The interview process is an art, probably a broken one. I know it has a lot of different factors and some maybe even random. But let’s focus on what we can control. We can control what you prepare and how well you perform. For the technical side (algorithms, inverting a binary tree…) there are a ton of good resources you can look for. 4 questions tend to be overlooked. These questions are not enough to turn around a bad technical interview, but you can check all the boxes if you ace them (a lot of these processes finish with very tight decisions).
- What have you heard about this company? This is a great opportunity for you to show how much you have prepared and how bad you want this job. You don’t want to show like this is just another interview in your whole process. Or worse that this is practice for the interviews you really care about. Here are some ways you can prepare:
- Start by understanding the sector. You need to have which sector are they and how do they make money. Google can help you or talk to a friend who knows about the company/sector. Understand what the sector is going through, are they growing, shrinking. Which are the biggest competitors/menaces?
- Understand the company from 10,000 ft. Are they public or private? How much revenue did they make last year? Any interesting acquisitions lately? Something important on the news? If the company is public, try searching for the last earning call transcript. This will help a lot and you’ll find opportunities to use your preparation.
- Understand the company on a local scale. How is this branch doing? When did they open? Are they the new kids on the block? What is their relationship with the mothership?
- Tell me about the hardest problem you have solved. This could be considered a technical question but I want you to focus on the storytelling. Set a good context about that last problem that you could not stop thinking about. Be very specific on the problem, the avenues you tried and how did you end up solving it. You need to project grit and that you never give up. Also, explain how would you approach a similar problem now that you have solved that one. Extra credit if the problem is related to the technologies they are working with.
- Tell me something interesting you read lately. The interviewer is trying to find out if you really like what you do. Do you read about stuff in your free time, how do you keep up with all the stuff that is changing. I don’t recommend that you read a super complex article so you can show off. Just try to remember what you have read lately, explain why it was interesting and what you learned. This does not need to be 100% related to the technologies they work on, it could be about another field that is interesting for you (cybersecurity, networking, anything related to tech).
- Do you have any questions for me? A lot of people miss this opportunity to show they have prepared and to gain valuable information that could help in the following processes. Ask genuine questions about their job, work-life on that company, how are they’ve been affected by global events (COVID19 for example) and anything that you might want to know. Try to come prepared with some questions but have your eyes open for any question that might come up during the conversation.
An interview should be a conversation. It could happen that these questions are not included. Although you can use different parts of the interview to show what you have prepared. The easier part is at the end when they let you ask questions. Use that free form time to show how you have prepared and why you are the right person for the job.