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 Milan Obrenovic · 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?
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.  
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