Monday, 8 October 2012

Top Interview Tips For Freshers

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ü  For the eager candidate getting ready for a big job interview, Cracking the Technical Interview is an invaluable reference, containing excellent coaching and practice material that gives you an inside edge on the interview process. However, as you go over your old data structures textbook and drill yourself with homemade discrete math flash cards, don’t make the mistake of thinking of the interview as a kind of high-pressure game show – that if you just give all the right answers to the tech questions, you too can win a shiny new career (this week, on Who Wants to be a Software Engineer?)

ü  While the technical questions on computer science obviously are very important, the most important interview question is not covered in this guidebook. In fact, it’s often the single most important question in your interviewers’ minds as they grill you in that little room. Despite the questions on polymorphism and heaps and virtual machines, the question they really want an answer to is ...

o    Would I have a beer with this guy?

ü  Don’t look at me like that, I’m serious! Well, I may be embellishing a little, but hear me out. The point I’m trying to make is that interviewers, especially those that you might work with, are probably just as anxious as you are. Nonsense, you say, as a nervous young professional, checking your pants for lint while you bite your fingernails, waiting for the interview team to show up in the front lobby. After all, this is the big leagues, and these guys are just waiting for you to slip up so they can rip you apart, laugh at your shriveled corpse, and grind your career dreams to dust beneath the heels of their boots.

o    Right? Just like pledge week, back in freshman year? Right? Hmmm?

ü  Nothing could be further from the truth. The team of developers and managers interviewing you have their own tasks and projects waiting for them, back at their own desks. Believe me, they’re hoping that every interview is going to be the last one. They’d rather be doing anything else. There might be a batch of upcoming projects looming on their calendar, and they need more manpower if they’re going to even have a prayer of making their deadline. But the last guy the agency sent over was a complete flake who railed about Microsoft’s evil for half an hour. And the one before that couldn’t code his way out of a wet paper bag without using copy-and-paste. Sheesh, they think, where is HR getting these guys? How hard can it be to hire one lousy person?

ü  While they may not literally be asking themselves “Would I have a beer with this guy (or gal)”, they are looking to see how well you would fit in with the team, and how you would affect team chemistry. If they hire you, you’re all going to be spending a lot of time together for the next few months or years, and they want to know that they can rely on you – and maybe even come to consider you a friend and colleague. They want to know that they can depend on you. And as tempting as it might be to them to just settle and hire the next person who comes along, they know better.

ü  In many companies, particularly large U.S. companies, it’s harder to fire somebody than it is to hire somebody. (Welcome to the US: Land of Lawsuits!) If they hire a dud, they’re stuck with them. That person might be unproductive or, even worse, a drain on the team’s productivity. So they keep interviewing, until they find the right person. They know that it’s better to reject a good candidate than hire a bad one.

ü  Some of those interviews are real doozies. Once you’ve interviewed long enough, you build up a repertoire of horror stories. War stories, of candidates who looked promising on paper until the interviews went terribly, terribly wrong. These war stories are not only humorous – they’re also instructive.

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