I’ve been thinking about interviews lately since I know a number of recent grads who are looking for work (ping me if you’re looking to hire a junior dev). Interviews can be really intimidating, especially when you’re trying to find your first development job. They still make me nervous and I’ve been at this programming thing for ten years.
I’ve only participated in a couple of interviews from the employer side of the table and I’ve never run one myself, but I’m going to tell you what I learned anyway :)
One thing that you might not know is that interviewers don’t always get their other tasks cut back very much to make up for the time they spend interviewing. Don’t take that the wrong way, that doesn’t mean they hate doing interviews and want you to fail, it means they want to do the fewest interviews they can get away with and then stop.
Seriously, for the interviewer the ideal outcome of an interview is that the candidate is great, they can tell HR to send them an offer, and they can stop interviewing. Programmers don’t like getting interrupted anyway, and an interview and debrief with the other interviewers and then typing up notes for HR is a big chunk of your day.
The interviewer really and truly wants you to be great. It’s the most convenient way the interview can possibly go for them, and it really is awkward for everyone when an interview doesn’t go well. Nobody wants to watch someone crash and burn in an interview. Obviously that sucks a lot more for the interviewee, but it’s not really a great time for the interviewer/s either. Even if you’re not amazing, nobody wants to watch you fail.
Because the interviewer wants to stop interviewing, they’re looking for reasons to hire you, not reasons to turn you down. Nobody wants to make a bad hire, but ideally we can just make a good one and call it a day.
Another thing you should know is that culture fit, particularly if you’re interviewing at a startup, is extremely important. When the entire dev team is four people, the next hire makes a much bigger difference than it does on a team of twenty. On the one hand, that can make you nervous, but on the other hand, there’s nothing you can do about whether you’re a fit, so there’s really no point worrying about it. I know, I know, that doesn’t really work on me either. Do as I say and not as I do and all that :) You wouldn’t want to be on a team you don’t get along with anyway, so the best thing you can do is let your interviewers know who you are.
Something that took me quite a while to learn is that you are interviewing the company just as much as they are inte rviewing you. You’re not the only one who gets to make a decision here, the company you’re interviewing with needs to impress you too. I personally recommend asking about things like work life balance, whether they believe in crunch time, what their expectations for a new dev are, how they handle it when something goes wrong, exactly what time you’re expected to be in the office (startups are often flexible on this, but it’s good to know how flexible they are. Some offices also start at unusual times to stay in sync with head offices in other timezones), what the interviewer’s favourite thing about working for that company is, etc, etc. There are plenty of lists of standard questions to ask employers in an interview, take a look at a couple for inspiration and ask about the stuff that matters to you.
Employers really do like it when you ask questions, it shows that you care about which company you work for and aren’t just desperately trying to find anything that pays. Much like in dating, desperation is just not attractive. Employers like to feel special too :)
The one thing I really want everyone to take away from this blog post is that if the company is worth working for, the interviewer is on your side. They want you to be great so they can hire you and go back to work :)