Preparing For Your First Interview

Preparing to interview for your first tech job

Getting your first job in tech is going to be a challenge. It’s a booming industry and vacancies come up regularly, but on the flip side, there are a lot of highly qualified graduates like you who you’ll be going up against.

At Rebel, we have loads of experience in getting graduates placed into tech roles. We see the best and worst of graduate’s job hunts and we know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve prepared a few points on little wins you can do to maximise your success in your job search.

1. Act like you give a cr*p!

One of the common bits of feedback we get for some tech graduates is that they are just a bit ‘meh’.  There’s nothing super exciting or interesting about them and the graduate has taken a passive approach to the interview. As someone who has hired lots of graduates myself, I know what a difference it makes when you meet someone who looks like they have a bit of a spring in their step and is excited about the possibilities ahead at your company.  It’s hard to do if you’re not naturally outgoing, but there’s no excuse for interviewing somewhere and not approaching it with a degree of energy and enthusiasm.

2. Do your homework

Linked to the point above. It doesn’t matter how many interviews you attend, you need to give each one the attention it deserves. If you aren’t going to put the effort in then don’t waste your time or that of the interviewer/s – don’t attend. It really is that simple.

At the very minimum, you need to visit the company’s website and understand what they do. Linkedin is great for getting an idea of the size of the business and the key people along with their career backstories. Nowadays you should also be checking out their social media profiles and, for extra brownie points, try following the interviewer/s (preferably on social media, not in real life). Also, re-read your CV and make sure you know it inside out.

3. Answer the question

When you’re nervous, it’s easy to waffle. But waffling never got anyone a job (as far as we know…in Belgium maybe, not here). Focus on the question and make sure you balance being detailed with being succinct. If you’re unsure if you have answered the question, here’s a blow-your-mind tip…ask the interviewers!  There’s nothing wrong with asking if they need more detail or are happy with what you’ve said.

Another tip – if you don’t know the answer to a technical question just hold your hands up and say you don’t know. It’s better to explain that you haven’t come across the technology/tool/process but would love to learn it rather than trying to blind the interviewers with panicky techno-waffle.

4. Don’t be a tramp

Even if you hate wearing suits, it doesn’t mean t-shirts and old jeans are the way to go.  Nowadays you can turn up to most tech interviewers looking smart, but casual. A blouse/shirt and trouser combo never fails. Just try and be your smartest, trendiest self to make the right first impression.  Oh, and put on some aftershave/perfume – it makes you smell really nice.

5. Ask some questions

Nothing bores interviewers more than running through the motions and not feeling challenged or engaged in the interview. You need to take at least 10 questions in to any interview.  That way if half are answered over the course of the conversation you aren’t at risk of giving them a vacant stare when you’re asked if you have any questions. Think of questions that will make the interviewer sit up and put some effort into an answer. Ask around the culture, technologies, people, projects, future plans and progression opportunities. Stay well clear of questions around working hours and salary – you need to make the interviewers feel you are there for more than just the obvious perks of being employed.

I’ve typed the most words on this point…that’s because this is really, really important.  Genuinely, really important. Ask questions. Make sure you do. Please.

6. Eye contact rocks!

Never answer a question whilst staring out of the window/at your shoes/at the interviewer’s neck (the last one especially). If you have 2 interviewers make sure you engage both of them – the quiet one in the corner might just be the one who makes the decision on your future. Don’t slouch.  It’s bad for interviews, and your spine.

7. Show and tell

Don’t be afraid of telling the interviewers what blogs/books you read, what you’re learning in your own time or even pointing them to your GitHub or online portfolio to showcase your work.  An interview isn’t the place to be humble, so if you put a lot of time into your self-development and portfolio, make sure the interviewers know about it before you leave the room!

8. Brush up on your tech

Every company’s interview process is different, but many companies either include a technical assessment as part of the interview (which you might not have been told about) or instead they may spring some sneaky tech questions into the interview to see if you can back-up what’s written on your CV. Make sure you’ve read up on the key areas on the job spec and can confidently back up any technical skills listed on your CV.

9. Take notes

There’s a lot to take in at interview.  Many interviewers take notes on a copy of your CV during the meeting, and there’s no reason you can’t do the same! Turning up to the interview with either a printed job spec/advert or at least a notepad and pen shows your prepared, are treating the interview seriously and are someone who takes an organised approach.  Make sure you write stuff down though, obviously.

10. Stop and reflect once you’re done

How did the interview go? Do you think it went well or badly? Is there anything you wished you said that you didn’t? What are the lessons learned for the next time?

A nice touch is to send a follow-up email thanking them for their time and mentioning a point or two that you forgot to cover – but be concise!

Finally, you should always expect useful feedback from any interview so don’t feel shy about chasing up the recruiter to get feedback…it’s your right!

Azar Hussain
Azar Hussain
Posted 24/05/2019

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