There’s no way around it: interviewing can be stressful. However, with a lot of preparation and, more important, the right kind of preparation, interview stress can be mitigated. To that end, below you’ll find six interview tips from recruiters in the tech industry. These tips will help you prepare for an interview in this highly competitive field and should also help to alleviate a lot of your interview stress.
The following was adapted from the Vault Career Guide to the Internet and Social Media. The full guide can be purchased and downloaded here.
1. Don’t let the challenge of looking for a job get you down; otherwise, that attitude could show up in your interviews.
“Stay positive. Looking for a job can be challenging at times, but if you let the search get you down, then that attitude will show in your interviews. There are a lot of job possibilities out there right now; you just have to be persistent and consistent with your job search. Another piece of advice: have a great resume. Tailor your resume for every job you apply for, use the exact wording from the job ad to show that you have exactly what they are looking for. A resume is your calling card; you will not have an opportunity to shine in an interview if you have a sloppy resume.”
- Allison Perez, executive recruiter at CyberCoders
2. Study and learn how to solve problems, rather than just memorizing answers to interview questions.
“In the days or weeks prior to your interview, you should be preparing for interview questions. You should look at web sites like CareerCup.com to get a feel for what types of questions you might be asked. Study and learn how to solve problems. Don’t try to memorize interview questions. Your interview preparation should also cover questions about yourself. For each item on your resume, be prepared to discuss leadership, challenges, failures, successes, and learnings. When people get stumped by a question about what they did, it’s typically due to a lack of preparation here. Be prepared!”
- Gayle Laakmann McDowell, founder and CEO of CareerCup.com; former software engineer for Microsoft, Apple, and Google; and author of The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any Top Tech Company
3. Interview with some “plan B” companies before you interview with your preferred companies.
“Interviewing is a skill that needs to be practiced. If you haven’t interviewed in a while and need to find a job for whatever reason I would interview with a couple ‘plan B’ companies before you interview with your preferred companies. You need to shake the rust off. And if you have found yourself happily employed for a few years you should get out and interview anyway. It is a good way to stay sharp and stay abreast of what other companies are working on. It might feel like you are leading the company on a bit but you shouldn’t worry about that. If you get an offer, just tell the firm truthfully that you decided to stay put. You don’t want your interview skills to degrade, and then reach a point when you really need them. You never know, you may find a new position that turns out to be really compelling.”
- Rick Robertson, a technical recruiter at Zynga
4. Know your own background inside and out, and be prepared to talk articulately about what you do.
“In terms of interviewing, preparation is by far the biggest key. Preparation starts with knowing your own background inside and out and being prepared to talk articulately about what you do. Projects, skills, experiences, successes, failures, and lessons learned are all fair game. If they’re on your resume, be ready to back them up in conversation. That’s the first part. The second is about honing in on the requirements of the specific job. Ideally the job description will be an accurate representation of the actual position and you can prepare to address the requirements as listed. That’s not always the case, and though it’s still useful to dig through the details and think about how you will address related questions, asking the interviewer for their perspective is always a good idea.”
- Michael B. Junge, staffing industry and director of sales and recruiting at Irvine Technology Corporation and former MVP award winner in the staffing organization at Google
5. Tell your interviewer if you get nervous.
“When you are actually interviewing, make sure to tell your interviewers if you get nervous. Interviewers want you to be at your best and they’ll do what they can to help calm you down. Interviewers are not asking trick questions, but they do want to see how you think on your feet and what you know and what the company might need to teach you. Ask questions you want to know about the company or job and make sure you compile a list of good questions to demonstrate that you care about the topic and/or company. I would also encourage you to be yourself. I know this is harder than it sounds, but these are people you might eventually work with. You should get to know them a bit. Ask them how they ended up at the company and in their particular job. What do they like best about it? Don’t be afraid to ask things you want/need to know. For example, if career growth is important to you, ask them how they feel the company fosters their career.”
- Raquel Garcia, a senior technical recruiter for Microsoft
6. Dress down.
“In the start-up world, dress down during interviews. Depending on the role, if you show up in a suit, you will get laughed at—literally. You need to be a lot more casual. In the Department of Defense world, continue to ‘dress up.’ I’ve worked in both the commercial and federal sectors, so I’ve seen a lot. Overall though, I think interviewing has become a little more informal. Applicants can still expect to be ‘put through the ringer,’ though, as far as the overall criteria. It’s still a job interview.”
- Brad Mattson, an engineering recruiter at Tumblr
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