What Great Interviewees Ought To Know

There are *a lot* of posts out there about interview questions we should all be familiar with before going to an interview for a developer\architect position. I’m not going to add more to that Q&A list but rather to talk about how many interviews you should go to while looking for a job talk and how you should talk, react and respond during those interviews. I want to share with you my experience in the field both from interviewee and interviewer point of views. Maybe this will enable you to get some more $$$ to your paycheck, maybe it will make you simply more confident during those interviews or maybe I would be able to answer some of the questions you’ve got and still nobody answered before.

I’m looking for a job, when should I say “That’s enough interviews, let’s sign” ?

I would say between 5-10 *successful* interviews. That means that you have at least 5 proposals from companies you’re interested working for, even if 1-2 of them are out of the question due to the low payment. Less than 5 proposals will not give you the right impression about “how much am I worth?” so don’t hurry to sign, you don’t want to get stuck in a company just because they offered X$ more than the rest and you thought it was a lot. I know, you can always resign, but this is still a waste of time. Doing many interviews, on the other hand, can burn you which means you’ll go to your 11th or 12th interview and don’t give your best, that’s a shame; Don’t forget, your reputation is at stake and our industry is a small world.

Know how to walk the walk, but learn how to talk the talk:

Listen, an interview is like a blind date, you must create a great first impression if you want to get to second base (that means passing to the next phase in the screening, in our case). Therefore you must grasp the nature of technical people and press the right buttons and even more important – don’t press the wrong ones. I know, learning how to talk and sell yourself is very hard to master, some of us are just born with it, some of us just think we have it, some of us learn how to do it during the years and some don’t count on it (“I’ll be good and that should be enough!”). If you’re one of the latter, meaning that you know you’re good and you think that should be enough…. you’re damn right! BUT! you won’t get the payment you deserve, trust me, so continue reading, maybe you can learn some good tips.

In an interview you must convey me that you have the confidence I seek. See, we all want to hire people we can trust: trust that they can do their job even in stressful times, trust their abilities to learn new things and to teach others. Just be relaxed, have faith in yourself and in your abilities. All of us are nervous during  interviews, we all want to impress, but over-motivation will get you eliminated, you’ll simply cause the interviewer to be more anxious and try to make you sweat harder(“The interviewer must be better than the interviewee” symptom); This is not the impression you would like to leave.

So, how do you learn to talk the talk? That’s an hard question, but I’ve got a simple answer – search for a person(s) in your life who you feel does a good marketing for himself and start looking, listening and understand the way he talks and behaves around people. Try to stay close to that guy as he will make you move in the direction you want and will help you work on your PR(public relations) skills. After some time will pass you’ll feel more confident and that will allow you to be “rude” enough to push yourself and be confident about your abilities. That’s it.

Some tips about “talk the talk” during the interview from an interviewer point of view:

  1. Be relaxed. No interviewer wants to make you fail, he just want to make you sweat a little to see if you’re up to the job.
  2. Have confidence in your abilities. An interviewer can smell lack of confidence and this will make you harder to excel during the interview. Have a “pep” talk with yourself before – “I’m not the best programmer, yea, I don’t know how to write multi-thread applications, but I have the ability to learn, I have the passion for this job, I’m a good at X, Y and Z! yes! I’ve got a lot to offer”. When I was 16 and I got my first job (PHP programmer), I really believed that I can be great if someone would give me a chance. Why? Because I knew that I love programming and I’ll do anything to be good at it! you want me to work extra hours? to read at home? NO PROBLEM! Bring it on!
    This is the attitude you need in order to be a GREAT interviewee. Do it with passion!
  3. Think before you answer. This is the most important tip I can give to anyone. Numerous interviewees I’ve interviewed were eager to let me know how bright they are. They didn’t even let me finish the question. Relax (see section 1), let the interviewer complete his question and think before you answer. I would like to hear something “That’s a good question, give me a few seconds to think….. OK, so what you can do is ….”. This shows that you don’t hurry to pull something out of your sleeve just to meet “he asked, I replied” rule a lot of follows.
  4. Don’t have the answer? nothing happened! Relax! (I would write see section 1, but I think you got the point right?)
    All you have to do is simply tell me “To be honest, I don’t remember\know how to solve this question, BUT, if I had google, MSDN (whatever) – I would likely search “XXXXXX”. In addition, let me think out loud about possible solutions to your question… OK so you can (1)XXXXX or maybe (2)XXXXX, I’m not sure but perhaps (3)XXXX will work as well”. This will certainly make a good impression. Nobody can memorize MSDN and none of us has enough experience to cover 100% of the questions. Good interviewees just know how to stay cool and think out loud; Explain your way to the solution and I’ll show you the way to the job and paycheck you seek.
  5. You’re good, I have no doubt, but there are others who are better, I have no doubt. arrogance is a quality you must avoid or at least decrease. Nobody like arrogant people although I truly believe that there is a thin line between self confidence and arrogance. Try to stay humble, let them know that you have more than good programmer skills to contribute; Do it with grace.

Any tips you would like to share with me ?


Oren Ellenbogen