Acing an Interview
By Nicholas Burden, Senior Technical Evangelist at TensorIoT
At TensorIoT, we’re committed to hiring top talent with the drive to succeed. In honor of our recent Hiring Panel with Coding Dojo, we wanted to share some tips to help candidates have their best possible interview. I interviewed our Vice President of Operations, Destinee Alderete, and our Lead Technical Recruiter, Brian Hahn, to share some of their insight and advice about the interview process at TensorIoT.
Q: Landing an interview typically requires submitting a good resume. Before we get into the interview process, got any quick resume tips?
A: Before we even get into what’s on the resume, our biggest tip for job seekers is to use PDF format! Don’t submit your resume as a word document because you risk running into formatting errors that leave your resume unreadable. When choosing what resume to submit, don’t use the same resume to apply to every job, carefully reading a job posting and tailoring your resume to the position shows that you’re actually interested in a position and not just spamming resumes for any available openings. When tailoring your resume, focus on your relevant skills and tech stacks. When listing prior positions, it helps to highlight metrics and successful projects.
Q: What are the best ways to prepare for an interview? What about technical interviews?
A: Interviews help both sides determine if the job is going to be a good fit, so focus on preparing to describe past achievements and what makes you a good candidate, and be sure to practice technical skills that were required in the job posting. For any type of interview, look at how you can communicate your skills through measurable achievements — for example, framing past job experiences in a story format or explaining a specific project that you completed and the impact it had. You should also be ready to speak about your past experiences in a broader skill context. Prepare to answer out-of-the-box questions in a way that articulates your thought process and explains how you came to your conclusions. If the interviewer asks a weird question, more often than not their goal is to gain insight into your critical thinking process and there’s not a right or wrong answer.
For technical interviews, be sure to brush up on the languages the position requires. It should also be a best practice to be prepared for coding challenges and whiteboard interviews. And once again, practice articulating your thought process for how you approach a challenge.
Q: What are the biggest DON’TS in the interview process?
A: Be conscious of how your body language comes across! Your body language gives the interviewer insight into what you’re actually feeling. Don’t use negative body language like slumping, rolling your eyes, or getting easily distracted; it shows a lack of interest and engagement. Don’t ignore basic professional behavior — show up on time, practice good hygiene (especially if interviewing in person), and use the interviewer’s name to create a personal connection. Finally, don’t conduct remote interviews in settings with lots of visual distractions or background noise.
Q: 41% of candidates are most nervous about not being able to answer a difficult question during an interview. If a candidate is unsure of the answer to a question, what is the best way to respond/ handle it?
A: First off, it’s okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question, even during a technical interview! Candidates don’t have to have perfect subject knowledge, so not knowing an answer immediately doesn’t mean you’ve botched the interview. Just say you don’t know or are not sure the answer and then demonstrate your thought process and how you’d go about solving the problem in a live work environment. You can also frame answers to show that you’ve had experience solving similar problems but not the specific issue, then pivot to what you know. Our company is constantly working with new technologies and applications, so considerate answers and adaptive thinking shows that you can learn new skills and expand your knowledge.
Q: Aside from technical skills, what makes candidates stand out during an interview?
A: One of the best places to stand out is during the screening process, before the interview even takes place, since that’s the first time our recruiting team has a chance to see a candidate’s enthusiasm and drive. Another way that you can stand out is by taking time to research the company that you’re interviewing with to get a broad understanding of the company, and then during the interview asking questions to see if the company is really a good fit for your personality as well as your skill set. Interviewers can often tell if someone has a genuine interest in the position or they’re just looking for any available job opportunities.
Q: Company culture can play a large role in employee motivation and success. What are some indicators from the hiring perspective that a candidate will be a good fit for TensorIoT’s company culture?
A: Two things we value most at TensorIoT are innovation and collaboration, so candidates that demonstrate a talent for adapting to new technology and proven success working in teams are more likely to thrive in our work environment. Although individual excellence is useful, our major projects rely on our skilled teams working in collaboration. Since collaboration is key for success at TensorIoT, candidates that show a strong willingness to work in team settings and can describe past successes within a team environment are likely to fit the company. Another sign that someone is a good fit for TensorIoT is having a strong interest in cloud computing, machine learning, IoT and using AWS. People have greater job satisfaction when they’ve got a strong interest in the technology we use to develop our products and solutions. As an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, we often work with technology that isn’t publicly available, so the ability to adapt to new technologies is another good sign in a potential candidate.
Q: What is some advice you would give someone who is changing industries to tech?
A: Don’t be daunted by making the career transition! Any previous work experience you’ve accrued can be translated into usable skills, even if the experience isn’t coding related. You can highlight your previous work experience skills like problem solving, crisis management, communication, working under stress, being a team player, or being a self-starter. Even working customer service in a retail position shows that you can be client-facing and professional. It’s a candidate’s market right now, so if you’re interested in moving into tech there really hasn’t been a better time.
Overall, the recurring theme for interviewing is to come prepared — do your research on the company to ensure they’re a good fit and show passion for the products and solutions you’ll be developing.