Congratulations! Your resume has spoken for itself. It has passed the complicated ATS system of your dream tech company, and you have finally bagged an interview.
Now the real fun (read pressure) begins.
If you want to crack the interview, you must prepare carefully. One or two missteps, and you can be disqualified, even if you have the right experience and skill sets. Don’t blow it by making the following mistakes.
Here's what this article will cover:
- Mistakes to avoid before the interview
- Mistakes to avoid during the interview
- Best practices to follow after an interview
- To sum up…
Mistakes to avoid before the interview
Not doing your research or failing to prepare
An obvious lack of preparation is an opportunity crusher! If you haven’t prepared well or haven’t done enough research about the role and the company, it will become evident during your conversation with the interviewer. Good preparation acts like a “secret weapon,” giving you a huge advantage over your competition during your interview. Always remember—hiring managers want enthusiastic and proactive people in their team who are genuinely interested in working for them.
1. Carefully analyze the job description to ensure you know exactly what the organization is looking for in candidates. This will prove to be extremely useful when asked questions related specifically to the employer and job opportunity, such as:
- "Tell me about a time when you reached a big goal at work" and other such questions that draw on past experiences or situations.
- "What do you know about this organization?"
- "Why do you want to work here?"
2. Prepare smart answers to frequently asked tech interview questions, such as
- Which programming languages are you most proficient in?
- What is your code development process?
- Describe a project you have worked on recently.
- How do you stay abreast of the latest trends and technologies in your industry?
3. Review common tech business terms, such as agile, lean, iteration, scope, stakeholder, scalability, MVP, traction, QA, etc.
4. Prepare for exercises and code tests that show interviewers whether your skills on paper match up in reality, how you solve a problem, and what you do if you get stuck. This is another way in which the job description can help you. For example, if the position you are applying for specifically focuses on HTML and CSS, some code test questions you can expect are:
- Code a website element (like a menu or a button).
- Debug HTML or CSS code.
- Create or recreate a simple webpage.
5. Not updating your online profile
To get a sense of the candidate, hiring managers often look them up online. Hence, it’s imperative you keep all professional information, such as your LinkedIn profile and online work portfolio, updated.
- Embed a link to your online portfolio in your resume.
- Doble check if the link works across all screens (laptops, mobiles).
- Ensure the most relevant projects are prominently displayed.
- Ensure there are no glitches, typos, or grammatical errors.
Other things to keep in mind
Do not forget interview essentials, such as a few copies of your resume, physical portfolio (if you’re a designer), your laptop and charger, a pen and a notepad, and anything that your employer has specifically asked for.
Mistakes to avoid during the interview
1. Arriving late
Being late for an interview can negatively impact the employer’s impression of you. Hiring managers and recruiters at tech companies often have back-to-back interviews scheduled with candidates. Hence, if you’re late, you disrupt the schedules of several interviewers and your chance to showcase your skills (which is a usually time-consuming process) is cut short.
- Make sure you know exactly where the company is located, how you plan to get there, and have plenty of time on hand to make the trip. Your aim should be to arrive at least 10 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of the interview.
- Always call in advance if you’re running late for an interview. Inform the recruiter or hiring manager that you may not make it on time and give a realistic time frame of when you’ll arrive.
- If you’re late, own your mistake, apologize, then respectfully move on.
- State genuine reasons for showing up late. Defective alarm clocks, heavy traffic, or work delays are weak excuses.
- If you’re late and feel horrible about it, take a moment to regain your composure and gather your thoughts before meeting the recruiter or hiring manager.
2. Dressing inappropriately
You’re a metalhead? Great! Just don’t turn up for an interview wearing a T-shirt with James Hetfield’s face on it. Unless your interviewer is also a metalhead, that’s a look that says, “Don’t hire me!” While we may not be fashion gurus, we do know what impresses recruiters (and what doesn’t). Looking put together during an interview can never go wrong. It shows that you care about the organization and the job and want to put your best foot forward.
- Dress codes vary. For instance, a FAANG company may want you to dress up formally. On the other hand, a tech start-up may be okay with someone who dresses casually. Hence, it’s important to get a sense of the corporate culture to make sure that your attire is appropriate.
