While there is an ongoing shortage of IT talent in the United States, companies are seeking the best fit and are not willing to settle. Even in a candidate-driven market, job seekers must be well prepared for interviews, and shouldn’t simply rely on their resume or skillset alone. A candidate may look great on paper but the interview process is where the hiring decisions are made.
In 25 years in the staffing business, I can confirm the undeniable value of dedicated preparation for interviews. Although some recommendations may seem obvious, many candidates benefit from reminders about the critical basics. While not an all-inclusive list, here are my top tips to help job seekers thrive in IT interviews.
Before the Interview
- Do your homework. Always research the company you will be talking to, reviewing its web site, social media posts and Glassdoor reviews. Take notes, and jot down questions you may want to ask. Familiarize yourself with your interviewer/s via their LinkedIn profiles, and study the job description details so you can articulate how you are the best fit.If you’re working with a staffing firm, even better. Take advantage of its invaluable input to gain deeper insights and more in-depth knowledge about the company, the specific job and the interviewer/s.Then prepare some questions focused on the position that demonstrate forethought, such as “How could I exceed your expectations in this position?” or “How does this position fit into the overall company structure?”
- Prepare your personal pitch. Have an informal elevator pitch ready about your background and experience, outstanding accomplishments and qualities that make you an ideal fit for this position. You can write this down, but obviously don’t read it or recite it, word for word. Relax and speak naturally.
- Anticipate common questions. Search for lists of standard interview questions online, or work with your staffing firm. Prepare answers to typical questions about why you should be hired for this job, what your biggest weaknesses are, how you envision your career and challenges you’ve overcome, for instance.
- Rehearse. Yes, this is time-consuming and may seem like overkill if you’re not just starting your career, but role playing and practicing help you master the actual interview, where nerves can kick in and the unexpected may arise. Even if you don’t end up getting a job offer, this effort easily transfers to the next interview. As in any undertaking, the better prepared you are, the better you will perform.
During the Appointment
- Relax and show your personality. Perhaps easier said than done, but this is critical to a successful meeting. Make eye contact, smile, exude energy, show enthusiasm and be genuine. Technical skills among candidates can be the same, but your personality and attitude distinguish you. Remember that you are evaluating the company and position just as much as they are assessing you.
- Showcase your skills and work. Be prepared to speak to everything in your resume, including the laundry list of developer’s skills, and always be honest about what you have expertise in and experience with. Either remove or separately delineate any areas that you only have exposure to or limited knowledge of, versus real hands-on experience.If applicable, share links to a portfolio of your previous work via GitHub, Dribble or other platforms. Show examples of projects and describe experiences that relate to this job’s requirements, highlighting what differentiates you and specifically how you can benefit the company in this position.Your mission is to sell yourself, so get comfortable communicating your skills and value with confidence, but not cockiness.
- Be ready for technical evaluations. Depending on the job, you may be required to whiteboard or take on coding or programming challenges. Do your best, and if you freeze, or don’t know the answer or solution, just say so, and don’t fake it.Immediately follow-up with a question to expand the dialogue about this particular skill, such as, “While I have not yet had the opportunity to learn this, are there other relevant skills that may cross-over with what you are seeking here?” so that you may be able to weave in how your experience can apply to this challenge. Then explain how you would ultimately solve the problem or develop the solution. Companies today are seeking problem-solvers versus strictly technical experts.Don’t ever try to fool the interviewer. Saying that you don’t know something is far more respectful and professional than pretending.
- Close the interview. Reiterate your interest by asking interviewers if you’ve addressed all of their questions, and if there are any concerns about your suitability for this position. Summarize how you can deliver what the company is seeking, and what makes you a valuable asset. If you are really interested, express that you want the job and inquire about next steps.
- Send a thank you letter. Send a sincere email articulating your interest and confidence in a win-win relationship with the company within 24 hours of the interview. To stand out even more, you also can send a handwritten thank you note.
- Follow up as appropriate. If you are working with a staffing agency, your recruiter will speak with the company after the interview and get back to you. When job searching on your own, don’t barrage the interviewer with several queries, but send an email or call to check in if you haven’t heard anything after the indicated timeline. Sometimes the hiring process can be slower than anticipated, and your communication keeps you top-of-mind.
- Evaluate the experience. Assess what went well in the interview, and where you can improve going forward. If working with a staffing agency, seek constructive feedback so you can be aware of and address any potential issues before your next interview.
No doubt, interviews can be stressful, but with preparation and experience, the more comfortable you will be, so nerves lessen and confidence grows. Whether you’re just launching your IT career, or are more experienced, consider partnering with an expert tech staffing firm to help you land your best opportunity.