Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Job Interview Tips

Helpful advice for IT contractors as they prepare for job interviews with clients and recruiters.

When an Interviewer Asks a Ridiculously Tough (or just ridiculous) Question

When an Interview Asks a Ridiculously Tough (or just ridiculous) Question

Clients and recruiters alike have an ability to completely derail a perfectly good job interview by asking a question that totally stumps you. Sometimes it’s a valid question that you hadn’t expected and other times they throw a curveball by asking about a topic completely irrelevant and senseless to the job interview. Even if you are judging them and questioning their intelligence at this point, the situation remains the same — this person is the gatekeeper to your next gig and you need to provide a smart, professional answer.

Natala Pratini wrote an article for Hired a few months ago that provides a helpful roadmap for getting through difficult interview questions. Next time you prepare for an interview with a recruiter or client, rather than try to imagine all possible questions an interviewer might ask, consider these 5 points from Pratini to create a broad strategy:

  1. Take Your Time and Ask Questions: If you already think this response is going to be the death of your interview, spewing out the first thing that comes to mind is not going to make things any better. Think about the question asked to truly understand what the interviewer wants to learn about and start crafting the right response in your head. If the question still is not clear (or makes no sense at all), ask questions for clarification. This will also buy time and demonstrate that you care about providing the best answer.
  2. Walk Your Interviewer Through Your Thinking: Especially if you’re uncertain that your response is answering the question being asked, giving the interviewer insight into how you came to your response will buy you credit. It also provides insight to your problem-solving approach which might be exactly what they want to see.
  3. Practice Humility (judiciously): Know when you’re in over your head. If your answer is going to be nothing more than jargon-filled non-sense that provides no value, then stop yourself right there and admit that you do not have a great answer. Take that opportunity to create a larger discussion about the question, how it relates to the project at-hand, and how you can still provide the best solution or improve your skills.
  4. Remember, It’s Called an Interview ‘Process’ for a Reason: Unless the question was about the core skills required to take on the contract for which you’re interviewing, one poorly answered question will not be your demise. Accept that one portion did not go well and move forward with the interview. Stewing on one terrible response is certain to mess up all other answers.
  5. Use It as a Learning Experience: Everything in life is an opportunity to learn. When you reflect on the interview afterwards, ask yourself if you were truly as prepared as you could have been for this interview and how you could have approached it differently. You should also write down the tricky question so you’re better prepared next time.

Independent contractors go through so many interviews throughout their career, it’s only normal to have acquired a handful of nightmare stories along the way. How have you come out on the other end of a tough question? We’d love to read your experiences in the comments below.

Take Control of a Disorganized Job Interview

Take Control of a Disorganized Job InterviewIf you’ve been an IT contractor for some time then you’ve met with plenty of recruiters from a variety of staffing agencies. Though no fault of your own, you’ve also had interviews go terribly wrong. Perhaps the recruiter is too junior, extremely busy, or just bad at their job, but when you find an interview going off the rails because they were unprepared, it’s up to you to save the meeting.

Certainly, a scattered recruiter who can’t conduct an interview is a red flag, but they may also be the key to a contract with your ideal client. Making the job interview work will make you stand out, be appreciated by the recruiter and give you more control over the outcome.

Have Empathy for the Unprepared Recruiter

This is understandably extremely frustrating for you. You gave up your time, maybe even paid time, to come into their office and meet but this recruiter didn’t even have the courtesy to be prepared. Still, this is a gatekeeper to contract opportunities so refrain from burning bridges just yet. Empathize with the recruiter and understand their situation. Maybe they’re new to the role, extremely busy, having a personal crisis, or got thrown into this interview at the last minute. None are really excusable but putting yourself in their shoes will dictate your future reactions.

Take Control of the Interview (subtly)

You took the time to arrive for the interview and still want a shot at the IT contract, so you might as well make this work. Even if you’ve determined you’re talking to an incompetent human being, let them feel like they’re still in control of the interview. Doing otherwise would not only crush their ego, but can give them a negative impression of you.

It may be their first time conducting an interview, but it definitely is not your first time being in one, so use your experience to guide the conversation. When you feel an awkward silence in the room, ask leading questions:

  • Can I tell you about my background and how I can help the client?
  • Would it be ok if I lead you through my resume to highlight why I’m a good fit?
  • Can you tell me a bit about the client and their project?

Answer Their Questions, Even the Odd Ones

Another reason your recruiter may appear unprepared is because they do not have the technical knowledge to fully understand the job. As a result, you’ll get off-the-wall questions that make no sense. Politely answer them and then steer the response back to something more relevant. This feeds them with real facts they can use to sell you to their client and the recruiter will appreciate you helping them learn more about the technology.

Know When to End It

As alluded to at the start of this post, sometimes a disorganized recruiter is a red flag. Look around the recruitment agency’s office and reflect on your entire experience leading up to this interview. Was this mess a one-time mistake or have you found your way onto a sinking ship of an organization? If this is not going to work, end the interview and move on with your day.

