Becoming a More Engaging Interviewee
I’d like to share a few tips on how to have a good interview. They’re based on my interviews of around 50 people. If the tips feel basic, you’re probably make a strong impression during an interview every time!
#1 Prepare Good Questions
This is a big one. Lots of candidates have no questions. Not about the role, not about the culture, not about our tech. It’s a red flag for a few reasons:
- The candidate didn’t prepare for the interview. It might not be true, but lack of questions creates that impression.
- The candidate doesn’t care about our specific company. We’re looking for people excited to live our culture and build our products.
- The canidate lacks curiosity. Again, it might not be true. But when you go through our blog and products, at least a few questions should pop up.
Thoughtful questions give you more information about us. They also serve to show your qualities as a prospective colleague.
Good questions are many, here are a some common themes:
- Questions that show you’ve done your research. “I’ve read a blog post from your CEO on squads. Can you talk about how does decision making work in that structure?” — demonstrates that the candidate did research about the company.
- Questions about enginnering processes. “I’m curious how features get designed in a remote environment, what are some of the drawbacks compared to on-site companies?” — demonstrates you care about product quality.
- Questions about product specifics. “We use Slack. I read about Twist and how it differentiates with threaded communication. What do you think about the threads feature recently introduced into Slack?” -Shows that you know our product and are curious about product design.
#2 Go Into Specifics
Some candidates are reluctant to talk about technical details of their work. It gives the interviewer less information to assess candidate’s technical prowess.
I sometimes share this feedback with candidates. They frequently say they were afraid to stay within the interview time constraints. The best candidates demonstrate their expertise while staying concise.
Interviewer: “Can you share a technical difficulty in your last project and how you overcame it?”
Interviewee — Bad Response: “We were working with a large codebase that was very complex. Our biggest challenge was to try to simplify it. We worked for a few months on making the overall architecture more simple. We sucessfully made the app more maintainable.”
Interviewee — Good Response: “We inherited a monolithic codebase. It was very hard to introduce new features without unintentionally changing behaviors of other parts of the system. So we broke the code into smaller components while using a DI container. We picked Unity because the interception feature is cool, we use it for a few cross-cutting concerns. Do you use a DI container in the Todoist UWP app?
#3 Provide Criticism
It’s very hard to be critical of what the interviewer says. You want to make a good impression and are afraid that if you’re critical, you’re interviewer won’t like you. If that’s the case, you’re better off looking for a different job anyways.
Candidates that offer constructive criticism during a job interview impress. Giving feedback during an interview shows you enjoy both providing and accepting feedback. This is a key quality for companies that want to improve both themselves and their products.
For more on how to provide good feedback, give the Radical Candor book a shot.
#4 Have a Conversation
This one is the hardest to do, especially if you’re not a great conversationist. But if you manage to draw the interviewer into a discussion, you will make a strong impression.
Aside from creating a strong impression, there are other benefits. Having a fluent conversation reveals more about company culture and engineering values. In cases where the interviewer is your future team lead, you can get a much better sense of what kind of boss they’d be.
Take a look at some of Sean Plott’s conversation tips. They’re easy to follow and can make a big difference.
When having interviews, try to be engaging and give the interviewer enough information so that they can make a fair assessment.
Adopting these tips can also make the interview a fun experience, it doesn’t have to be tense and stressed-filled.
If you notice you’re having a good time while the interview is happening, you’re on your way to getting a great job. The best interviews are the ones where everyone learns something.