Long before you land your first tech interview, you’ve already invested a lot into your job search. Your early dreams drove you to gain new knowledge and skills, and you’ve committed a good amount of time, effort and financial investment along the way. With so much at stake, you might be feeling nervous about the interview to come.
We’re here to help, with some proven ideas and practices that will help drive your success.
Research and Prep Before Your Interview
The more you know about the hiring company and the job you’re going for, the better prepared you’ll be. Your knowledge of the company and the position will impress the interviewer, creating a lasting impression when they make a hiring decision.
Some of your research steps may be obvious—like doing a search on the company and visiting their website. But there are actions you can take to go further. While you’re on the company website, be sure to explore various pages to gain an understanding of their products and services. Check online reviews to see what their customers are saying.
But dig deeper!
Visit the company’s About page, scan their leadership roster and look them up on Linkedin. This can be revealing, as you’ll learn about the work, education, and interest backgrounds of their key people.
If you know the name of the person doing the hiring for the job you’ve applied for, it’s even more important to learn all you can about them. Why? Because knowing more than the company’s offerings and mission statement, or even details of the job, will help you turn an interview into something closer to a conversation. It will help you develop your own questions, and will help you put the many things said in a better context. And that’s important if you want to stand out among a big field of hopeful applicants.
According to recruitment and staffing firm Robert Half, companies look for employees whose values are similar to those of the company. There may be no better way to assess values and culture than to hear from the people who work there.
Check out sites like Glassdoor, where you can read reviews on the company from the people who work there, or have worked there. This gives you insights into company culture. You can bring those insights into the interview process to strengthen both your answers and the questions you ask.
As part of your pre-interview research, identify the company’s competitors. If you’re interviewing with a cloud services IT organization for example, do a general search on the topic, and pick 3-5 competitors. Compare what they are offering and saying about themselves to the one you’re interviewing for. This will help build your industry insight and inform deeper questions during your interview. Go beyond questions only about the job you’ve applied for. Show your awareness of the industry landscape, and as a result ask deeper questions than the other applicants.
Now, with your knowledge of the company, the products and services they offer, competitors, and the people involved, make sure a few other things are covered before interview time arrives. A few recommendations:
Take a good look at your social media. Would a visitor get an impression of you that reflects your professionalism and readiness for a great job? If not, clean things up in advance! You don’t want to be hurt by anything that could have been left unposted. Not many employers are seeking Beer Pong expertise or applicants who seem proud of using foul language.
Make sure all the documents you will need for the interview are at your fingertips: Your resume, the detailed job description, and your prep notes. If the interview is in person, print everything out and bring the papers in a neat folder. If it’s a remote interview, you should also have the company website pulled up.
Online interviews require working tech tools, and you’ll benefit from good lighting and a professional appearance. Don’t leave the meeting setup for an online interview until the last minute. Download the app you need, test everything well in advance and make sure it works without a hitch.
Anticipate and Rehearse Your Answers to Common Questions
Just about all of your job interviews, even if that means multiple rounds of interviews for a specific job, will contain some common “standard” questions. Don’t expect to be able to wing it through these. Write down your responses in advance, making sure that you have concise and effective answers.
“I’ve reviewed your resume, but I’d like you to share your story with me.”
“What are you looking for in a new job?”
“Tell me about your strong points and weaknesses.”
“What are your long-term goals?”
“Why did you leave your last job?”
A common pitfall for job-seekers is to skip thinking about these kinds of questions and to reply to them on the spot, with whatever first comes to mind. Don’t do that! Often, spontaneous answers are not well-organized, don’t touch on what is most important to the interviewer and their company, and often you’ll ramble until awkwardly trailing off.
You want your answers to common interview questions to be crisply stated, relevant to the job you seek, and immediately understandable and compelling to the interviewer. Take an hour to anticipate and rehearse your answers in advance, and rise above other applicants who haven’t made the same investment.
Questions You Should Ask
Aside from all the preparation discussed here so far, another important step is to develop questions of your own, to ask your interviewer. There are a few good reasons to put thought into this before job interview time arrives.
First, your good questions will make the meeting more conversational and less one-sided. Second, asking questions will show the interviewer, perhaps better than anything else, the depth of your interest in the role, as well as your professionalism. Finally, there is nothing worse than wrapping an interview with nothing to ask in closing.
Develop some good questions in advance—many will probably fit into the overall interview, and that’s great, but save at least one open-ended question for the end. It will wrap the interview and create an impression much more powerful than “I guess I’m all set.”
Here are a few excellent examples from Grammarly:
Can you describe an average day at the office?
What characteristics and abilities does a successful employee here generally have?
What are the key responsibilities of this position, and do you expect them to change within the next year or so?
What are the upcoming projects I’d be working on during my first few weeks?
Are there gaps in the current team’s skill set or experience that my position is meant to fill?
Can you describe the company’s objectives and current projects? How does our team contribute to those?
Closing a job interview professionally will also set you apart from others who simply allow the meeting to just wind down and fizzle out. Restate your understanding—what you’ve learned in the interview. Briefly map the job requirements to a quick summary of you and your skills. Ask the interviewer if there is anything further they’d like to ask you.
Once all that is covered, thank the interviewer for their time and express how excited you are about the opportunity. Ask about next steps, and what your expectations should be.
Finally, write a brief thank-you email to the interviewer, recapping your knowledge of the company’s needs and your own skills and fit. It is not only polite and professional to do so, it will set you apart further from others who don’t make the small extra effort.
Best to you in your job search, and we hope this set of guidance and advice pays off with the position of your dreams!
This post was written by contributor Marc Tramonte.