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10 Tips to Prepare for an Interview

Woman in suit sits with resume in-hand

In nearly a decade of experience in recruitment, I’ve been fortunate to work with several adept hiring managers and skilled technical people. Working with these people has provided me the opportunity to gain various insights into the interview process from both parties as interviewer and interviewee. The focus of this article is: interview preparation for the interviewee.

Some of the insight in this article is general knowledge and applicable to any interview, so I hope that writing it down will at least work as helpful review for some. For others, it may serve as a good starting point if you’re uncomfortable interviewing or haven’t interviewed in a long time.

  • Be yourself. Interviewers look to learn about the person sitting across from them, so don’t be shy. Be conversational and not too casual (don’t cuss). If asked a question like, “Tell me a little about yourself,” you should have an answer that gives insight into who you are. I’ve come across candidates who said, “I’m pretty boring.” And, after probing, you find this person may be building a robot or loves board games or has a passion for soccer. Interviewers want to know more about you! Engage with them!
  • Be honest. If you don’t know something, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know.” I believe a better response is something along the lines of, “I don’t know, but I dealt with a similar situation before, and this is how I would handle it.” Also, interviewers will ask about your resume. If you have a technology that you worked with in college, and an interviewer asks about it, say, “I used C# in college. Haven’t done much with it recently, though I do have plenty of Java experience which appears very similar.”
  • Be succinct. Be careful not to ramble. Sometimes as humans we follow a stream of consciousness that ends with not remembering the point we’re trying to make. You have limited time to get to know each other during an interview , so concise, easy-to-understand answers are helpful to keep the interview moving in a positive direction.
  • Understand the expectations. Most companies will tell you what to expect in an interview. If they don’t tell you, ask, “What can I expect in this interview?” Here at Source Allies, we look to validate cultural fit and technical acumen. Most companies probably do the same. It helps to know what a company culture is like, and if you’re going to do things like: write code, answer computer science questions, or whiteboard.
  • Know your interviewers. Ask for the names of the people with whom you will meet so that you can get a good understanding of the person sitting across from you. It’s nice to know: what their background is, in what technologies they specialize, what contacts you may have in common (LinkedIn is your friend!), and you can prepare specific questions for your interviewers.
  • Understand the questions. There have been several occasions in which I’ve heard of a candidate misunderstanding a question or answering a question that was not asked. Make sure you understand the question! It is appropriate to say, “I’m not sure I understand the question, can you please clarify?”
  • Think out loud. Basically, an interviewer wants insight into your thought process. In terms of coding exercises, it is extremely helpful from an interviewer’s perspective to hear why you are doing things the way you are, or what path you believe to be the best and why. Thinking out loud can also help keep you on the right path towards a solution as the interviewer can add guidance if needed.
  • Ask questions. When I interview someone, I expect questions. This is an opportunity for a company to interview you, just as much as for you to interview the company. Now, ask appropriate questions of the interviewers because there are inappropriate questions like:
    • How much will you pay me? How much time off do I get? These are questions we hope to cover if there is mutual synergy.
  • Appropriate questions are personalized and show your interest:
    • Carter, I noticed you’ve been with the company for 3 years. What changes have you seen over that time? What keeps you motivated at Source Allies?
    • You’ve been with the company for a few months now, why did you join? What kind of work can I expect to do in the first month? First 3 months?
    • I saw that you worked in C# at a previous company, what language are you currently working in? Have you learned anything new at Source Allies?
  • Dress professionally. These days most companies have a dress code of business casual: slacks or khakis and a collared shirt for males, and the equivalent for females. The most direct way to understand what to wear: ask the person setting up the interview what is appropriate. And if they say so: Ditch the suit! Absolutely no jeans! No t-shirts!
  • Ask if you should bring your laptop. In our technical interviews, we gauge your technical proficiency. Most times, it’s easier to showcase your skills on a familiar machine working in a familiar environment than it is to use an unfamiliar machine or IDE. It’s also nice to see what kind of things a developer has installed on their machine (hint! hint!).

Lastly, this advice is from my perspective. I encourage you to seek out more opinions so that you can ace your next interview!

What do you think of this advice? Do you agree? Please send your thoughts and feedback my direction as I’d welcome the opportunity to revise this blog in the future! Thank you!

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