By Chad Broadus
There’s just no getting around it. To succeed in your job search, you have to be good at interviewing. The back and forth between employer and candidate needs to become as second nature to you as subnetting a network or configuring an OS. Answering interview questions has to be like banging out your username and password. Your body just has to do it.
I’ve interviewed a lot of different people for many different roles: 3D animators, tech support, trainers, IT specialists, developers, and many others. While the information I draw out of them differs wildly, the basic interview framework is always the same. Potential employers are only interested in answering two basic questions: Can this person do the job, and will they fit into the team.
Can This Person Do the Job?
Your resume says a lot about this, but a good interview will force you to prove that you know how to handle the position. Be prepared to talk comfortably and easily about things you’ve done with technology.
To get into your conversational comfort zone, take a look at your resume. For each position that you list, write out or record day-to-day things you did and projects you completed. Go over them again and again until you can respond to questions like a martial artist faces a knife-wielding assailant. Also, think about what your opinion was about each of those projects and the technology used. Were you satisfied with the results? Knowing what you know today, is there anything you’d have done differently? Understanding these things about yourself and your career thus far will come in handy during an interview.
You might be called upon to do some real-time problem solving. For all tech support reps that we hired at a former company, we’d provide the scenario of a problem, then see how proficient each candidate was at troubleshooting. In the knowledge worker industry, employers are looking for people who can use their most important piece of technology wisely – their brain.
Will this person fit in without disrupting the well-oiled dynamics of our killer productivity?
This could be the most important question in the interview. Good teams are like families. They may argue and razz each other, but ultimately they like and respect each other, and are passionate about helping their company kick butt.
For an employer, introducing a new person to the mix is always risky. I thought about suggest doing this or that to project that you’re the right fit, but the bottom line is that pretending to be someone else is a fool’s errand. Just be your "business self" and let the chips fall where they may.
Don’t be a bonehead, though. Dress at least business casual, try to be warm and conversant, and be confident but not boastful.
How to get to Carnegie Hall
Interviewing, like any other skill you acquire, is something you get better at with repetition and reflection. The best thing you can do is have a friend assume the role of prospective employer and grill you in a mock interview. This will give you human back and forth that will help you hone your oral resume narrative.
Reaping the Results of Preparation
At the end of the day, you may not have the skills to do the job from Day One. That may be okay. If you can prove that you’re smart and can get things done, employers will often take a chance on you. Some of the best employees I’ve ever hired couldn’t do 100 percent of the job initially. However, during the interview they convinced me they had great potential and were a good cultural fit. How? They interviewed well enough to convey that crucial information.
So prepare, rehearse, and refine until you’re an interview ninja. And let us know how it turns out in the comments below.
Chad Broadus is a tech professional living in the Pacific Northwest