One of the most important skills that I’ve learned in my 14 years of professional experience especially as a freelancer — due to the frequency of doing it — is how to prepare and perform in a job interview. This step is the most crucial part of a job search. It can make or break the opportunity.
To help you prepare and succeed in an interview, I’ll give you 22 tips about body language, etiquette, how to guess the questions, and answer the tricky ones. I’ve applied those tips in my career as a candidate and used them as a recruiter to evaluate other developers and engineers.
Before the interview
On the day you receive the invitation for the job interview, ask the contact person to give you the names and positions of your interviewers and make sure you have at least 2 days between receiving the invitation and the interview’s day. Then do the following:
- Reread the job description. Pay attention to every word. You may want to print it out and begin underlining the specific soft and hard skills the employer is looking for. Read some tutorials or wikipedia pages about what you don’t know.
- Research the company. Use the company’s website, social media posts, and press releases.
- Research your interviewers. Read their profiles on Linkedin, Xing, etc. Try to collect as much info as you can about them. Based on the information you’ve gathered — their technical background and what they’ve done in their career — , write down a list of questions you expect them to ask you, then answer for those questions.
- Remember your previous interviews in the past and the questions that you were not ready for them. Prepare better answers to increase your chance this time.
- Many developers and engineers include a lot of technologies in their CV, in such cases, you have to expect the question “Are you a generalist or a specialist?”. Prepare an answer for it with examples from your projects where you deep dived in detail and fixed complicated issues.
- Why you jumped from one job to another in a short period of time? This is a tricky question and preparing a convincing answer for it depends on many factors: are you working as a freelancer or not, do you have a partner and/or kids or not, etc.
- The answers that you must avoid are: “I was looking for a better salary,” “My employers were not satisfied with my work (I was fired),” “I had a problem with some colleagues.”
- Here are some acceptable answers: “At the beginning of my career I wanted to learn many technologies and work in different projects, but now after seeing the big picture, I want to be a specialist in […]”, or “I was a freelancer and didn’t want to be engaged in a project that keeps me far away from home for more than a few months,” or “I was a freelancer and single but now I have a partner and a baby that’s why I’m not more looking for short-term projects.”
- Prepare an answer for a question like “Do you want to work in a small or a big team?”, “Do you prefer solo or pair programming?” If you don’t know which kind of work, the company is looking for, then you have to give an answer that will not make them reject your candidature.
- You can expect questions like “Do you want to work as a freelancer or an employee and why?”. An answer like “I prefer working as a freelancer” is not the best one you give in an interview for a permanent position.
- Practice answering the expected questions loud. It’s an effective way to prepare. You’ll gain confidence as you get used to saying the words.
- Prepare a list of references for people or companies you’ve worked with and you’re sure they have a good impression of you.Include their names, positions, emails, and phone number at the end of your CV. This is helpful to quickly move forward in the hiring process.
- Be prepared with examples of your work**.** After reviewing the job description, think of work in relation to the position you’ve done in the past. Even if you will not be asked about experiences with tasks similar to the job requirement, use the time when you have to present yourself to mention them.
- **Prepare smart questions for your interviewers. **A job interview is a two-way street. Based on the kind of questions you ask, your interviewers will judge your experience, expertise, and capabilities. They ill evaluate how good you are, how much do you know about certain techniques, and if you are junior or a senior.
- You should come prepared to discuss your salary expectations. You need to google and ask friends and people you know.
During the interview
- Relax! Before the interview, take a deep breath and exhale slowly to manage feelings of anxiety and encourage self-confidence. This is very important to succeed. Remember that even if you will not be chosen for the position, this is an opportunity to learn and perform better next time. Instead of stressful thinking like “I have to make it”, “I really need this job”, “I must perform well during the interview”, it was very helpful for me every time I go to an interview saying to myself “I’m going to enjoy an interview.” and treat it just like a professional meeting at work.
- Bring a pen and a paper or a small notebook with you to take some notes (not too much). Even if you don’t need it, having a pen and a paper (not an electronic device) to take notes is a sign of how professional you are.
- Practice a body language (gestures, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice) that reflects self-confidence, honesty, and professionalism from the moment you enter the building. Sit or stand tall with your shoulders back. Maintain eye contact with your interviewers. Use your hands while speaking and practice at home first to not look awkward or unnatural. Nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communications. There are many helpful videos about this point on YouTube.
- Be honest. Respond truthfully to the questions and pay attention to the words you choose. Think about the difference between these two questions. Which of them would you rather answer: “What’s the problem?” or “Do you have concerns we should discuss?” One question is harsh while the other is open and conveys concern.
- So, instead of saying “I have no experience with this technology,” you can say “I have more theoretical than practical know-how with this technology,” if you have done some documentation (remember my advice in the first point).
- Instead of “this is a bad solution,” you can say “this is not the best solution,” or “we could optimize this solution.”
- Instead of “this is a problem,” you can say “this is a challenge.”
#interview #work #programming #self-improvement #creativity