- Business casuals are the safest options.
- Avoid wearing clothes that are rumpled, wrinkled, stained, don’t quite fit, or are uncomfortable. The aim is to be able to focus on what’s truly important—your answers!
3. Panicking if you’re unsure how to answer a question
During an interview, it’s quite probable that the interviewer may ask a very difficult or confusing question. In that case, the natural thing to do is panic. However, if the question is difficult or if the code test looks confusing, try to remain calm and collected. Start by taking a deep breath and reassuring yourself that you can do it. This is an important trait that employers look for in a candidate, i.e., the ability to handle pressure and remain calm and composed in difficult situations.
- Start by ensuring that you understand the question or the task in hand. If you don’t, repeat the question in your own words. If you go wrong or get stuck, the recruiter will help you. Don’t hesitate to ask for more information, especially if the question is intended to test your approach to a problem.
- Speak up! Don’t silently scribble solutions on the whiteboard or mumble to yourself. The interviewer is interested in knowing what’s going through your mind, your approach to the problem, and how you come up with answers.
- Don’t give up before fighting the battle. Even if you feel completely baffled by the question or task in hand, attempt to solve it. Never say, “I don’t know!” Replace it, instead, with “Let me think!” After all, organizations want persistent candidates, not those who throw their hands up in despair at the first sign of trouble.
4. Not asking questions
Asking questions at the end of an interview is very important because it shows that you are very interested in the organization, the job, and that you want to know more.
Here are a few questions you can ask your potential employer after an interview:
- What products or projects will I be handling or working on?
- What tools does the team use?
- Who will evaluate my work and how will it be done?
- What’s the company culture like?
- What’s the growth curve like for this position?
- What are the learning opportunities that I will be exposed to?
- Are there any concerns you have about my skill sets?
- What are the biggest challenges the company is facing right now?
- What are the biggest opportunities for the company right now?
Avoid asking questions only about promotions, holidays, raises, and benefits. Unless relevant, these questions are generally not well-received and indicate that you’re only interested in personal benefits rather than organizational goals.
Other things to keep in mind
1. Maintain a professional demeanor
Sometimes, candidates start off by speaking and acting professionally. However, as the interview goes on, they lose enthusiasm and use unprofessional language. Regardless of the company you’re applying to or how informal the hiring manager sounds, remember you’re speaking to professionals and not friends.
2. Don’t stick to tech
When given the opportunity, highlight other skills you possess, such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, communication, work ethics, flexibility, etc.
3. Maintain eye contact and exude confidence
Eye contact reflects confidence and high self-esteem—important qualities recruiters look for in candidates. However, don’t stare fixedly at the interviewer and smile from ear-to-ear. The idea is to impress them and not scare them. Keep it natural.
4. Don’t share irrelevant or too much information
When talking about your non-technical experience, draw a relation to the position you’re interviewing for. Avoid giving the interviewer a detailed rundown of your last several positions. Think of it as a highlight reel, emphasizing the best parts.
Best practices to follow after an interview
- Before you leave, ask the recruiter in charge of filling the position about the maximum time the hiring manager takes to make a decision. Also find out who you should follow up with and the best way to do so. Note your relevant contact information.
- While the interview is still fresh in your mind, analyze how you performed in the interview. Outline questions you thought you answered well and those that didn’t go so well. This will help you avoid the same mistakes in the future. Also take note of anything the interviewer said or did that may have baffled you or rubbed you the wrong way. This could help you determine if the organization and the position are right for you.
- Send a thank-you email to your employer for their time and consideration. Feel free to ask questions about the interview that have been lingering on your mind, if any. You could also answer any questions you couldn't answer during the interview.
- Pace your follow-ups. If the recruiter didn't tell you when to follow up, wait for at least a week after the interview.
- If you don’t get the job, thank the interviewer for their time and ask for feedback.
To sum up…
Tech interviews are definitely challenging but should be not intimidating or scary. Avoid these common mistakes by acting professionally, and coming prepared.
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