By now I’m sure many readers may have tried out the new Career Initiative feature at mytechlogy.com. Those who did may have already applied for job openings of their choice and are very likely eagerly awaiting an interview call. If you are a young professional an interview can be a somewhat unnerving experience. An interview may seem like some kind of exam that has to be passed with flying colours. While that may be true in a way, it’s not just expertise in subject matter that’s the clincher. Interviewers may also look for clues or evidence of a number of characteristics.
What are these, and how does one demonstrate them? A complete and definitive list would be difficult to prepare as it all depends on both, what traits a company broadly looks for in all hires in general as well as the specific qualities that are required for a particular job opening. There are some general pointers, however, that would be useful in any interview situation.
Before attending an interview it is necessary to prepare for it in a number of ways. First, try to find out as much as you can about the company that has invited you to speak with them. Most companies have a website, and if they don’t try finding out about them through other internet references or by asking around. Second, recall and reflect upon whatever work experience you’ve had so far, so that you have ready examples of both, your successes as well as failures, and the impact they had on yourself and on your company. Third, brush up on your subject matter if required.
If you really want the job it always helps to act like you want it. It starts with being punctual and dressed appropriately for the role and company. Be enthusiastic in how you present yourself, be pleasant and confident. The first impression has a significant impact on the hiring decision, according to surveys. If you have researched the job, the company or even the interviewer’s profile, you can reveal this by working a positive piece of news or facet about it into the conversation. If you’re full of facts about the company but don’t reveal any of it the interviewer has no way of knowing whether you looked them up at all.
Fielding technical questions.
When answering technical questions from either your area of subject matter expertise or outside of it, be natural and honest in your answers. Also, remember that while the answer by itself is important, how you arrive at it and present it is equally important. The how gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your creativity, depth of knowledge and also breadth. Bear in mind that most employers look for practical and maintainable solutions that are rather than excessively complicated ones, or ones that are untested. If you need more information or time to prepare a response, say so up front. If your responses are challenged, don’t lose your nerve, but calmly evaluate the challenge before coming out with a response. Getting an answer wrong does not necessarily mean you have lost the opportunity. How you accept the challenge and then work your way to the correct answer may actually significantly improve your chances of getting hired. Wherever possible, try to mention caveats to your responses as these are helpful indicators that you know more or that you also understand associated themes around the solution. For example, if you are being interviewed in Java or Python for working with Big Data applications, and you also have additional knowledge about NoSQL or SQL databases, or if you understand the business well enough to have provided creative suggestions to the analytics team it will certainly help if you let the interviewer know, provided of course, you also know the answer to the initial question.
Know when to flex.
Don’t get into a competition with the interviewer to demonstrate that your knowledge is better, even if you think it is! Being stubborn and argumentative will get you nowhere. If you are very confident that you are right you may be firm and confident but always polite. Accepting additional inputs or alternate points of view and being able to discuss them are often interpreted by interviewers as an indicator of flexibility and the ability to learn or work in a team.
During the interview, even if you feel nervous at times, stay focused on what the interviewer is saying and watch for visual cues as well. In the course of a discussion that can go beyond an hour, you will come across well if you are able to recollect a tidbit of detail that was mentioned much earlier in the discussion. Listening well is not just a sign of respect for the person you are having a conversation with but also a desirable trait in any potential employee.
No matter how the interview proceeds, stay positive. When discussing past failures or difficult situations at work, present them honestly, and focus on the learnings gained from them. Avoid blaming former colleagues or bosses for failure as this does not reflect well on you. It’s alright to explain difficult circumstances or situations as long as you show that you remained objective and owned the outcomes when necessary. Modesty is good, but don’t run yourself down or be overly self-deprecating to your own profile or efforts. A part of being positive is to give yourself fair credit when due. Once the interview is over, regardless of how you thought it went, keep smiling and remember to voice your appreciation for the opportunity to be interviewed. If it’s a close call between your profile and those of other candidates, these softer factors may well be the clincher for you.