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5 Tips to Master the Interview

Interviewing is hard.

I tell that to everyone. The people I am interviewing, the people I have interviewed and the people I train how to do interviews. Still we loose sight of this as soon as we sit in that chair and the questions about our abilities start to fly. You are being asked to judge yourself, in the moment, with questions you'd never expect. Questions you would have a hard time answering on a normal day.

It is hard not to feel personally about interviews, because they are personal. At least for me they are. That is actually where your power comes from. Who is the absolute best person to be talking about you? You.

Currently in my role as Director of Software Development I am working to revamp the hiring process. Through this I have created and given training on how to best conduct interviews. I have also given over 100 interviews myself in the last 3 months. Here are 5 things I wish I was seeing from candidates and the reasons they will help you land the job.

1. Be yourself

This one might seem obvious, but it is the number 1 thing that I find is lacking. People, including myself, try to put on a show. To paint ourselves in the best light, even exaggerate our ability to make ourselves look more appealing. What ever the reason I am not hiring the person you want to be, I am hiring you. Show me your personality, be quirky, be different. A group of similar people will never build anything as good as a diverse group of people. Any organization thrives on diversity.

2. Share the bad things

This seems counter intuitive to do in interviews. But sharing the bad things is almost as important, if not more, than sharing the good things. It is a fact that everyone makes mistakes, everyone has things to work on. Sharing yours shows that you understand where your short comings are. Being aware of short comings means you are working to improve them. Sharing working failures allows you to explain and diagnose a past situation. You can show that you learned from that mistake and talk about how you can prevent it in the future. Showing interest in your own improvement will signal to your interviewers you are ready to learn, and work, to be better.

3. Have a plan

Now, you might be asking: "How can I possibly have a plan for something I have never done?". Good question! It isn't about planning your answers to the interview questions, or planning your introductions (although visualization for those areas is great practice!). Having a plan is about understanding where you want to be going in your career and preparing the items you want to share about yourself. This helps you guide the conversation, focusing on where you can show off. It also shows that you have interest in growing into a position. It is a good tell for me if my interviewers only care about filling a role. If they don't ask about your future, your ambitions or goals then it may not be a place where you can grow. Jobs are always a give and take. You contribute your skills. In return you get the mentorship and direction your require to move closer to where you want to be in life.

4. Understand your value

One of the hardest questions I ever got asked, and now I use in my interviews, is "What value do you bring to our team/company?". Whether you get asked this question or not, you should take some time and understand what you bring to the table. You are unique, and you bring a unique perspective and skills to any team. Being able to articulate what that is will put you above 90% of your competitors for any job. Understand what makes you different and showcase that! People deserve to know what makes you great!

You can always ask yourself the questions "What value do I bring?" in the context of your dream job! This will help you figure out what makes you different. If you can picture contributing in a team of people you want to learn from.

5. Invest

Very often we fear the feeling of rejection. It may lead us to remove ourselves from interviews mentally even before they begin. I am not looking for you to commit, but when I interview someone who has already put themselves in the position it brings a different energy. Showing that you are looking to the future. What kind of difference you can make in the organization by investing in the company and the process, the better I can picture you being a part of the team. Similarly make sure the company is investing in you from the start. Always seek feedback from your interviewers. It will show you if they are willing to help you grow, even if you are not part of the company.

Again, interviews are hard. They are mentally and emotionally draining to prepare for, conduct and to get results - especially if it is a no. More than likely that won't change. The more energy you put into the process, the more you will get out. But the greater the feeling of failure and self-doubt if you don't succeed. Know that if you do not get the position it wasn't meant to be right now, but that doesn't mean it won't work out in the future. Be yourself, plan, understand your value and invest in your growth, you will get there!

Outside of interviews you should be focusing on the work you love. As an interviewer I look for passion, but it most definitely does not have to be about programming. Bringing energy to a job can come from many different places, including places that are not related to your job.

I will leave you with this, NEVER FORGET interviews are two ways. You are doing the interviewing as much as you are being interviewed. You have to figure out if the company is going to help you get where you want to go, if they are going to be the right fit for you. It is hard, but don't ever be afraid to say no.

Remember, interviewing will never be a good representation of the work you can do, be honest. To yourself, and to others. Build trust and relationships.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a video of my vlog which is me talking about some of the same topics:


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