Prepping for An Interview
Sarah Roche gives five tips on preparing an interview that allow you to shine in your dream job interview.
So you’ve scored an interview at an incredible company that will use your brilliant tech skills in an exciting industry. Way to go! Now, it’s time to make sure you’re completely prepared to have a great interview. Below you’ll find five tips that, if followed, will allow you to shine in one of the most nerve-wracking situations you can be in; staring across the table trying to evaluate a future employer as you, yourself, are evaluated.
Research the company
This seems obvious, but you need to spend a few hours scouring the web for information. Google the company, then google [company name] vs. That search will tell you who people are comparing them to, allowing you a quick look at who their customers think their competitors are. Don’t rely only on a company’s social media feeds to inform you about them. A day or so before the interview pull a Google News search for them so you’re as up-to-date as possible.
You should also research the industry. If you aren’t someone who’s already interested in and excited by the industry the company is in, find a piece or part that you can nerd out about. Maybe you love the idea of a piece of technology being applied or how the industry will be regulated. Search for aspects of the industry that you’re excited about and want to talk about. This will show in your confidence and enthusiasm in the interview.
Research the people
I hate walking into situations blind, so I always ask the names of the people that will be in the interview. While talking to my friends and peers, I was surprised to find out this isn’t common. Once I have that information, I search them on LinkedIn, but I don’t check out their profile (yet), thanks to LinkedIn’s “Who’s Viewed Me” feature. Instead, I look for common connections. If there are any, I reach out to that person, let them know I’m interviewing with their connection, and ask them what I should expect or know in advance. This is how I found out that one particular interviewer always runs very late, so I shouldn’t take that personally. I also found out an interviewer is very passionate about a hobby we had in common. I definitely made sure that came up in the interview.
At the core, a company is hiring a person to fill a certain role. You need to be able to fill that role, but most likely, there are a number of qualified candidates. You need to stand out as someone they want to work with, and researching them goes an extra mile. A day or two before the interview I’ll land on their LinkedIn profiles. Since LinkedIn alerts them that you’ve viewed their profile, I want them to see that I was checking out their background and skills. Then I look for things that we can talk about, questions I can ask them pertaining to their career or tenure with the company, etc.
It sounds a touch on the creepy side to do personal cyber-sleuthing before an interview, but it flat out works. People want to see who you are, and if you walk in as someone who is well-researched, able to converse with them and curious about the information you found, you come off as likable.
Brush up on programming interview questions
I am mostly self-taught, so programming interview problems are a nightmare for me. In reality, I’m my own worst enemy when I’m handed them, because I get concerned that I am not solving the problem the ‘right’ way, or the way those with true computer science backgrounds would. In actuality, I’ve done well on the programming interview problems I’ve been handed once I get out of my head and look for a solution to the problem. So I started to try to find some sources to practice these problems. This is the best source I’ve found, because it offers a variety of sources and ways to access problems.
My issue, and I’m sure I’m not the only one like this, is solving the problem in the high-pressure atmosphere of an interview. Feeling prepared helps, but feeling watched is what makes me nervous. I also tend to talk out problems, and this doesn’t always suit certain interview environments. Now that I know the issue is the feeling of pressure, I try to be conscious of that and remind myself to relax during this part of the interview.
Clean up your GitHub
It doesn’t take too much time to make sure it’s well organized and your READMEs give comprehensive explanations of the project and what a viewer/code user should know. And maybe check to see how well your code is commented.
Read the job description
And read it carefully. Think of specific examples in your career or job history that apply to those skills or tasks. Prepare those for answers. Create a simple story around them that is easy to tell during an interview. I use a simple script for this: This was the problem, this was the solution I found or participated in, these were the results. Or, when speaking to your skills with certain tasks, I might plan to say something like: I learned this due to these circumstances and it has come in handy in these opportunities.
The company is trying to fill a position, it is your job as the interviewee to make it very easy for them to understand why you’re the best fit for the position. That means you have to be prepared with the answer to that question in easy-to-understand, consumable pieces of information.
Prepping for an interview takes time, but if the position is worth it, it’s time very well spent. What other steps do you take to prepare for an interview?