Breaking into the Tech Industry



So your interview is coming up soon.

If you are unclear about anything in particular, you can ask your recruiter or point of contact at the company you are having the tech interview with. You may as things like: What sort of complications will there be on the interview? Anything specific you should prepare for the interview? Will there be any pair programming? Should you bring your laptop for coding? Will you be able to Google documentation during the interview?

Remember these are fine questions. It is not going to be a big deal if you ask. Just ask

Some basics:

At a tech startup you may dress pleasantly, but casual. A sweater or button-up and jeans works fine. In some conservative companies, you may wear a dress shirt and slacks to pair. You may ask your recruiter if you are uncertain. This is not a taboo question at all.

The recruiter often offers something to drink. You may take it of you want it. And you may use their bathroom. Make yourself relaxed.

When the time comes you meet your interviewer, greet politely, and acquaint yourself with him. Relax. Try to remember their name, because if you do, blurting out their name is something good to hear. Remember that there’s always ritual to beginning an interview and it’s not complicated.

When your interviewer will walk in the room, give your best smile. Tell your name. Shake hands confidently with him/her. Look her in the eye.

Do adopt a relaxed body language. You may lean back in your seat. Try not to fiddle—just clasp your hands together if you can’t help being nervous. You will be completely fine. Don’t over analyze too much. You may ask your interviewer what side she’s on the company, this will get the conversation rolling.If you feel so  nervous, it’s acceptable to tell them that.

Talking About Yourself

When you start telling the interview about yourself, most tech interviews are incredibly systematic.

Almost every question you’ll be asked will be a variation of one of these four:

  • What’s your background? / walk me through your resume / why did you leave your last job?
  • Why do you choose to apply for us?
  • Tell me about a challenging incident you faced and how were you able to solve it.
  • Tell me about an interesting project you worked on.

The initial question is mainly significant. Basically, they want to hear your personal history. Your answer will strongly influence their insight of you.

It is basically storytelling. Reflect yourself as acharacter in a story, and structure that with a beginning, middle, and end. There should be modulation of facts, representation, and easy to understand motivations. Remember to keep it as short as possible, while stabilizing color and what makes you interesting. Try not to be destructive. Do frame your story around seeking challenge and wanting to better yourself, rather than refusing or abhorring things.

If you interview enough, eventually it will solidify into a script. The greatest way to improve at it is to literally practice it out loud and do a recording. You may also try to get advice from someone whose judgment you trust, and ask them to be as ruthlessly honest as possible.

For the other three questions, you should have have pre-crafted answers. If you’re at a loss for stories, it may help to sit down and just brainstorm every relevant story you can remember and then narrow it down from a larger list.

It’s hard to practice this effectively in a vacuum, so this is a good thing to work with someone else on.

Once you’ve answered all your interviewer’s soft questions, they may ask you if you have questions for them. Tell them you’ll save your questions until the end of the interview. This will give you more time to for the actual programming part, which is the majority of where you’ll be evaluated.

Most likely you will be interviewing at different companies, but you should always talk about what makes this company unique and captivating. At the same time, you don’t want to appear desperate. I liked using the phrase “looking for good mutual fit.” You want to be discriminating, but you also want to seem winnable if they make you the right offer. If you seem outright disinterested in the company, then they probably won’t want to make you an offer even if you pass their technical bar.

Companies do vary significantly in culture. But a lot of “culture fit” really just comes down to a simple question: would your interviewers actually want to be your colleague?

For more tips about this you may buy my book “Ïnside the Tech Interview”, Available in paperback and kindle!


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