If you are a relatively young IT professional or it has been a while since you were last on the market, selection processes can be quite daunting – especially when we are talking about first interviews. But, even if you are a seasoned expert who thinks they have got interviewing techniques all figured out, it never hurts to look at how you approach these defining moments and see what you can do better.
As with many things in life, common sense can help a great deal.
The first, and most obvious, point to consider is that first impressions are often everything. How much the interviewers like you or not will make the difference between getting called in for a second interview and receiving a “thank you for your interest” email. With that in mind, take also into account that first interviews might not be with your future manager – most are conducted by HR professionals and therefore are focused on softer skills rather than on technical ones.
Knowledge is power. Showing that you took the time and effort to thoroughly research the company shows your professionalism and interest in the position. Take a look at the company’s website and social media accounts, at the project or department with which you will be involved. Get a sense for what they do, and, most importantly, what they have done recently. Chances are they recently released a new product or service, that they were featured in a news article. See if you can factor that into the conversation.
You should also try to get a sense for the organisation’s corporate culture. Is it formal, laid back? The response will help you prepare better.
I am not going to get into the recommended attire – that goes without saying.
Let’s clarify something. Conducting extensive research and preparations for the interview does not mean you should just show up and play the part. Honesty is key, both to your interviewers and to yourself. Pretending to be in line with everything the company might get you the job after all, but the truth will eventually reveal itself, and you will either end up hating your job or not fitting in.
Be straightforward, be yourself.
Be humble, but ring the bell
Honesty is great, but it is even better when paired with humility. The purpose of job interviews is to evaluate a candidate’s fit for a position, both culturally and in terms of technical skills. That requires you to highlight your abilities and qualifications, to present your story in a way that further reinforces the good feeling the interviewer got from your CV. But no one likes self-absorbed and presumptuous colleagues.
To avoid giving the impression of being one, make sure to keep a balanced approach when describing your past professional experience and achievements. Be the humble person everyone knows you are, don’t be afraid of admitting you don’t know about a particular topic and avoid overstatements.
The tricky question
“So… Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you solved it.” Many wait with dread for the moment when they are asked one of these infamous tricky questions. They can feel like a trap – say the wrong thing, and you’re toast.
In reality, and no matter what some claim, there is not a right or wrong way to answer these questions. They are designed for two things: to reveal your thought processes and to evaluate your professional character and professional ethics. With that in mind, let the previously mentioned points – honest and humility – guide your way.
Ask questions yourself
Finally, it is very important to ask questions back. It does not only make the interview more dynamic and helps you guide the conversation; it also shows that you have initiative and are proactive when faced with a challenge. It also offers a good opportunity to show you did your homework and researched the company carefully – ask them what it was like to implement that project, or how much you liked their new platform.
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