7 tips for your first IT job interview
Published in Leadership and Soft Skills.
You may find a lot of job interview tips on the Internet, but they mostly focus on the way companies and job postings are built, not how you sell yourself. It’s wrong.
I found my first and current job at Citi last July. Since then, a lot of my student friends from universities got hired too. Here is our collective experience on how to prepare for your first IT interview to land the job of your dreams.
1. Learn types of Interview questions. The usual ones are Credibility, Opinion, Behavioral, Competency, and Role Play questions. Write down questions that get asked the most and prepare answers to them. Good answers are the backbone of any interview.
2. Tell your story. The less the interviewer has to ask you the easier you’ll pass. If you can touch on all the points the interviewer got to check in your personal story, you’ll have an offer in no time. Tell about your projects and what were the biggest obstacles, why you want to work in this company or field, what are your ambitions and what do you do to fulfill them.
3. Have questions to ask. You may not believe you get to choose the company you’ll work at, but you have to understand that interviewers want applicants to ask questions. That’s an indicator of your interest. And all managers want to hire interested & motivated people.
4. Use your soft skills to the fullest extent. Soft Skills matter even for beginner-level jobs. In the biggest corporations, employees use a lot of internally made software you can’t know. Starting from extensions to Outlook and ending with internal Social Networks, this software is unique to the company. But you can have the skills to learn it fast. And that’s one application of soft skills.
Don’t underestimate the difference between an Analyst with great communication skills and little SQL knowledge and a lone wolf with deep knowledge of the PostgreSQL engine. Startups may hire the latter, but corporations will prefer the former.
5. Sell your Unique Skill Set. Investigate the way you differ from other candidates and build a strong presence out of that. Do you know how to write great documentation? Do you use the most complicated features of Excel? Do you effectively sell your data findings to customers? Communicate these things to the interviewer explicitly and be ready to prove them.
6. Stick to a plan. Once you find the skills you have to communicate, write them down and learn by heart. You’ll need to find a way to insert them into the conversation. After all, an interview is a conversation. If you can’t say anything useful to the questions the interviewer has prepared, why won’t you change the flow of the interview to expose the best of you? It’s risky but still worth it.
7. Evade automatic interviews. Some companies use automated Interview systems that ask you to answer a certain question in a camera in 3 minutes. I’d suggest you avoid them for several reasons. Firstly, such interviews suit people with really developed hard skills but lack soft skills like top universities graduates with a portfolio of hackathons. Most likely, you have no way to compete in hard skills. A company can interview a hundred candidates for one position with such a system. And you don’t want to gamble a 1% chance. Secondly, you won’t get an offer anytime soon. In two cases of automatic interviews I had, I got an answer from the company in 3 weeks! I work in a company that offered me a job an hour after the interview. I had two paychecks, less competition, no stress & better career opportunities just because I didn’t wait for the call.
After all, you should tailor your CV and resume for each company you apply to. But you should also tailor your story and presence to be the best employee a company can buy for its buck. You are not a Developer or an Analyst. You’re a problem-solver and a critical thinker with a specific set of hard skills. Companies pay exactly for that.