Interviewing Tips

I’ve been on many interviews and (in my past) as a manager and VP of Technology I’ve interviewed more people than I can count. I thought I would share some of my interview experiences from the manager side with you. I have a particular style when I interview people and its a bit odd to some. You see, I look for the right fit. First, to get in the room with me for an interview I look for the basic technology skills. If I am hiring for a particular job I look for the person to have most of the skills on his./her resume with some work experience to back it up. After that, I leave it up to the person to sell themselves to me.

The job interview is process is a 2 way street. You are looking for a job and the employer is looking for an employee to hire. You both need to interview each other. So many people go into the interview with 1 or the other in mind. You should not go into an interview with the thought that you just want to get the job. It shows a lot to an employer when you show that you want to know more about the company and your role in it. It shows that you have interests and motivations and that you truly care about where you work. When I hire people, I want people who want to be here.

But you also shouldn’t go into an interview thinking that you are the one interviewing the company. (Even if it is true in your mind.) Walking in the door and having an attitude that your questions are more important or that you are more important is a great way to not get the job. OK, you might think this does not happen but I have witnessed several different people walk into interviews and act like they are too good for the job … have an attitude of “what can you offer me?” right off the bat. Even if the candidate is the most technically qualified, I won’t hire them if they have a “me first” attitude. Been there, done that, made that mistake. Even when you KNOW you are over qualified, show confidence, not arrogance. It is a fine line but if you can walk it you can write your own ticket. When you know you have the skills they need, always show interest in the interviewer. Make eye contact. Listen to everything they say (not just hear it, but listen).

I’ve interviewed people who knew their stuff backwards and forwards but then blew it because they talked trash about their old company, talked trash about their colleagues, talked trash about coding in any way but a particular way … basically, some of the people were so rigid and stuck in their ways that it gave me great concerns about their ability to fit into the company’s style. Now I am not saying lie. Never do that. If you firmly believe a coding style is poor, then say so. But say it professionally. And for goodness sake, don;t ever disrespect anyone in an interview … not your former employer, not your colleagues, nobody! Even if it is funny and makes the interviewer laugh you are showing disrespect and are giving the person a reason to think “hmmmm … is this person going to be loyal?”. Negativity is not a good thing.

OK, what should you do?

  • Don’t put something on your resume unless you know it. No excuses. This is a huge red flag. never do it. Never. Did you hear me? Never!
  • Make eye contact (no, don’t stare even if the person is cute). Seriously, eye contact shows confidence, interest and a hundred other great qualities. Do it.
  • Ask questions. Candidates who don't ask questions make interviewers have to guess if you are interested.
  • Ask questions at the appropriate time. Yeah, don’t go crazy with asking questions … but do it when asked if you have any.
  • Always answer questions. If  you don't know the answer, then say that. Don’t think about it in the interview for 10 minutes. Yes, I have seen this repeatedly. You’d be amazed at how many people will sit there and try to think of an answer to a question for an eternity. If you do not know, that’s OK. Say you don;t know but follow up with how you would figure it out.
  • Know how to solve a problem. The answer is important, yes. But knowing how to get to the answer is more important. It shows you can think on your feet as opposed to showing you know a particular factoid. I want people to work with me that can solve problems, whatever they may be. Once of the best hires I ever made was to a guy who knew very little about programming but he was excellent at working with people and knew he could figure anything out quickly. These people are golden. I hire them instantly.
  • Be comfortable. Very important to relax. This is your potential job where you will spend a ton of your time. Yeah its important, but do you think they want to hire someone who can’t handle pressure? Chill out, relax, wear comfortable clothes, and just relax.
  • Be honest. Don’t guess at questions. If you blow smoke, someone will catch you.


There is a lot more to keep in mind but in short … be honest, relax and show that you are a likeable person. (Hey, you can use those 3 tips on a date too).



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Hi, I'm John Papa. I author this blog, create courses for Pluralsight and am a Google Developer Expert and Microsoft Regional Director. I travel speaking at events and train technology thought leaders