How I didn’t get a Yahoo! internship

Because I was overqualified for the job.

I applied some weeks/months ago for the “Yahoo! Summer Intern Programme 2007 – Community Outreach Executive”.

Here’s a short oversight of the job specs:

Can you influence the influencers? How would you talk to people who are creating and forming opinions?

We are looking to get our products and services discussed outside of the Yahoo! Network and need to reach influencers who have the power to persuade others and change opinions. Our services need to be introduced to them in a diplomatic, persuasive and yet meaningful way. We want people to talk about Yahoo! and become brand advocates.

Candidates must have excellent communication abilities, including written language skills, diplomacy and creativity. We want people who have a passion for the Internet and online communities. Candidates must have a strong understanding of the Search industry and the issues facing Search Engines and their users.

Requirements

  • Studying for University degree or equivalent
  • Excellent knowledge of online communities, ideally they should have a blog or be a moderator of an online forum, group or message board.
  • etc.

Responsibilities

  • Locating & identifying key online influencers (eg bloggers, forum & group leaders, webmasters) from the following fields:
    • Local communities: neighbourhoods, school/university campus, mums…
    • Media production: music, movies, games, photos, arts, architecture, fashion, design…
    • Small businesses: small organizations/associations/charities/businesses…
  • etc.

I got a phone interview yesterday. Went pretty well, lasted 40 minutes. They wanted to know some overall aspects of my academics, like what major I have and which are my interests. Also, whether I choose to go in a software/coding directions or if I’ll choose a more people/soft skills area like marketing/PR.

Then they asked about my blog and what experience it has brought me. And I went like a chatterbox talking about cool discoveries I’ve made regarding tagging, folsksonomy, the semantic web and the power of WordPress. I also mentioned how I got to “own” the name of the conference eLiberatica.

Then I was asked what I think about mySpace or social networks like Y! 360. So, I thought it was a good opportunity to emphasise the underlying theory with online social networks; that on of the strong points of myspace is the possibility of fully customizing your page and putting all your flavor on it, yet you still are part of a community. Or, as James Surowiecki said: self-driven individuals working together for a better, common cause. Pretty much the same way Yahoo! Answers is supposed to work. And that these social networks are kept alive by strong ties.

Then, I was put upfront with a real problem: how do you find these strongly connected people. And I sort of worked out a strategy of launching a product that began with finding passionate people. And it was supposed to be pretty easy, since passionate people take stance and they are the ones who find you. On the web it’s not about pushing (like with offline marketing) but rather pulling people (that is a quote, but can’t remember the author). But these passionate people, on the web, are usually mavens and have a blog. So it’d be really easy to tell how well connected they are. And, as Malcolm Gladwell said in “The Tipping Point” and later Seth Godin in “Unleashing the idea virus“, you’ll need sneezing mavens who are also strong ties. And with a hundred or so individuals, you’ll have a fail proof solution.

And also, how would I talk to these people on the web. And I thought it was a good idea to quote Brian Behlendorf (Apache Software Foundation), that in an online community, you have to “treat each individual as your peer”. So, you have to be informal and friendly, yet honest and diplomatic.

Seemed to me that half an hour was a pretty short time to choose a candidate. But, anyway, since they said they would call me again next week for the result, I asked for feedback earlier, because I couldn’t bare for so long.

I got a second call 20 minutes later telling me that I am overqualified for the job and that I would probably be bored since there’s nothing new that I could learn by taking part in this programme. And that I should apply for a full-time job with Y!, but since I have 2 more years until graduation, that’s not really an option.

I’m guessing that when they asked the “what do you think of mySpace” question, I should’ve answered “cool, awesome, I have 300 friends there!”. But I don’t. And I still think that all social networks are a waste of time, except for LinkedIn, of course. And yes, being on mySpace is lame :)

So, perhaps you’d also consider being dumber on your interviews if you really want to join an organization.

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4 Comments »

  1. Zak Greant said

    Hey Mihai,

    Foo will be looking for interns shortly. We aren’t Yahoo!-sized, but we are an interesting little (and I do mean little) group. :)

    Cheers!
    –zak

  2. Mihai said

    Cool Zak, I’ll consider it! I like your picture on the fooassociates people page :)
    Regards, Mihai

  3. laura said

    hey, yahoo sucks anyway. have you tried google yet? :P

  4. Mihai said

    Yes, my first option ;)

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