing couldn't happen at Icicle simply due to size and timing. John and I kept in touch as he pushed toward opening Bellevue Brewing. In July, the guys asked me to join the brewing team at Bellevue Brewing Company. 

Here's how it really went:
I wasn't sure if leaving research was a good choice, I felt adrift and lost plenty of times. I was exhausted from moving to a different city every few months those first years out of college. 

By focusing on what we've gained from our experience and how it contributes to our current dream job we can tell a great story with ourselves as protagonist. If you're under 25 potential employers dont really care about your experience. What you can offer is passion, enthusiasm, great personality and sense of humor. Highlight your passion for your industry by pointing out how your hobbies are related or any writing you've done about your work. Blogging, homebrewer's meetings, and culinary training all play into my work life. What are your hobbies doing for your career?

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