How to ace a job interview? This is the question that many of us ask themselves before the big day. And answer to this question is very different, depending on the angle you’re approaching the interview at. If you are an engineer or developer wanting to join a dream project with a preferred tech stack you’d need to prepare differently compared to a business consultant, whose role is to help you present yourself in the most favourable light possible, increasing the chances of being selected.
So below I listed out a few points, relevant from engineer perspective. If you’re a business consultant responsible for placing engineers in projects scroll down for the relevant section below.
Tips for developers and engineers
If you are a developer make sure you tick the relevant boxes before the meeting:
1. Read the role description
First of all check the requirements of the role. If you’re a mid or senior developer/engineer it might happen that at the beginning of your professional journey you were working with technologies that are irrelevant in the role you’re applying to. So just skip these experiences, and think how the tools you use, programming languages you know and sector expertise you acquired can make a real difference at the new project.
Same goes for tasks & scope of work. At some point you surely were junior developer, but if and you’re applying for a tech lead position best skip that part of your professional experience when presenting yourself, as that experience is not really relevant in the position you’re applying for. Worse still, by mentioning your junior experiences your risk labelling yourself as junior developer, even if that’s not who you are.
e.g.: I clearly remember an interview process when an experienced AEM developer spent too much time dwelling on his initial experiences with Java. Obviously transition from Java developer to AEM developer is a natural one, but that particular candidate talked too much about Java and not enough about his experiences working with Adobe platform. This made him look more like Java developer than AEM engineer and he did not get the job.
2. Check out the company you’re talking to
You don’t need to spend too much time on that, but you’ve got to have a basic understanding of who they are and what they do. One question that always appears in job interviews is ‘What do you know about our company?’ And if you can give a good answer to that question, demonstrating that you did a little bit of research about that particular company, you will come across as a person who really wants to work for them and is not just showing up to yet another interview.
e.g.: There was once an interview process when a front end candidate seemingly ticked all the boxes: more than 4 years of experience working with modern framework Vue.js, right, e-commerce-related past projects, great command of desired programming languages and good level of English.
However, the company he was applying for was a luxurious goods manufacturer, and for them it was important that team members were as passionate about their products & industry as themselves. That candidate did not demonstrate similar passion, and in the end wasn’t selected.
3. Switch your perspective
Look at the upcoming interview through the lenses of the person who is on the other side. That might be a Tech Lead, Project Manager or Team Leader what do you think they are looking for in a perfect candidate? Most likely, they’re interested in how familiar you are with technologies and tools they are using. So try referencing your experience in the context of their organisation.
Have you worked on e-commerce B2B project but this is e-commerce B2C project? Then highlight as many similarities as possible, and focus on the common elements for both platforms (product display mechanism, search & recommendation, checkout, integrations).
During one interview, right at the start, shortly after introduction one of backend PHP developers mentioned he worked on a project upgrading one of well-known backend framework Laravel. Interviewing Client had this very framework implemented, so when the candidate mentioned that experience he was immediately hired.
4. Rehearse – ideally more than once
This one is absolutely crucial – many good engineers & developers take for granted that their skills alone will be enough to secure the spot at that particular project. Unfortunately, very often focus is also placed on soft skills – how well can you describe your past experiences, how well you communicate, can you state your point clearly & politely.
Quite often I see developers failing their interviews because they are overconfident to the point of being rude or rumble on about everything they have ever done. And that is just make them appear as team members that are potentially difficult to work with.
So before a big day rehearse with a colleague or a friend or a partner. You will be surprised how beneficial this exercise is. Not only it helps you structure what you’re going to say but will also boost your confidence ahead of big day.
5. Ask the right questions
Remember that in the current market conditions very often you have the luxury of choosing the project you will work on. So make sure you will leave 5-10 minutes towards the end for the questions you’d like to receive answers for. It might turn out that the project that appeared great from the outside is the one that you would rather not work on.
So those were the (hopefully) useful tips for developers & engineers. If you are a business manager, business consultant or a recruiter interested in placing an engineer in a certain project make sure you do the following.
Tips for business managers and business consultants
1. Provide as much information about the project as possible
Make sure you ask project manager/product owner or Client’s representative for as much information about the assignment as possible, including duration, location (if 100% remote or whether business travel is required – if it is what is the frequency?), technology stack, information about the team (dispersed or at fixed location, multinational or homogeneous). If you have any inside knowledge about the project share it with the candidate, regardless if it is positive or not. And always remember you are helping real person change a project – invest in long-term relationships and not in short-term KPIs.
2. Help rehearse
It is absolutely crucial that you get together with an engineer for a dry-run conversation before the big day. Sometimes the actual interview process is pretty uncomfortable for a developer, so they might not want to do this exercise. In such cases make sure they understand that test interview is for them – to help them structure their sentences when describing their past experience, to try to answer some tricky questions and gain some more self-confidence for the big day.
Remember not to be too critical – especially don’t point out things that take a lot of time to improve on, such as accent. Rather, let them find their rhythm, and take down notes about the words they mispronounced – more confusion will come out of talking about clean cot as opposed to clean code 😊
3. Provide feedback
As we all know it does not always work out in the end, and that is fine. What is really important is to maintain the relationship with the engineer – she or he might not be the right fit for this particular project, but might be perfect for the one that is going to pop up next.
So this is it really – few tips that I hope will help you (or your engineer) get into that next project. If you have any questions or would like any advise message me on LinkedIn and I’ll do my best to help.
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