Interviewing, as I’ve written in past articles on the subject, is hugely terrifying for the hiring manager. I mean, you might thin it’s tough on you, the person trying to get hired (and it is), but it’s absolutely horrific for the hiring manager.
Think about it: you’ve got this complete stranger, whom you know at most from a resume they’ve written to make themselves look good, and perhaps from an interview where they’re on their best behavior. You really know nothing about their applied technical skills (which is why coding challenges, a much-reviled and all-too-common part of the process, are a thing), and you know zilch about their personality. Yet you’re contemplating purchasing a service from this person! More, you’re looking at essentially bringing them into your home and inflicting them on your coworkers! People know more about a restaurant they’re about to try for the first time than they do about this person they’re about to enter into—hopefully—a lasting relationship with.
But you can make it easier on the hiring manager, and I’d argue that you should. Doing so helps your chances, and you can actually do more to relieve their anxiety than you think.
First, get the tech skills off the table. This is the one thing we can all demonstrate, clearly and objectively, ahead of time. If you haven’t done these things before even starting the job search, then you’re off to a bad start—course-correct fast.
- If you’re a developer, make sure you have some complete, public (open-source) projects that an employer can look at. Not just one, either: have a few. This lets them see your coding style, your expertise, and more, all without asking for a stupid “coding challenge.” This can be as simple as writing a custom plugin for WordPress, or standing up a functioning website, or something else. Have the code on GitHub, refer to it prominently in your resume, and let it speak for your coding skills.
- Not a developer? Adapt the above advice to your specific field. Network engineers can show diagrams of the networks they’ve built, ops people can show automation scripts and domain diagrams, and so on. Show what you’ve done.
- List certifications and stuff, sure, but know that experience is what counts.
- Do some research. Ask around on social media and find out what tech stacks your prospective employer uses, and make sure your “public profile” is speaking to those. If you’re entering a Linux shop, but all your public presence shows is you answering Windows questions on ServerFault.com, then you’re not aligned to the job.
- Have a varied public profile. This is your personal brand, and it’s crucial. Be answering questions in Q&A forums, helping run local or virtual user groups, and all that. Being seen as part of a tech community is an important credential and helps validate your technical abilities.
If you can create a public persona that clearly exemplifies your tech skills, then the interview can be a lot more about the harder-to-quantify “soft skills.” This is where you need to prep and practice.
- Show solid written communication skills by being extra-vigilant and super-detailed in your pre-interview communications. Email answers like “sure” don’t cut the cake. Typos and spelling errors are unforgivable.
- At the interview, show solid verbal communication skills by being concise, thoughtful, organized, and confident in yourself.
- Be prepared to speak to your ability to be an effective team worker and/or lean leader. Discuss specific situations, meaning you can state dates and times and discuss the scenario in as much detail as desired.
- Be ready to talk about how you deal with failure, again by using specific situations, not just abstract thoughts.
- Discuss how you approach your own emotional intelligence, and how you work with difficult teammates—and how you try to set an example for others.
- Talk about your love of helping others, and how you’ve worked to teach your coworkers and even acted as a mentor in the past. You… you have done that, right? No? Why not? (Hint: there’s no good answer to “why not,” so make sure you never need to get asked that again.)
If you can do all of that, you’re all but guaranteed a successful interview.