Whether you’re a seasoned tech professional or a recent graduate, you need to shine at interview if you want to land the top jobs. So what exactly are employers looking for and how can you stand out from the crowd? Read on for advice from the experts…
Demonstrate your cultural fit
Employers typically consider a candidate’s background, qualifications and previous experience – but will also be looking for signs that they will ‘fit’ with the organisation and complement the team in place.
A fast-paced, dynamic start-up that operates with a flat management structure and few operating procedures will want someone who thrives in that environment, for example. If they recruit someone who is more comfortable with fixed procedures, they’re unlikely to stay with the company for long.
‘You need to get a feel for the culture of the company to which you’re applying,’ advises Amy Lynch, Recruiter at ThoughtWorks. ‘Although a solid hands-on ability is crucial to succeed in a technical role, demonstrating your awareness or appreciation of a company’s working environment during the interview stages shows a more thoughtful and considered approach.’
Build up a picture of what the company is like to work for via sites like Glassdoor, reaching out to current and past employees in your network, and following the company’s social media output.
Asking questions about the company culture during the interview demonstrates that you’re aware of the importance of ‘good fit’, and can help you decide if the company is right for you. Amy advises asking questions like “what do you like most/least about the projects you’re working on?” or “what kind of technical training do you provide?” to build an honest ‘warts-and-all’ picture.
Of course, the best way to find out if you’re a good fit, is to spend time in the actual role.
Vivian Chan, CEO and co-founder of Sparrho says, ‘At Sparrho, we like to determine if the candidate is a good cultural fit early on. We also ask potential hires to work on a week-long project and spend a day working with the team to demonstrate their strategy, operational, and execution skills.
‘Candidates should approach the interview process as an interactive one as it’s a two way street – it’s as much a test to see whether the company likes you as it is for you to see if you like them.’
Show your passion
Employers aren’t just looking for candidates who have the right skills and are a good fit – they want professionals who can demonstrate a commitment to the industry and a real passion for tech.
‘If you’re involved in any personal projects involving tech, be sure to bring those up as it shows recruiters that you have a true passion for it outside of your day-to-day job,’ advises Amy.
Increasing your visibility is a good way to demonstrate your commitment – by attending real life events or taking an active role in industry-relevant debates online.
‘Attending tech events is a great way to meet potential employers and stay up-to-date on tech trends and developments; it will also help with the interview process down the line,’ says Amy.
Vivian advises candidates to come to the interview prepared to talk about tech mentors and events they have attended, ‘as it will show your potential employer that you’re not just interested in a job, but that you’re interested in developing a longstanding career in tech.’
Do your research Before the interview, you should have researched the company and have an opinion or intelligent question to ask about their latest development. Search the company’s site for information, such as financial data and statistics, which you can quote. Not only will it give your opinion or question credibility, it shows you’ve done your homework.
Keeping up with company news can be time consuming, especially if you’re interviewing with several places at once. As well as reading industry-specific publications, consider setting up Google Alerts, so that you’re emailed when a new story appears for a specific term.
If you don’t get the opportunity to use your research during the interview, ask an informed question at the end. For example, “I see your company has increased ad sales revenue by 10 per cent during the last quarter, I wonder how that will be affected by…”
Show, don’t tell
Employers want to see what you can do so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to sit a skill-based test or demonstrate a particular skill during the interview. ‘At ThoughtWorks we ask candidates to write code as part of the interview process so be prepared for a hands-on evaluation,’ says Amy.
While some companies use psychometric assessments in an effort to find the best candidate for the role, others prefer to throw interviewees a curve-ball question to see if they can think on their feet. “Why are manhole-covers round?” and “how many dogs are there in the country?” are just two of the more obscure questions posed by Google recruiters, according to career community Glassdoor.com.
These kinds of questions assess your creativity and problem-solving skills, and whether you can be agile as well as logical. Don’t just give an answer; show how you got there by sharing your calculations and assumptions. It doesn’t matter if your assumptions are slightly off, what’s important is that you take a logical approach.
Non-tech roles in tech companies
Finally, if you’re applying for a non-technical role in a start-up or smaller company, the interviewer will want to see that you have a basic understanding of tech as you’re likely to be working closely with IT professionals, says Vivian.
‘For example, we’re currently hiring for a marketing role (Growth Hustler) but we expect the person we hire to be able to talk comfortably about how the product works from a tech perspective.’
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