Job search tips and tricks: the art of mastering the interview

by Laurent Meyer

Job interview
The first four blog posts (CV, Cover Letter, LinkedIn and job search strategy) were focused on getting you into the door, involving little if any human interaction. Then… sometime later, your eyes light up when you receive a message that reads:

"We were impressed by your application and would like to schedule a first interview with you. The focus will be on getting to know you better, discussing the role, and introducing you to some members of the team. The interview will be conducted at our office and will last approximately 45 minutes."

You think: "They’re calling me in. This must be getting serious!" It definitely is, but that also means you’d better be ready to play the interview game. A lot of people (including my previous self) are already getting nervous even though the official date is days away. Why is this? Even though the job in question may have nothing to do with sales, you’re going to have to turn yourself into a temporary salesperson to get it. In such a context, the fear is that your persuasion skills will not represent what type of business professional you really are.

The solution relies on preparation, practice, and anticipation. Read on and you’ll see those butterflies quickly disappearing from your stomach. It’s going to be ok.

1. Before the interview

As with everything, the better you are prepared, the more confident and less anxious you will be. You are looking for talking points to refer to during the interview, related to either your experience or to the job itself. The following slide sets the guidelines:

Interview preparation

The best way to address questions is always to answer with concrete examples! If the interviewer wants to know more about your experience in a previous job, don’t just list what you did, but focus on accomplishments that will make you look good for the job you’re currently interviewing for. 

Question: "I noticed that you only had experience with technology X in your previous job. There’s nowhere else that you may have learned it as it’s quite specific but important to us. How did that happen?"

Answer: "When I first started working at company Y, I knew most of the technologies they were using for their development processes, but definitely not technology X. Yet, within months, I was already up to speed with it. I did this by spending time on my own, either during lunch breaks or evenings, watching tutorials, reading books, and reviewing existing code. What team members really appreciated about me was that I only reached out to them when it was really necessary. They knew I had done the work beforehand and would not ask for help unless I really needed it."

2. During the interview

You have rehearsed potential answers, prepared your questions, ... no problem. You’ll get through this. The one thing you may not realize is that it takes two to tango:

During the interview - relax

Just like you, the interviewer(s) also have to put on a good show. Their questions better be pertinent and on point. Colleagues are watching, time has been allocated for the interview and it better be well used because if they don’t get the best out of you with their questions, they will miss out on a great opportunity. No one wants that to happen. If the right candidate is sitting before their eyes, then all of the sudden, the list of potential candidates just got shorter, which is wthat everyone really wants. 

There are certain norms to respect to score points with interviewers:

During the interview - consistency

No one likes a screamer, but a whisperer is worse. Speak with energy and devotion but keep your answers short and to the point. Talking or rambling is often seen as a sign of nervousness or inability to answer the question. Examples, examples, examples! 

Don’t forget the main rule of the interview game: there are no firm rules. You can be called in for a personal interview only to find yourself confronted with a full team, or have the CTO come at the end and ask you improvised technical questions. You have to be ready for everything!

A lot of interviewees get into trouble when they oversell themselves, especially on the skills they supposedly have. If it works to get hired, they end up paying for it in the long-run when they get discovered:

During the interview - modesty

There’s no shame in being upfront with the interviewers by telling them that you are not proficient in something they are using. Of course, you have to cover your tracks and make sure that you didn’t make any prior claims on your CV or Cover Letter … Otherwise you’ll be asked soon enough to show proof. Interview over!

It’s fine not to be proficient, but not knowing anything about a concept or technology is a big no-go, especially when it is an industry standard. You should at least have some basic knowledge of the key relevant technologies, which you can gain through books, videos, articles, Wikipedia, … 

3. After the interview

It’s always tough to know what will happen next after a first interview. Whatever your gut feeling, good or bad, your goal is to make it to the next round. While you wait, keep the following in mind:

After the interview

There’s nothing worse than counting on them to get back to you. That’s like leaving a piece of bread out until it eventually gets stale. The thank you email is the best way to ensure that this does not happen. Not only does it show your gratitude, but it leaves them with a reminder that they have to act (instead of the verbal confirmation that they gave you at the end of the interview, which they could soon forget). 

Now what if time is flying by and you haven’t heard anything? I recommend our students not to wait longer than 7 days to follow up. Do not fear looking tacky; instead, what following up demonstrates is genuine interest, which employers love. They haven't gotten around to scheduling the next meeting with you, so this will serve as a and will provide a welcome reminder. 

If you want to know everything in real-time pick up the phone to call them. No need to beat around the bush. You will save time and get everything you need to know.

As always, of course, Constructor Academy students get further personalized assistance, but I hope that the above general advice will help with your next interview and that the tips will ensure that everything goes smoothly. The next blog post, Knowing your worth and negotiating your salary, completes the six-part series! 

Interested in reading more about Constructor Academy and tech related topics? Then check out our other blog posts.

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