Job Interview Tips

+10 Colonel Panic · April 22, 2015
I have had a few people ask me in PM about job interview tips, so I thought I would post this here for everyone so that everyone can consume. 

First: get your mind right. Your interviewer is going to try and stump you, just to see how you react. This might not be true for a junior entry position, but you should always expect it. When I interviewed at Dyn, they asked me to white-board a high availability infrastructure that could move around DoS attacks. The point is, they want to see how you do when you don't know all the answers. Designing something like that takes teams of people, so don't bullshit, and don't guess. Solving it with a statement of "I don't know how to set this capability up, but I now it exists and the basic capabilities would help this problem, so I would implement it here" is very acceptable. 

Second: google "common interview questions" as much as you can, and when you read them, answer them in your head. Most interviews have the same two or three dozen questions. You should know exactly what you are going to say to something like "What do you think is your greatest strength". If you have an answer ready for the common questions, you are pretty much going to nail the interview.   Also try to come up with answers that break the mold.  A dry question like "What is your greatest weakness and what are you doing about it" usually has a dry answer of “I am very poor with JavaScript, so I am reading this book I bought and practicing.”   Congrats, with that answer, you have done nothing to set yourself apart from your competition.   Something that is nothing more than a question to fill time can be a real opportunity to show that you think outside the box, and have a mind for innovation.   Try something like “My weaknesses are not what I focus on.  Instead I like to focus on improving my strengths and gain skills that I need to accomplish my goals.”    However, be prepared for your stance to be challenged, so try to punch holes in your idea ahead of time, and decide how to respond.  This does not work if it’s a bad way of looking at things.

Third: Have confidence. You obtain this confidence by defining what you want to become in your career. When asked questions, try to slip in wherever you can that: you know who you are, what you want to be, and how you’re planning on getting there. The weaknesses example above is a perfect intro to explain these goals. For me it sounds something like this: 

"My goal is to be an industry respected member of the Devops and open source community by having a significant contribution to a high profile project. I aspire to achieve this by becoming an architect of large scale complex systems and eventually be a guest speaker at technical conferences to inspire and influence other Devops minded engineers" 

Fourth: have stumper questions of your own to ask. This is your money maker. Come up with questions for your interviewer that make him think really hard, or intellectually unseat him. Most people try to hire people that are smarter than them. When it is your turn to ask the questions, turn up the heat, and show them how much you prepared, and how intelligent you are. This is also where you find out what type of company you are going to work for. Companies have their own culture, personality, and faults just as much as humans. Treat this like a speed dating round, because you will spend enough time with the company that it is no different than a marriage.
Here are some of my favorite questions: 

  • Where is an area that you feel needs improvement (technology wise,) that is not getting much traction within the organization. 

  • What is the single largest technical problem facing your staff, what is currently being done about it, and what types of tasks would I be performing to help you solve this problem? 

  • Is this a new position? If not, why did the previous owner leave? 

  • What percentage of job positions are filled from within the company via promotion? 

  • What are the current quarterly goals of the department I will be working in? 

  • What are some examples of projects currently being worked on by members of this team? 

  • What are some examples of things that a current employee is doing that sets them ahead of their peers?

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0 Colonel Panic · September 7, 2015
Humor can be hard in an interview.  To make a joke, something has to be the brunt of the joke.  Since you don't know if your choice is something they like, you could get yourself in trouble.   You might be in a place that is strictly ruby on rails shop, and decide to pick on php.  But your interviewer might be the only one in the building advocating for php. 

I usually try and pick up on the personality of my interviewers, and the company itself, then go from there.  Let the situation dictate, pick up your queues from them.  

Also, pick on yourself.  Especially during the "what is your greatest weakness" question.  For some reason every interviewer thinks they are a genius for asking this basic and common question.  Just don't laugh to much, that you tell a story of a mistake you made, and give an impression that you don't care. 

