All names in this post have been changed.

Recently I blogged about jobs at Infineon. I was eventually pushed to submit a job application by an engineering manager – let’s call him John. John is a great guy. He and I had a couple of discussions before and what I have been doing at uni for the past 5 years is exactly what he’s looking for. – Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it.

If only I wouldn’t have to finish my PhD first, do all the things my adviser still wants me to do and engage in a serious search for a job. Guilty as charged, I have submitted the job application because John asked me to and not because I am really looking for a job – not before May 2014. His argument was that they would take the position away from him if nobody applied and that the whole thing going through HR would take a couple of months anyway. – I was invited for an interview by HR a day after I had submitted my job application, which was today.

On the bright side I’ve only had one interview so far, so I considered it good practice! The one I’ve had before was at age 16 and they totally screwed me: paying me minimal wage for programming php and mySQL. Fun fact: the HR head of that big company told me they can not pay more because I have no formal qualification. I do now realize that me knowing php, mySQL and HTML was a qualification that nobody at that big company had in 2000, so they really needed me. I was not aware of that and apparently negotiation skills were not one of my strengths at age 16. Actually my boss back then proposed a pay-rise later, without me even asking for one.

So here I was again: age 30, another HR interview, biased and suspicious. There was limited time to prepare myself: I watched youtube videos and read some articles about job interviews, but nothing can replace the real thing.

My verdict: Turns out HR interviews are still a pain in the ass. On one hand they try to make you a little insecure and on the other hand it feels like brainwashing.

The interview started off with Ms. Johnston mentioning that she had had interviews for that one position all day. – Good for her, still I don’t buy it that there were many applicants better suited for the job than myself. You might call me presumptuous, but my job for the past 5 years mostly was about building and analyzing radar systems using THEIR chips, which are only available to exclusive customers and us as research lab co-funded by them.

Obviously the interview continued with the standard questions. “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years from now”. “What would your current boss say about you”. “Name 3 of your strengths and 3 of your weaknesses”.

One of my current colleagues who is quitting his PhD, lets call him Dave, had his interview in the morning, so I knew exactly what was going to come. When Ms. Johnston asked the “boss question” I answered: “I was waiting for this one, because I’ve heard about it from Dave”. “Oh … ah … that’s not on purpose … interviews are usually tailored individually”. I didn’t say it: “Yeah, right”. I went on to analyze what my boss would probably say based on tasks and responsibilities he would transfer to me + the awards that I have received. I ended with: “If you’d really like to learn about what other people say about me you have the unique opportunity to go and talk to people within this company such as Steve, Ann, Donald, … who I have already worked with and who know me for years now”. To which she responded “Oh, really … well … I did not really want to know what other people say about you, but what you think that other people might think, which indicates what you think … “. Again, I didn’t say it:  “Yeah, right”

The whole interview triggered questions: How honest should you be? What should you say? What should you rather avoid? On one hand everybody has blind spots and they are not the things that you want companies to know about. On the other hand do you really have to be honest about questions like “How many applications have you submitted?” Or one of her first questions: “Why did you apply?” – “Because John asked me to” which I of course replaced by “Because I’d like to put to use the knowledge I gained during my PhD in an optimal way, and because you could offer me exactly that + you could benefit from that! – A potential classical win-win”. Should you share your family plans?

The second part of the interview was what some of my friends describe as brainwashing, with mostly Ms. Johnston talking. Of course they offer great benefits, like day care or an international school for their international employees and so on. If you dig a little bit you will find out that most of them are only available on their main campus in Villach (=about 3 hours drive from Linz) as it would not pay off to install them for the 90 employees in Linz. They have a global salary system which is called the “Infineon Global Scale”. Ms. Johnston also spent about 5-10 minutes explaining possible career paths at Infineon and that they have successfully copy-and-pasted the IBM system (of course that’s not the way she put it) with “senior engineers”, “distinguished engineers”, “Infineon fellows” … Good for them.

The meeting concluded with Ms. Johnston telling me that in case of an offer I will hear from them via e-mail in the next couple of weeks.

My best guess is that there will be an offer that is well below what I stated as expected salary. In addition to that they may try to employ me through a professional employer organization, which is what they told Dave in the morning. This is where the real negotiations will start.

At any rate I will apply for more jobs and have more interviews before I sign any contract. For now I am thankful for the experience that I gained through this interview. While job interviews are not fun, they are required and the more used you get to them, the better.

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