Three interview success tips for tech job candidates

I’ve been in IT for many years. My team and I have honed how we assess potential tech hires, from specific interview techniques to a collaborative rating system for candidates.

Be a good person

We evaluate candidates using a five-point scoring system, which spans from “reject-this-person” to full-throated support. There’s one non-negotiable rule that earns an instant veto from any of us: we will not hire a jerk.

This first key to being successfully interviewed is obvious. It’s hard to be part of a team if you treat others poorly, or even give off that perception. Maybe you’re a “good person” but people seem offended at what you express. If so, be honest with yourself and consider whether what you say is socially acceptable for the culture in which you’re being interviewed.

Be ruthlessly honest about what’s in your resume

If you say that you’re a coder with a particular focus on runtime performance, then you’d better possess that skill set and demonstrate proficiency with it.

I once interviewed a potential hire who made such a claim, and he pointed me to an example of his focus on performance. I checked it out; the application performed quite well with low load, and offered a range of different types of inputs.

Then I maxed out the app to see how well it performed under stress. Unfortunately, it performed poorly under any heavier load. It slowed to a crawl before it could stretch to its full range. It looked pretty, but its actual functionality was unacceptably slow.

This was a bad sign. The hire boasted about his code’s performance, especially given a specific application of technology that should have been easy to optimize. Ultimately, I gave this person a score of two out of five, which in our hiring system typically eliminates a candidate from consideration.

Relax, and be yourself

You are interviewing as yourself. Who you appear to be in the interview should be you. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up to play-act as the person who took the interview. That will likely cause problems later on. Honestly, it sounds exhausting, too.

You are a real person with your own set of friends. When you join a programming team, it’s just a different set of friends, and you should still be the same person no matter with whom you interact.

If your friends like you, surely so will the people who are interested in hiring, and for generally the same reasons.

Be yourself at every opportunity, do what makes you happy, and you’ll do fine, in general. Just don’t be a jerk.


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