As rare as they are, unprepared interviews do happen, which is why it’s important for you to be prepared! Could you imagine walking into a meeting where neither party had a clue about the opportunity or what to do? If you find yourself in the situation, remember to be polite and empathetic, and just have a meaningful conversation. A self-aware recruiter will remember your conduct, know they can count on you and, as an added bonus, will know they owe you a favour!

Problem Solving Tips for Cracking Coding Interview Questions

Job interviews come in all forms with different goals. Recruiters typically want to know that you’re qualified, have the necessary experience, and that you’re presentable to a client. Once interviewing with your client, you’re more likely to be meeting a hiring manager who has in-depth technical experience and they may test you to ensure you can back up your claims.

We’re increasingly hearing about developer interviews that have a whiteboard component or some sort of challenge where the candidate must solve a coding problem in front of the interviewer, discussing how they’re coming to their conclusions. If you’re currently preparing for one of these interviews, or anticipating one in the future, check out this insightful video from CS Dojo. It provides multiple strategies for solving a coding problem and advice on how to work through and explain your solutions in a job interview.

20 Great Job Interview Tips from 3 Great Sources

When it comes to job interviews, you can never get too much help. Once again, we’ve rounded up the latest tips from some of the most experienced sources when it comes to developer jobs and interviews.

Glass Door’s Job Interview Checklist

Job InterviewGlassdoor is a leader in reviewing companies’ cultures and helping people find jobs at organizations with the best fit. That’s why we’re starting with their interview checklist that guides a job seeker through the process, from the second you get the interview to the days following it.

  1. Study for your interview like it’s a final exam
  2. Generate a list of potential interview questions (and their answers!) beforehand
  3. Write out answers to every question you anticipate, and practice delivering them out loud
  4. Compare your skills and experience to the job description
  5. Be rested and healthy for the big day
  6. Dress for success
  7. Empower yourself
  8. Don’t leave any unnecessary unknowns
  9. Keep an interview journal
  10. Follow up

Simple Programmer’s Top Ways to Behave in a Developer Job Interview

Marcell Lipp has five years of work experience as a software developer and blogs about his experience surviving as a programmer. Lipp recently posted on Simple Programmer with these 6 tips for how to behave in a developer interview.

  1. Stay Calm and Confident
  2. Never Lie About Your Knowledge
  3. Evaluate the Company as Well
  4. Don’t Stress Before the Interview
  5. Buy Time During the Interview
  6. Try Your Best and Be Prepared for Your Interview

Lessons Learned from Dice’s Horror Stories

Dice published a semi-humourous/semi-horrifying article with horrible stories from tech interviews. With each story came a lesson and these are four extremely relevant ones for any technology professional.

  1. Prepare for high pressure
  2. Don’t lie about skills and experience
  3. Never argue… even if you’re right
  4. Don’t Bring Your Parents

Noticeably, many of the tips and advice repeat within each source, highlighting their importance. Also, these lists merely tease the details and clicking through to any of these links will give you much more valuable advice and information on how you can apply it. If you come across any helpful resources, we’d love to see them so we can continue to share expert knowledge from around the world on the Talent Development Centre with IT contractors and other job seekers.

How to Destroy an IT Job Interview in 6 Words or Less (and how you can fix it)

How to Destroy an IT Job Interview in 6 Words or Less (and how you can fix it)When a client requests an interview with you it’s a good sign that you impressed them with the skills and experience outlined in your resume. The hiring manager sees potential for you to be a good fit on their current technology project and wants to learn more about you. At this stage, it is appropriate for the skilled IT contractor to go into the interview with confidence, knowing that you’re interviewing the client just as much as they are interviewing you. With that in mind, however, the interview panel is still in the driver’s seat and regardless of your fantastic skills and rate competitiveness, it’s always possible to blow the interview by saying the wrong thing.

There are many incredibly stupid lines you can toss out in an interview that will immediately move you to the bottom of the list — blatant insults, offensive language, or getting caught in serious lies all make the cut. There are also some less obvious lines that Dice believes some IT professionals may not realize hurt their chances. They recently shared their top five favourite lines that they say can blow a tech interview:

  1. “Check my GitHub”
  2. “That’s a garbage language”
  3. “Sorry, I don’t do
  4. “I haven’t ever used your products.”
  5. “Nope, no questions from me.”

All of these sentences share a similar trait, aside from being six words or less. When you deflect to your online profile, insult their ways, or display a lack of interest in their organization, you give an impression to the client that the job opportunity is not a priority for you. To put it bluntly, you’re being arrogant and rude, and clients hate that.

Understandably, nerves get the best of everyone and sometimes in high-stress situations, words slip out of your mouth before you have a chance to filter them. You may not even realize you gave a terrible answer until you get home and reflect on what just happened.

How Can You Fix That Botched Job Interview?

As the same Dice article points out, “it’s really about what happens after tech interviews.” The context of that statement from Dice is referring to when the interviewer reflects on things afterwards; however, it’s also a positive statement because it means your opportunity is not over. An article from The Muse explains that not only are thank you notes important after every interview, they can also help you recover from a train-wreck.

