Advice to keep in mind during the interview process

Interview process

If there is one piece of advice I can lend you that might lessen the anxiety of being interrogated by strangers...it is this, If you are sitting at the table, you are most likely qualified to be there. This is especially true if you are being sent to an interview through an agency.

Agencies do all the hardball vetting of candidates so companies don't have to. Agencies are great because they only get paid when they place you on an account and they want to get paid, so they work really hard to get you into the market. Agencies also hand off the best qualified applicants to the potential employer. That employer has then gone through and picked his or her favorites and you can rest easy because - This is now you!  

Interviewing for the new job can be a highly stressful situation. I find this can be particularly true of tech interviews. Truthfully - that is about the only interview I really do... so there is that...However, I have worked in the tech sector in nearly every capacity. As an entrepreneur, Contractor, Freelance artist, Agency Vendor...You name it... I have done it. That being said - Here are some things you can probably expect in the interview:

  • Multiple rounds: You will meet with many people. These interviews generally involve working as part of a team or across multiple teams. There will be a variety of people from different background and skill sets. They all want to make sure they can get along with you. Some of them may have nothing to do with what you will personally be doing. Remind yourself that you are qualified to be there. They wouldn't waste their time with you if you weren't
  • Impossible Problem Solving: Sometimes you may be asked questions that you couldn't possibly solve. Take a deep breathe and realize that you aren't meant to solve the problem. These tests are so that the people interviewing you can see how you handle stressful situations and to see you problem solve. Do the best you can and if you need more answers, ask them the questions. Failing to solve the problem does not mean you aren't good at what you do. They have probably been working on the problem with a full team of people over a period of months...you aren't going to solve it in a 15 minute interview loop
  • Whiteboard: sometimes you are asked to diagram a solution to a problem on a whiteboard. Again - Relax - You got this - this exercise shows them how you might solve a complex problem and communicate that solution to a team of people. There may or may not be solutions to these problems. I have been in situations where I couldn't solve the problem but the team liked how I handled the questions and hired me anyway. I have also been in interviews where I knocked it out of the park and I haven't been hired. It's not always a sure thing

...Which brings us to this...

Sometimes - It isn't your fault.

I once started working at this large company and was asked to go in and interview someone who would be joining our team. I had not had any time to prepare and had only been at the company a few weeks so far. I was hardly qualified to interview someone for another role on our team. I was still learning the job myself - but I went. The first guy we interviewed was a Rock Star. We, however, were not prepared and our team had not spoken about the needs of the position prior to the interview. It was thrown together last minute and it was a disaster.  Not because of anything he had done. It was a disaster because we, as a team, were not prepared to meet this guy. We hadn't seen his resume until he handed it to us and we were vastly unqualified to ask the right questions of his skill set.

As a result - He didn't get the job.
 

After the first interview - we regrouped and got organized. The next candidate had our attention and we ended up going with her. Although, qualified, she did not have the skills the first guy had. The point is we missed out on and opportunity because we weren't prepared. Through no fault of his own, the candidate did not get the job. But I say that to let you know that just because you don't get the job, doesn't mean you are any less qualified. You should be confident in your skills because they got you the interview. That is one of the hardest parts.

Sometimes the planets don't align - Keep your head up and keep at it. 

Somethings that may help

Obviously the more prepared you are - the less you have to worry about.

The day before you go to the job interview

  • Find the location on a map
  • Find where to park and bring money for lunch.
  • Find a coffee shop nearby in case you arrive too early.
  • Know how long it takes to get there so you aren't fighting traffic and coming in late.
  • Take a moment to relax.
  • Breathe.

The funny thing about us humans...We generally love the sound of our own voice and hate silence. Bring several questions with you and ask them while you go through the interview. The more time they spend talking, the more likely you are to get hired. A good way to study for the job is to research the company and, if possible, the team. a few days before you go to the interview, do some research on the company and the people that are going to be interviewing you. I don't mean you should stalk them on facebook or add them to all your social networks - But if the company has a team page - Check it out. If you find the person[s] on linked in, get a little information about their background. Find out what you will be working on (if you can) - You will impress them with your interest and knowledge - Don't get too personal. you can also scare people if you cross from inquisitive to creepy. Being prepared for the interview will really go a long ways to helping you to feel relaxed and confident.

Some questions you can ask:

  • What is the team like?
  • How big is the team you will be working with?
  • What is the turnover?
  • How long have you been working on the current problem?
  • Are there many fire drills? (Fire drills is a term tech people use to describe an emergency situations that requires immediate attention...These are problems that need to be taken care of immediately and result in long nights and weekend work sessions.)
  • Ask for their personal take on work culture
  • Ask them why they took the job
  • What they like best/least about the job.

These questions will keep them engaged and thinking long after you leave. It also shows you are not afraid to ask questions and communicate with people. I also sometimes take a notebook and take notes during the interview so I can come back and ask questions later.  This is imperative to a successful work environment. 

So - In conclusion... The interview is just a conversation where you get to celebrate how awesome you are. Relax - if you study just a little, you will rise to the top of the pile.