Prepping for the technical interview

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

I was never a Boyscout, so I had to learn their motto, “Be Prepared”, for myself. When I was graduating from the University of Northern Iowa I had quite a few interviews. One, in particular, was a major flop. It was for a brokerage firm and I did not really understand the position I was interviewing for. The main interviewer blasted me, “you have no idea what we do!” Needless to say, there was no job offer there.

We spoke earlier how you can Master the Technical Interview. There we discussed how you can review your technical questions and understand the process many companies use for technology positions. In this part, we want to focus on what you need to do prior to the interview.

Research the company

Don’t wing it like I did so many years ago. With a simple search online you should be able to determine what the company does and who they work with. If you know someone who works there definitely take some time to call or meet them for coffee to get insight into what the company is like to work for. Or if you are using a recruiter they should know the company and who you are going to talk with.

These are three basic things you should know a few days before the interview.

Attire?

Depending on what industry you are working in with technology you can see many things. I was looking at Dwolla’s career page recently and they have no dress code. Many companies in financial services are more conservative and require business casual or perhaps suit and tie. Make sure and ask before your interview and have your close clean and pressed. My grandfather owned a dry cleaning business and he would always notice someone with a well-pressed suit.

Location?

The day of the interview you will be nervous and that is okay. Don’t compound things by being late if you don’t know where the interview is. Add extra time and make sure you know where it is. Using your smartphone map isn’t foolproof. My family and I were traveling recently trying to find a Mexican restaurant and my smartphone took us to a residential neighborhood.

I was leading a career class and a student related a story about coming to an interview. She came early to make sure she arrived on time. It was at a very large company where they have many buildings on one campus. She came to what she thought was the right building only to find out she needed to go back to her car and drive quite a ways to a different building. So she said she now asks where to park along with where the interview is at.

Interviewer?

When you understand who is going to interview you it helps you understand what types of questions you will be asked. Also if you get their name you can research them and see what experience they have along with their title. When I worked in sales we were taught to find a connection or common ground. Perhaps you went to the same university as the interviewer or you may know common people.

If the person is from the Human Resources department you will get more general questions. If you have someone from a more technical background they will ask you questions about your expertise in the technical realm. When you have multiple interviews be prepared for each one and have questions for the different people. Also, note their name and follow up with a thank you email or card.

Know the position

When you read a job title you might think that will tell you what you do. Or perhaps you have been a Systems Analyst at other companies so all jobs would be very similar. Each company asks different things of each position and you want to try to understand as much as you can before the interview. This can save you time in pursuing opportunities that don’t fit.

Some companies have clearly defined roles where they have developers, analysts, quality assurance, and project manager roles. Other companies combine some of these roles. As a developer myself, I have done all of these roles at different companies. If that is something you would not enjoy it is best to screen those options out quickly. On many agile teams, you might be asked to do bits and pieces of each role.

Position yourself

Going into every interview think about what your strengths and weaknesses are as you answer questions. Position yourself in a way to stand out from the standard. Perhaps you have some unique experience that would be helpful in the position.

Remember the resume

Make sure you review your resume prior to the interview. Bring a few copies just in case someone shows up without a copy. Try to call back to some of your accomplishment on your resume and elaborate on them. Customize points that might be more applicable to the current position you are interviewing for.

Stories to support

I am sure you have met someone who enjoys to talk and tell stories about themselves. People get turned off when you come across as too full of yourself. In an interview, you want to share relevant stories and then ask them a question or stop talking. Don’t say too much, share just enough to peek their interest and showcase your skills.

What do you do to prepare for an interview?

Do you have any interview blunders to share?

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