The article provides templates for thank you letters you should send promptly after the interview for situations when you rambled too much, you showed up late, the interviewer was like a robot, or for when you screwed up the question. Essentially, while expressing your gratitude for their time, The Muse believes it is positive to admit you were further reflecting and want to clarify a response or revise what you told them. While a thank you note may not reverse the damage, it shows positive soft skills, including self-awareness, communication and confidence.

Have you successfully saved yourself after a disastrous tech interview? If so, we’d love to hear the story, please leave it in the comments below.

Give Thanks for Your Job Interviews

Happy Thanksgiving! Among the delicious food and valuable time with family, Thanksgiving is especially about taking time out of your busy schedule and being thankful for everything you have. Very often, as we have these discussions, we recognize that being grateful and giving a simple “thank you” can go a long way in building relationships. This holds true when building relationships with clients and recruiters after a job interview.

A few years ago, The Ladders interviewed 500 job seekers and hiring managers to learn more about how people say thank you, as well as how it’s received. While job seekers vary in their strategies, one thing is for certain, hiring managers definitely consider thank-you notes during their decision-making process.

When to Send Thank You Notes After Interview

What To Do with Your Hands During a Job Interview

As Kelly Benson pointed out back in July, when you’re job hunting, the devil is in the details. Every little step counts, from the spelling in your resume to how you format your resume to how you submit an application. And if you’re fortunate enough to receive one, that attention to detail needs to carry-on to your interview. When you arrive, how you dress, and what kind of handshake you give will all affect the client’s perception of you.

If we’re going to talk about small details, let’s take a look at a really small one we rarely think about — what you do with your hands during the job interview. Business Insider thinks of everything to help you succeed in your job search, and this video is no different. Take a look so you’re more cognizant next time you’re sitting across the table from someone. It’s amazing what kind of effect simple hand gestures can have on whether ornot you win an IT contract.

Improve Your Job Interviews (even when they go horribly wrong)

Do you ever leave a job interview with that amazing feeling that everything went perfectly well and as planned? You’re confident that even if you don’t get the job, you left the absolutely best impression possible. Great! Now what about the interview that you bombed? Ya… those happen too. Here are a few ways you can improve your job interviews, even after they start to fall off the tracks in these all-too-common scenarios.

You Show Up Late

Life happens and sometimes extenuating circumstances lead you to be late for an interview. As a result, you suddenly get nervous, lose your momentum, and assume it’s all over before it even started. Before you throw everything away, consider these three great tips from Work It Daily:

  1. Don’t blow it off — you’ll only burn a bridge and make people angry
  2. Avoid begging for mercy, and ask forgiveness — apologize, but don’t go overboard or rhyme out excuses
  3. Shut down your inner negative Nancy — move forward and focus on what you rehearsed

They Ask the Dreaded Question About Getting Fired

Picture this — everything’s going amazing, you’re connecting with the interviewers and all of a sudden they ask that question: “Why did your last contract end so quickly?” This can be terrifying if it’s because the gig did not end well. Take a deep breath and consider these steps from FastCompany:

  1. Know the policy — review any agreements you may have with your former employer on what you can and can’t say (this one’s rarely applicable in the IT contracting world)
  2. Be honest — show you’re truthful and trustworthy, but also refrain from making yourself look bad (ex. “I was let go” sounds better than “I was fired”
  3. Avoid the blame game — this doesn’t look good on you, no matter how true it is
  4. Bring it back to fit — focus on the positive and how you’re still the best fit for this current position

To summarize all of this advice easily: “Stuff” happens. Suck it up, move on and stay positive.

When you let little things get into your head during an interview, everything will quickly go downhill as one little problem snowballs into a bigger one. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Remember to  plan for your interviews. Take into account what could go wrong and know ahead of time how you’ll deal with it. Good luck!

These Brainteasers are Fun (except when they’re asked in a job interview)

Not long ago, Silicon Valley companies were notorious for asking ridiculous and strange job interview questions that they said tested an applicant’s critical thinking abilities. While some technology companies and IT recruiters continue to keep this in their mix, Google and many other leaders have toned it down a bit. Certainly, job interviews at Google remain challenging and nerve-racking; however, there are some questions that proved to be so complicated and unhelpful, that Google stopped asking them.

Check out this video from Tech Insider which reveals a few Google job interview questions (and their answers) that have since moved into the archives.  The challenge is fun but could you survive the pressure of a job interview that included these?

Never Say These 7 Sentences in a Job Interview

You know those clichés and buzz words that recruiters hate seeing in resumes? They’re not doing you any justice when you bring them up in a job interview either. That’s according to this video published by Business Insider a few years ago. Sure, it may be dated, but we can speak from experience, these clichés have not gone away.

According to the video, there are 7 sayings that need to end:

  1. I’m a team player
  2. I’m the perfect fit for this job
  3. I’m open to anything
  4. I’m a perfectionist
  5. I’m a workaholic
  6. I have good leadership skills
  7. I wasn’t appreciated at my last job

The video dives into specifics as to why each saying’s bad and how it’s hurting you when you say it to a recruiter or client. If any of these seven lines have slipped out of your mouth recently, watch the video for more details and some suggested alternatives.