Hacking Tech Interviews

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by Pat Tovo

From a presentation by Adam Brand, Director of IT Security and Compliance, with Protiviti

You can be a great candidate, but that doesn’t mean it’s a given that you will ace a tech interview. There are many moving parts to the process that take place before and after the interview that influence hiring decisions. These components will make a huge difference in the interview process and your success in getting the job.

Before the Interview

During the pre-interview timeframe the recruiter will be reviewing your resume very carefully. They will be looking closely at your skills section so be sure to provide complete details. Don’t just list skills, be specific as to what you’ve accomplished and your experience level. Proofread carefully to check for duplication, capitalization errors and typos.

Your resume is a roadmap for the tech interviewer. Customize the resume to what it is relevant, leave out experience that does not pertain to the job. Give context to your skills. And don’t put down what you don’t know.

Why go in cold? Warm up for the interview! Be sure to study and plan ahead of time. There are lots of tech areas where you may be proficient but that you may not have touched in a while. Take the time to refresh your skills and get more familiar with the technology. Prepare your brain to be able to answer questions with your success stories.

Do some research for background information on your interviewer by performing a little social engineering using tools like LinkedIn. If you can find out the background of the hiring manager that will be to your benefit. The areas where they are proficient are more than likely going to be the areas that they will focus on.

During the Interview

Interviews don’t start off right away with the technical questions. Use that to your advantage. You will want to guide the interview to emphasize the areas where you are more proficient so you can set yourself up for success.

Bad answer to technical interview questions: “I’d Google it.” Anyone can do that. When you get a question where you don’t know the answer, please don’t say you would Google it. Be honest and use the opportunity to discuss similar technology where you are strong, or how you solved a problem when you didn’t know the answer.

If you are on a phone interview, don’t send the wrong message to the recruiter with the sound of your keyboard rattling in the background. She will know that you are Googling the question and parroting back the answer.

Another bad answer in technical interviews is answering the question incorrectly but very confidently. If you don’t know the answer, it’s best to explain what you do know.

Try to make a connection either before or after the interview – tech interviewers are people too. It’s okay not to be completely formal. Showing your personality and building rapport is an excellent way to build a relationship.

Finally, have a set of questions to ask the interviewer. Do your research. Be prepared. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

After the Interview 

Say “thank you” at the end of the interview and in a follow-up note afterwards. A very small percentage of tech candidates take the time to write a simple thank you email to the interviewer. This is a great way to show your interest in the position, explain mistakes that you may have made, and reinforce why you are a terrific candidate.

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