Again, humor is hard.  Being able to fit it in requires a great sales personality.  The best thing to do is be happy, and enthusiastic.  You can avoid being dry without being a stand up comic.  Usually when I am trying to connect with my interviewer on a personal level, i just find something that we both are enthusiastic about, and try to fit in a recent event about that topic.  
0 Donald Trump · September 7, 2015
@Stephen should I try to be funny and make some joke or would that indicate to them that i'm not serious for a high quality job? or should I just be a plain old boring me, with a neutral face who looks like isn't interested in anything in life?
+1 Colonel Panic · September 7, 2015

Always keep your eyes out, and keep looking.  This is true even when you have a job you are happy with.  Never be so loyal to a company that you turn down what could be a great thing for your career.   

If they are assessing, let them, there is no reason why you can't assess other opportunities as well.  If you really want a position, saying something like "Can I get a an update on the status of this, I am looking at another opportunity that I don't want to pass up, but my preference lies here" is really impressive.  It shows ambition, and honesty. 

Remember that Internships are throwaways, for both the intern and the company.  Neither has a long term obligation.  Most of the time they will give you work that really won't help you improve your skills.  It will be the work nobody else wants to do, like refactoring code, or updating documentation.  The key to being an intern is to show potential, and enthusiasm to take on bigger tasks.  Never settle for being told, "click this, then this, then this, then start over."  Make them tell you why, make them give you understanding, even when they seem ridiculously annoyed with the constant questions.  In the end, they will respect what you become, if you are dedicated to learning beyond what is needed to perform the task. 

@Milan, as far as yourself, let them guide that discussion.  Usually you can get by without talking about yourself at all, and that is what you want.  Keep the focus on what the job entails, what the company atmosphere is like, and how each of you can grow from the relationship.  You might get a few questions about "what do you do in your spare time" but try to be as short and sweet as you can, they are just trying to see if you are someone that will clash horribly with the company culture.  Help them get past it, and move on to the stuff that matters. 
0 Donald Trump · September 6, 2015
@Ian thank you for re-opening this thread because it seems like i missed it.

@Stephen can you give me a list of things I should NOT talk about myself or some other things?
0 Ian Arbuckle · September 6, 2015
Sorry for re-opening an old thread as I wish to ask a question. 

I'm applying for an internship role and just had two interviews. I turned down one because I felt the company doesn't have the same goals as me. However the internship that caught my attention was the Java Developer. The interview went quite smoothly but what I don't understand is that they sent me an email a few weeks later saying "We are trying to assess if we have capacity for your internship" 

Should I keep looking else where while they are still "assessing" ?
+1 Colonel Panic · May 8, 2015
When looking for call backs, remember that the first person you are trying to attract the attention of is actually a computer.  There is a program called “Resumator” that many Human Resources departments use to narrow down the thousands upon thousands of resumes that they receive.  This program basically looks for key words, and phrases that they specify.   You want to tailor your resume to have some of these words as much as possible.   If you search google for “resume key words”  or “resume buzzwords” you will see some of the most popular key words that most people resumators pull for.  Examples:
·      Innovate
·      Though Leader
·      Continuous Delivery
·      Ideation
·      Jenkins
·      Linux
You can even further customize your resume for the type of job that you are looking for.  You cited C++.  Look through a bunch of job postings for jobs requiring C++ knowledge.  You will see some common buzzwords among all of them.  Try to fit those types of words and phrases into your resume.   BUT DON’T LIE!!!!
If you don’t know what Continuous Delivery is, don’t say something like: “I am a practiced Continuous Delivery Thought Leader.”   But you can say something like: “…. extremely interesting in gaining experience in continuous delivery from industry though leaders.”
0 Number Double07 · May 8, 2015
I am having trouble just getting a call back.  I use mostly indeed and monster and apply for jobs, but I never get anything.  Also, I'm a bit uncertain about what else to learn.  I've been tutoring in C++ and looking for entry level C++ jobs.  What else can or should I do?
0 Batman L · May 7, 2015
Thank you that's helpful
0 Colonel Panic · May 7, 2015
This is just a basics, a java interview will not be different than a C++ interview, except for the language.   What technology you will be using will not have a determination on the interview, other than the fact that you would be talking about one language rather than another.  Principals of an interview are ambiguous to the language you ware going to be developing/supporting. 
0 Colonel Panic · April 22, 2015
What interview?  Dyn had several interviews, longest being 4 hours.  It was a gauntlet of 4 teams of people asking questions.  Each team got an hour  

Ebsco just an hour, three people.  
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