Recently I have been helping with some interviews for a new Java Developer at IDRsolutions and found that sitting on the other side of the table has opened my eyes to what an interview is actually like.
In the past, when attending an interview, it felt like a hostile environment. Almost as if I would be picked apart, having every flaw examined, and I would have to fight to prove my worth. Now that I have actually been on the other side of the table I can see this is not the case. If anything, interviews should be seen as two sides trying to find a mutual agreement.
After all if you have impressed someone enough to get an interview they already know you have the skills to do the job. Now they want to know more about you, your capabilities when on the spot and how you handle yourself.
If you are invited to a interview there are some bits of advice I would give that could help the interview go in your favor.
1. Polish up any skills that are included in the job description as these are the skills you are most likely to be asked to demonstrate if you are to ask you to demonstrate anything. There is an obvious difference between someone struggling due to nerves and someone who has obviously not used the required skills recently and have forgotten what to do.
It is actually a really good sign if the interviewers ask you to show your skills and it shows they are doing their job. Would you want to work for an organisation which does not bother to check basic competence?
2. If you are going for a skilled job, put together a portfolio if possible and mention it on your covering letter as some jobs may request one. If they don’t request one, be forward and offer to bring it along to the interview.
This will allow you to show your standard of work under normal conditions. Just remember to go through it ahead of time and familiarise yourself with it again. You don’t want to forget what certain parts are half way through.
3. The interview is more like two sides reaching a mutual agreement. Don’t let the interview become a one sided question and answer session. Don’t be afraid to involve the interviewer in your answers and try to get some interaction between you. For instance when asked stereotypical questions like Why do you want to work for us? many people will reply with something generaly equating to, I believe I have the correct skills for the job and the discipline to remain focused and hard working.
If you are at the interview they know you have the skills. Why not try showing your knowledge of the company and your interest in what it is achieving / producing at the moment and your desire to get involved and how you could contribute. I know the two examples are similar but there is a huge difference between saying you can do this job and showing knowledge of the company, desire to be part of it and what you can do for them.
4. Be honest. If you are shown something or told something and asked your opinion, please be honest. If it is related to the company and you feel there is something wrong with it chances are your interviewer knows this as well so be truthful but be prepared to back up your argument. If you turn a blind eye and say it’s perfect when there are obvious flaws the interviewer may start wondering why you haven’t picked up on the flaw. Just remember to be diplomatic while being truthful and it gives you a chance to sell yourself such as – I feel that the website could be really improved with a help forum and I have the PHP skills to add this…
Also if you pretend you have skills and the interviewer probes further – you will be caught out. This looks much worse than just saying the truth! Very few interviewers honestly expect you to know everything – their job is to find the strengths and gaps, see what else you offer and see what kind of person you are.
These are my personal opinions on interviews and what can help turn an average interview into a great one. What advice would you give?