Beyond the Usual, Passive DEI Efforts in Tech

Blog:Resume & Interview Advice

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Manny Becerra as a child

June 2016

I review a good number of resumes (CVs) from individuals looking to join our digital products & engineering team at Tesla. Some stand out, others don't. For various reasons.

Who we are outside of work deeply influences who we are at work. While we can keep personal and professional lives separate, our core values intersect all aspects of our lives.

While this is not a silver-bullet recipe for what to do or how to do it, here are some of the things that I keep an eye out for in a resume and candidate for a position I'm hiring for:

  • Relevant experience or competency
  • Ability (or potential) to learn & grow
  • Alignment with company vision / mission

Let's dig in...

For starters, I'm very interested in who you are as a person in-and-outside of your work and what your journey has been thus far. I believe that who we are outside of work deeply influences who we are at work. While we can keep personal and professional lives separate, our core values intersect all aspects of our lives.

Strive for excellence through progress, not perfection.

Relevant experience or competency

My least favorite: experience. At least, early in my career, in my 20s, this was my least favorite area of the job scouting process, particularly, because of the chicken-or-egg dilemna. For instance, you apply for a position fresh out of the gate looking for work, eager to apply all that you learned in school, on your own, perhaps even under some hybrid model, but your prospects respond with, "Come back when you have enough experience". Naturally—to yourself—you respond with something along the lines of, "But that's why I'm applying with you, to get experience!"

Show off how your skills—both hard and soft—help solve a company's problem(s).

This is where competency can offset the experience. You don't have to be experienced for 10 years to know something very well (I'll save this for another post). The interview process is your time to show off how your skills-both hard and soft-help solve a company's problem(s), and maybe even a problem or two that the company isn't fully aware of.

Patience, Persistence & Feedback

At this stage, this is where patience is vital to your search. Keep applying. At some point, someone will give you a chance. Once you get through the first or second stage of an interview process, ask your interviewer(s) for feedback on your performance so you know what you're doing well and what areas you can focus on for improvement. At some point, you'll land an opportunity. In addition to being patient, be humble. If you're just starting your career, keep in mind that everyone starts somewhere, and that somewhere—for most of us at least—is at the bottom of the ranks. Take an opportunity. Prove yourself, not just to others, but to your own self and those you hold as mentor types. Keep your mind open to learning as much as you can during both the beginning of your career and throughout it. Don't be afraid to fail, but learn from your setbacks.

You're interviewing a team and company just as much as they're interviewing you! If something seems off, follow your intuition.

Ability (or potential) to learn & grow

Highlight your ability to learn and grow in both your resume and during the interview process. On your resume, show what you did or accomplished under a prior job, even at school or on some side project. In other words, be outcome-driven and, again, show what you learned and how you applied your new nuggets of knowledge.

If you go into an interview as someone who knows-it-all with nothing new to learn, it'll show, at least my teammates will smell it, and it usually won't be received well.

The reason I place great emphasis on showing what you learn is because for any job, especially on our team, we push the envelope each and everyday — we're continuously solving problems. We're not looking for perfection, rather, we're looking for excellence through progress. And to do that, each-and-everyday, that takes a growth mindset with some humility, persistence, and kindness and compassion toward one another. Oh, and fun!

If you go into an interview as someone who knows-it-all with nothing new to learn, it'll show, at least my teammates will smell it, and it usually won't be received well. On the inverse, if you go into an interview and actually don't know-it-all, but can show how you continuously learn—have the potential to rise to the occassion and how you problem solve—it'll be better received.

Alignment with company vision / mission

Are you looking for a job or are you looking to be a part of a mission-driven team? Some places are looking for someone to simply fill a job, or you may be looking for a job where you can clock-in and clock-out at a certain time, and that's complete okay; absolutely no shame in that.

Are you looking for a job or are you looking to be a part of a mission-driven team?

If you're looking to join a team, however, that has a clear intention of disrupting the status quo—for the better—be sure you walk-the-talk. Meaning, how well do you align with the team's mission and vision with your current work and past work experiences, including your personal life? Do your homework and highlight your alignment in your resume under your objective, then underscore how you and the company are a match during the interview process.

Be assesed on your work, alignment and values, and your ability to learn and grow both in your field and as a human being, including how you conduct yourself with others; in other words, be assesed on your story and journey.

Be a coworker

It's also worth noting to think beyond the candidate phase: show your prospective colleagues what it's like to already be your coworker. During the interview, be confident but show humility. Ask questions, listen, and contribute to ideas as you're working through them. This is your time to show what it would be like to work with you day-in, and day-out. The same goes the other way around: remember, you're also interviewing your interviewers.

On Ageism & Ivy League Schools

Lastly, on a different but related note: sometimes candidates do not want certain things to stand out, such as their age or graduation year out of fear of ageism. I completely get it and understand this worry; ageism unfortunately occurs in the world. If you don't feel comfortable publishing your age on your resume, because you feel you may be perceived as too young or too old, leave it out. This, and other factors, should not be a disqualifier if you can do the work and get along with folks. Related, if you didn't go to an ivy league school and feel intimidated from applying at your dream job, don't let that stop you. Not everyone can go to these schools. It's a fallacy to believe that you're not good enough if you don't go to these type of schools. Apply, but be as prepared as humanly possible.

Be assesed on your work, alignment and values, and your ability to learn and grow both in your field and as a human being, including how you conduct yourself with others; in other words, be assesed on your story and journey.

Pro tip: aim to keep your story via your resume (CV) concise and within one page, if possible, which I know will depend on the job and industry. If your life's story needs more attention, see if you can create a website—even through an online tool, like Wix—to showcase more of your work and you as a person, then you can reference your personal site from your resume.

Good luck and remember: Strive for excellence through progress, not perfection. Also, you're interviewing a team and company just as much as they're interviewing you! If something seems off, follow your intuition.

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Manny Becerra as a child

I operate from a place of compassion, possibility and imagination. My work and efforts share a common goal: create a better, sustainable and equitable world by building inclusive communities, products & experiences.