After the initial excitement following a recruiter’s call, it’s time to prepare for your interview. Recruiters, especially technical recruiters, are often untapped sources of knowledge that can help you excel and stand out from the rest of the applicants — especially when trying to figure out small details about the role.
“Find out the necessary details so you can prepare in advance, whether it be notes around certain topics or refreshing your memory on former projects, technology decisions, etc,” says Natalie Brown, Talent Acquisition Specialist at custom software development company SolTech. “Have your point of contact clarify what the company does, because you don’t want to come in for your interview and not know.”
Brown, who spends her days talking to new technical talent here in Atlanta, shares a recruiter’s perspective on how to ace that interview and snag your dream job.
Catch your recruiter’s attention
Brown shares that asking follow-up questions always captures her attention.
“As a recruiter, you want to work with candidates that you know will prepare for interviews, that you can trust, that you know are invested in a partnership.” Brown says when she talks to candidates from out of state that have never even bothered to visit the city, she asks, “How serious are you then about moving to Atlanta if you’ve never even been here?”
“Making sure they are ‘invested’ — invested in the city, in the company, the technologies, that whole package and whatever questions they ask, that shows me that they’re invested is what’s going to make me want to bring them in for an in-person interview.”
Research your interviewer beforehand
“First step, look at the website. Find out who you’re interviewing with so you can research their past projects at the company and on Github. Then ask specific questions about those people. What role do you play on the team? What do you like about your position? How did you find out about this company? Doing a little bit of background work can help come up with those questions.
Then ask your recruiter what kind of interview you’re going to have — is it going to be conversational, is it going to be white-boarding? Am I going to be doing a coding test? Finding out as many details as possible, so that way you can prepare for it. Then have notes written down on certain topics that can refresh your memory on a former project or technology decisions.”
Showcase your personal tech projects
“Talk about how you can work independently and have some strong problem solving skills. For example, talk about any challenges you’ve faced in your previous role that you’ve worked on and how you overcame them. Did you discover any crazy bugs or if you did, how did you track them down?”
Another option is to show a working application with some ‘wow factor’ during the interview. This accomplishes two things: gives you an opportunity to talk about something you know intimately, and shows the interviewer that you’re interested in code outside of work. “It gives you the opportunity to talk about something that really makes you light up.”
If you have a skill listed on your resume, be prepared to talk about it. If you can’t, it shouldn’t be on your resume. This can be a flag to an interviewer that you’re stretching the truth on your resume, which calls to question your ethics and can be a major turn-off for a company.
Practice by doing
“A lot of times, people think they have to cram for an interview, just like how we cram for tests or exams and reading through any books they have, reading through any articles that they find.
You should do those, but it’s better to practice because when you’re writing through code and using the technologies that you’re about to interview for, that gives you some real examples that you can talk about. Both are important, but when you can say, ‘This is an issue that I ran into, this is how I worked through it. This is how I built this.’ Really being able to talk about it is a lot more valuable than just saying, ‘Yes I understand how this works,’ so practice over study.”
Say ‘I don’t know’ the right way
“When we ask a technical question and someone says, ‘I don’t know but,’ — it’s alright to say that you don’t know the answer to something, but always follow up with something else. Say, ‘I don’t know that technology’, or ‘I’ve never used that in a professional setting but I’m learning it on my own, in my spare time,’ if applicable.
You can also talk through what a solution may be. I don’t know the specific answer, but maybe if I was stuck in that situation and didn’t have any help, I would probably work through it this way. This shows that you’re critically thinking and that you would do that on the job, which is sometimes hard to get out of an interview.”
Constructively critique yourself
Be constructive in your critique of past technologies or approaches you’ve used. If you come off strongly opposed to certain methods, it could tell the interviewer that you’re high maintenance and not willing to do things you aren’t 100 percent comfortable with.
Being able to talk through that with open mindedness is going to make the interviewer have more respect for your skills.
Looking for a developer’s perspective on the recruiting process? Here’s how to ace your whiteboard interview.