Acing the In-Person Technical Interview

by Kelly Gerlach

Face to Face Interview

As IT Professionals, we are often asked to prove our technical skills after we’ve completed the initial interview phases. Interviews on their own are nerve wracking, and then add in a skill test to the mix, and it becomes difficult to work on charming the room while worrying about a technical skill test.

So how can you ace an in person technical interview? Here are a few steps to remember.

Preparation Is KEY

The best thing that you can do as a technical candidate in an interview environment is prepare yourself for the interview process before entering the arena. Find out what the game plan is from the hiring manager, or HR manager – whoever has set up the interview with you.

Ask the organizer of the interview to lay out an agenda. Ask probing questions to get as much information as possible.

  • Is the technical portion of your interview going to be setting up a server?
  • A coding test?
  • A whiteboard session?
  • Will there be a Q&A portion afterwards?
  • Who will attend the actual interview?
  • What topics are going to be covered?

Once you gain all the information you can from your contact, keep researching online to see what other people that have interviewed have gone through.

Practice Your Skills!

You’ve heard the old adage “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice…”! This same principle holds true for your technical interview. Now that you have the intel you need to go into the interview prepared, it’s time to really hone your skills and get them ready to show off!

Do some roleplaying on your own before the interview. Review the questions that you believe you’ll be asked, and write down your process of answering. Make sure everything sounds coherent, and that there’s a path between each piece of information. That way, you won’t get nervous during the real deal!

Since this is a technical interview, there will obviously be technical questions. But don’t just focus on proving you know how to code in C#. You want to practice the soft skills as well – these are the personality questions that a lot of candidates dread.

Think about how you would respond to the following:

  • Tell me about a time when you were working on a project and got stuck. How did you handle the situation?
  • How well do you work in a group?
  • Do you prefer to work in a team or individually?
  • What are your strengths/ weaknesses?

Always stay positive and upbeat, even when talking about your weaknesses. While it’s easy to think of different skills you want to improve upon, spin your weaknesses into positives. Something along the lines of: “I’m detailed oriented to a fault at times.” Or “I see a problem and immediately start brainstorming on how it can be fixed.”

While still a weakness, it shows that the “weakness” is actually a strength!

Be Yourself

Interviewers can see right through you. It’s easy to put on a different personality when trying to impress your future employer, but don’t. Be authentic. Answer questions in a direct and concise manner. Try to really build a rapport with the person (or team!) you’re meeting with. This makes you stand out from other technical applicants who may not have the soft skills that you possess.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Notes

As a technical recruiter, one of the biggest things that I tell candidates is “Take a notebook or legal pad with you and do not be afraid to jot down notes as the interviewer is talking!”

Trust me, you won’t remember the question you wanted to ask after 20 minutes of continued talking.

Don’t worry about taking notes, it actually shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and paying attention. Just make sure to use nonverbal communication as the interviewer is discussing the role. Nodding is a great way to show that you are really paying close attention to what the person is saying.

Show Your Skills!

You’ve made it this far, the interviewer knows that you look good on paper…. Now it’s time to PROVE those technical chops! You need to showcase projects you’ve worked on. Samples of code, websites that you’ve developed, applications that you can present. All of these show the interviewer that you aren’t just talk – you’ve put your skills into practice. Be prepared with a tablet or laptop, don’t be afraid to fire it up and show what you’re made of!

A Strong Finish Is Important

Always show your interest to the hiring manager after the interview has ended. It’s okay to show you’re excited – ask the interviewer what roadblocks are stopping you from getting the position? What can you do to overcome these obstacles, and what are the next steps before an offer?

Talk to the person confidently, and ALWAYS follow up with a thank you note to the person you spoke with. Honestly, this goes a long way to show you are excited and ready to work!

The technical interview shouldn’t be any different than any other in person interview. Using the above tools will help you prepare and ready yourself to ace the interview and land the job – and all you need is a little bit of preparation!

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